Top Linear TV Season Shows 8% Slip -- Transparency Working Well?

Live, linear TV networks still see benefits for continued top viewing prime-time programming genres. Is this top-line, upper-funnel, viewership data still enough to sway advertisers to any degree?

The just completed 2023-2024 TV season was pretty much what you always expect: top shows came from the NFL and there were many crime/procedurals/drama hour-long shows. Lower results from comedies and unscripted TV content.

Eight of the top 15 overall most-viewed shows were crime-oriented/procedural entertainment shows: CBS’ “Tracker,” “NCIS,” “FBI,” “Blue Bloods” and “The Equalizer;” NBC’s “Chicago Fire,” Chicago Med” and “Chicago PD.”



Best viewed overall: NBC’s “Sunday Night Football.” NFL programming took the top three spots and 14th position with “Monday Night Football.”

Two of the 15 were comedies -- both on CBS: “Young Sheldon” and “Ghosts.” There was one news magazine show among the top ranking programs: CBS’ “60 Minutes.”

Viewership at the top 15 viewed non-sports entertainment or news shows overall were down 5% to 8.4 million versus a year ago, according to Nielsen's measure of live program viewing plus seven days of time-shifted viewing.

These results seem somewhat better than the overall double-digital viewing declines (10% to 15%) reported elsewhere when it comes to overall TV network programming for all prime time and all dayparts.

For TV executives, proponents of traditional linear TV programming, this would seem to offer some solace as linear TV continues to have viability not only from engagement among TV viewers (who are no doubt ever-older), but more importantly as a promotional tool for these TV shows when they move to the streaming platform space.

Top TV shows still have decent benefits then for major TV brands but no longer in dominant ways. 

At the same time -- somewhat head-scratching in analysis -- the bottom 15 entertainment shows of the top 100 on TV (broadcast and cable) averaged 2.6 million viewers this 2023-2024 TV season versus 2.3 million the season before -- an 18% gain year over year.

Maybe all this is why we need to analyze deeper new-style viewing metrics that Netflix or other streamers see on their servers -- and why some of Netflix's thousands of TV shows get some renewals while others do not.

We don’t always get to see those more granular engagement metrics observed by programming executives at those streaming services. 

More planting of walled gardens to come as the mature business gets more competitive? Transparency continues to be an issue in the new premium streaming business.

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