TV Networks Drop Massive 36% In First Week Of New Season

The broadcast TV season started last week. Did you notice? Maybe not.

Sure, there is NFL football, ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” and Fox’s “The Masked Singer.” But not much else. Few big-scripted entertainment shows. Much of the starting week included nonscripted programming.

The Hollywood Reporter says the big four English-language networks -- ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC -- have run 21% less original programming, just 57 hours of "original" prime-time fare, down from 72 hours for premiere week last year.

On the surface, this may not seem like much. But here’s one interesting bit. This year, networks have aired five hours of “acquired” programming that may have played elsewhere.

In the past, that would be a no-no. The whole idea of the broadcast TV fall season is built on the premise viewers would see fresh, original programming.



Of course, much of has been diluted over decades -- first with premium ad-free cable networks -- HBO, Showtime. Then with basic cable ad-supported networks -- AMC, FX, USA, TNT and others. More recently, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and other streamers are offering their own original shows.

Here is where the rubber meets the road. Versus overall 10% to 15% declines in Nielsen’s live program plus same-day time-shifted prime-time broadcast viewing in the past few years, the networks lost big time in the first week.

Like an eye-opening drop.

The four major networks were down a massive 36% for the first week of the 2020-2021 TV season from a year ago! ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC totaled 15.9 million versus 2019-2020 initial week of 24.9 million.

Now things will get going again in the back half of October and especially in November for a number of new and returning prime-time scripted/entertainment shows.

At the same time, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and other streaming services continue to release scripted and unscripted content. Added to this, we have seen the higher trends about the growth of connected TV platforms.

Less we forget, we know TV programming of all types can be increasingly released all year long.

However, going forward, will this pandemic-dinged TV season result in any permanent changes in when and where consumers seek new premium TV shows?

Fall TV season? Maybe.

1 comment about "TV Networks Drop Massive 36% In First Week Of New Season".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, October 2, 2020 at 9:48 a.m.

    Not surprising, Wayne. But let's remember that the broadcast TV networks no longer dominate the primetime TV scene. In fact, they are small players, with a collective share in recent seasons of only 20-24% of the audience. What's also important is how well the cable channels are performing, as they probably offer a better representation of how well---or poorly---"linear TV" is faring.

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