Major TV Broadcast Networks See Double-Digit Viewing Declines, News Networks Soar

For much of this year -- starting with the COVID-19 pandemic in March -- TV network ratings, especially those of major broadcast networks, have seen steeper declines than in past seasons.

The top four networks collectively are down 17% in Nielsen-measured average prime-time viewers and 23% in average prime-time 18-49 viewers.

Looking specifically at each network, CBS is 22% lower (to 5.6 million viewers), while NBC is down 20% (to 5.0 million), ABC has lost 13% (4.5 million); and Fox is 10% less (4.2 million).

For the 18-49 viewing metric that major TV advertisers still closely watch, the overall data trend is worse, with Fox sinking 12% to 1.43 million viewers, NBC 28% lower to 1.24 million, ABC 21% lower to 1.17 million and CBS 32% lower to 1.0 million.

Nielsen results come from live program-plus-seven days of time-shifted viewing from January through November and for the most recent two weeks, live program-plus-same day time-shifted viewing through December 13.

Big TV networks -- especially since the start of the traditional TV season in late September -- have suffered from delays in production of TV prime-time shows.

At the same time, the next five of six TV networks -- completing the top-ten U.S. viewing networks -- showed gains, especially cable TV news networks, due to election and pandemic coverage.

Fox News Channel was up 45% to 3.6 million, while MSNBC added 23% to 2.1 million, CNN was 84% higher to 1.8 million, Univision added 11% to 1.45 million and TLC was up 16% to 1.37 million.

Sitting in eighth place is ESPN, down 17% to 1.46 million.

The network, and other sports channels, had no live sport TV programming for months due to cancellation of major sports leagues and associations -- including the NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball, and PGA Golf.

NBCSN (NBC Sports Network) and Fox Sports 1 were each down 26% to 250,000 and 236,000 respectively, in average prime-time viewers.

1 comment about "Major TV Broadcast Networks See Double-Digit Viewing Declines, News Networks Soar".
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  1. Jonathan May from HorseTV Global, December 18, 2020 at 1:53 p.m.

    So what's the spin on this?  Viewers not watching at all?  Migration to OTT Channels?  People just overwhelmed with the contrived garbage and drama produced by network channels, i.e., Masked Singer, Bachelorette, etc?       Stats without analysis somewhat on the worthless side.

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