After a slow start this fall, the audience numbers for America's Top Broadcast Networks just keeps getting worse. Numbers from the February sweeps are at historic lows.The Biggest Loser - NBC, which moved from #1 in the Fall Sweeps, to fifth place for the February sweeps - falling well behind Univision with a 4 share. In fact, Univision outdrew NBC almost every night of sweeps among the key 19-49 demographic. NBC also earned the lowest ratings ever for an in-season scripted series premiers with Do No Harm, a 0.9 rating and 3 share. And then lost a third of that audience with the second episode (0.7 rating/ 2 share), before being quickly cancelled. Season 2 of Smash debuted with audiences 79% below its Season 1 debut, and 39% below the Season 1 finale - a rating of 1.1 / 3 share. And then dropped another 25% to a series low of 0.9/2 last week. Only two NBC series were able to average a 2+ ratings this sweeps period among the 18-49 demographic: The Biggest Loser and The Office.
And its not that the other networks were doing that well, either. For the last week of sweeps, audiences for the Big Four networks were down 23% from the same period last year. In that week, only one network was able to average a 2.0 rating - Fox managed to get a 2.1 rating, for a 6 share.
CBS, which leads the sweeps period in every demographic, has seen series-low openers for reality shows “Survivor” and “The Amazing Race,” and yesterday it yanked the new unscripted series “The Job” after just two weeks.So what's up? For one thing, the quality of cable network original programming - AMC's The Walking Dead outperformed every Big Four network show in the 18-49 demographic. Another culprit is the DVR, whose use by audiences continues to climb. And then there's the streaming options of Netflix and the like, ensuring viewers that they don't have to settle for the least bad program when they sit down to watch a little TV.
ABC’s “Zero Hour” and NBC’s “Do No Harm” both premiered to the networks’ lowest-ever in-season drama debut ratings. Several of their veteran shows, including “Smash” and “Revenge,” have hit series lows this month.
And Fox’s one-time juggernaut “American Idol” has dipped to ratings not seen since season one. Meanwhile, its plan to relocate “Touch” to Fridays has been a huge bust, with the drama drawing just a 0.7 last week.
For a guy who grew up when the Big Three would regularly pull prime time shares in the 30s - and ratings in the 20s, rejoicing over a 6 share is a glaring reminder that the TV market has changed, and of how far the once-mighty have fallen.
On the other hand, though, it's also a reminder of how much better things are for TV viewers.
Sources - Behind the great broadcast ratings dip, Medialife Magazine
NBC To Finish 5th In Sweeps For First Time; Network Falls Behind Univsion, Deadline Hollywood