Pandemic Hasn't Led To Pent-Up Demand For Fall TV Shows

It’s mid-November, perhaps the true start of the 2020-2021 TV season, with many scripted prime-time shows back on line.

Are you watching? Do you care?

This pandemic-infected TV season seemingly is off to another bumpy start full of percentage drops in TV viewing versus a year or so ago.

For the week ending November 8, prime-time broadcast shows were down to a Nielsen-measured 14% compared to the same week in 2019. Cable TV did much better, up 4% due to election night coverage of the race and in the following days.

For Q4 so far, total TV viewing is down 19% among 18-49 viewers, with broadcast losing 21% and cable TV networks (non-kids programmers) giving back 18%.

Three weeks of top-scripted shows returning to prime-time schedules have fared this way:

CBS’ “NCIS” is down 11% to 10.4 million viewers. Its “FBI” slipped 10% to 8.2 million, and “Young Sheldon” is off 19% to 7.1 million. NBC’s “Chicago Med” is down 7% to 7.7 million, while “Chicago Fire” is off 10% to 7.4 million and “This is Us” is up 1.3% to 7.0 million.



ABC is up 2% for “Station 19” to 6.6 million, while “Grey’s Anatomy” is down 5% to 5.9 million. Fox's best scripted series “The Simpsons” is 13% higher to 2.9 million and “Family Guy” is down 9% to 1.6 million.

TV networks got off to late start this season, due to the pandemic. Many new and returning scripted TV shows starting in the last week of October. Plenty of unscripted shows have been filling in.

Can we draw anything from this?

For a longtime, since the pandemic started, analysts have said there would be pent-up demand for the entire U.S. economy. We assume this could include TV, especially as we entered winter months where people would spend more time indoors.

So far, that isn't the the case -- at least for legacy TV networks.

Of course, we know there hasn't been a lack of new TV shows on other platforms, such as Netflix and other premium streamers. Also, fractionalism of media keeps growing.

Though prime-time shows continue to produce the highest levels of average viewers -- at least on a Nielsen average commercial minute viewing -- that value patina seems duller with each passing fall TV season.

The good news: Those double-digit percentage legacy TV network viewing declines seemingly haven’t accelerated.
So to give a new spin on TV Watch’s high-prized refrain: Don’t be greedy. Be grateful.

1 comment about "Pandemic Hasn't Led To Pent-Up Demand For Fall TV Shows".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, November 20, 2020 at 10:27 a.m.

    Wayne, the way things are heading, I wouldn't be surprised if most of the primetime drama and sitcom launches by 2025 are on streaming services---mainly those owned by the major TV networks, after which the same shows will appear on their broadcast networks and cable channels. So viewers who are longing for such original content had better start getting used to the new order of things. Not that "pay TV" is going to disappear. Not at all. But it will soon be sufficiently smaller and more focused on oldsters that it will play second fiddle, where "premium" entertainment content is concerned. On the plus side, "Pay TV" viewers will still have a good deal of news and sports content and they will get much of the quality stuff as it is recycled from streaming venues. But they will no longer get first dibs on everything---like they used to.

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