'Blue Bloods' Leads Rookie Off-Net Pack

With the new television season firmly underway, CBS Television Distribution’s Blue Bloods has emerged as the top-rated new weekly off-network hour, out-rating other new entries Disney- ABC’s Scandal, CTD’s The Good Wife, Warner Bros.’ The Closer and Warner Bros.’ The Mentalist.

Off-broadcast dramas are now almost exclusively sold to stations on an all-barter basis, with stations splitting the ad time with national advertisers. Many dramas, especially serialized ones, are finding bigger paydays from streaming video-on-demand services such as Netflix where viewers can binge-watch them.

Blue Bloods—a drama about a multigenerational family of cops in New York City—premiered its fifth season on CBS on Sept. 26. The show has managed to thrive on Fridays at 10 p.m. ET/PT, a time slot where it’s usually tough for shows to get and maintain traction.

But Blue Bloods—which stars TV icon Tom Selleck as New York police commissioner Frank Reagan and Donny Wahlberg as Danny, Frank’s son—is a quiet hit for CBS. Although it only averaged a 1.3 rating/5 share among adults 18-49 on Nov. 7, it won the night in viewers, averaging 11.5 million, almost 4 million more than either NBC’s Dateline or ABC’s Shark Tank at about 7.8 million each. Blue Bloods also reaches more than 24 million viewers across all platforms. The show has gotten a 3-million-viewer bump since its syndicated premiere, up from 21.2 million viewers.

“We are really happy with Blue Bloods’ performance in off-net syndication so far. It’s been the cornerstone of CBS’ Friday-night lineup, and the show’s consistent success has translated into syndication. Stations love quality procedurals like Blue Bloods, so it’s a great fit for their weekend lineups,” says Joe DiSalvo, CTD president of sales.

WGN America Also Works ‘Blue’

Blue Bloods also is succeeding on Tribune’s cable network, WGN America, which acquired the show last February in a shared deal with Ion and Hulu Plus. Blue Bloods is the network’s fourth-highest-rated acquired drama, behind vintage shows In the Heat of the Night and Walker, Texas Ranger as well as Law & Order: Criminal Intent. In its opening season on WGN America, Blue Bloods is averaging 305,000 viewers per episode, edging out Law & Order.

Overall, Blue Bloods’ off-net run is averaging a 2.6 in households season-to-date through Nov. 2, according to Nielsen (see chart). That makes it syndication’s third-highest-rated off-net hour, behind NBCUniversal’s Law & Order: Criminal Intent and NBCU’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, which are averaging a 4.3 and 3.9 in households, respectively.

Blue Bloods also is ranked third among adults 25-54, a demographic that TV stations target, averaging a 1.0 in the demo season-to-date. Those numbers put Blue Bloods ahead of this season’s other new entries. Disney-ABC’s Scandal—broadcast TV’s top-rated scripted drama with a 3.2 rating among adults 18-49 on Nov. 13—is ranked sixth overall in syndication with a 1.7 household average. Scandal ties CTD’s other new entry, The Good Wife, in households, but beats it in the key demos.

Following The Good Wife is Warner Bros.’ off-TNT The Closer, starring Kyra Sedgwick, which averages a 1.5 in households, tying MyNetworkTV’s Friday-night airing of Bones off of Fox. Bones’ weekly syndicated run, measured separately, ties another new entry—Warner Bros.’ The Mentalist at a 1.4—for eighth.

Finally, MyNetworkTV’s Wednesday-night run of The Walking Dead is averaging a 1.1 in households, ranking it ninth in households among all off-net hours, although the show performs more strongly among key demographics. Among adults 18-49, The Walking Dead is in a three-way tie for fourth place with Blue Bloods and Scandal; Dead also ties Scandal for fourth among adults 25-54.

Overall, the Law & Order franchise still reigns supreme. Law & Order: CI ranks first, averaging a 4.3 in households, a 1.9 in adults 18-49 and a 2.3 among adults 25-54. Law & Order: SVU comes in second at a 3.9 in households and follows closely in CI’s footsteps in the demos with a 1.8 in adults 18-49 and a 2.1 in adults 25-54.

Paige Albiniak

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.