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MBPT Spotlight: Broadcast Summer Viewership Is Down 3%, But 18-49 Viewership Is Down 13%

With a little over a month to go in the summer season, the English-language broadcast networks cumulatively seem to be maintaining most of their viewers compared last summer, but despite a heavier influx of new made-for-summer programming, they are losing the battle to keep the advertiser-desired 18-49 demo.

Cumulatively, the broadcast networks are averaging 19 million viewers per night, down 3% from the 19.6 million they averaged last summer. But in the key 18-49 demo, they are cumulatively bringing in 6 million viewers per night, down 13% from the 6.9 million average of last summer.

ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox are all down compared to last summer in both total viewers and the 18-49 viewers. The CW is up about 80,000 viewers and up 20,000 in the demo.

Among total viewers, the only new series this summer in the top 10 are sci-fi drama Extant on CBS, averaging 8 million viewers, and medical drama Night Shift on NBC, averaging 6.6 million viewers. Fox drama 24: Live Another Day, which recently completed its summer run, averaged 6 million viewers to make the top 20. The highest rated 18-49 new series are 24: Live Another Day, which averaged a 1.5 demo number, and Night Shift and Extant, both averaging 1.4 in the demo. Fox’s Hotel Hell and NBC’s LastComic Standing are averaging 1.5 and 1.3, respectively, but while both did not air last summer, they’ve aired in previous summers, so are not technically new.

Despite the lack of success of new programming this summer, there is hope for summer programming if the networks can find shows that really strike a chord. This summer, nine of the top 10 and 15 of the top 20 broadcast shows among 18-49 viewers are summer-only shows. Meanwhile, nine of the top 20 in total viewers are summer-only shows.

Here’s a look at how each network is doing this summer.


ABC is averaging 4.9 million viewers per night, down 4% from last summer’s 5.1 million average. The network has taken a bigger hit among 18-49 viewers, down to 1.7 million from 2 million, a decline of 15%. It is also down 300,000 viewers in the 25-54 demo to 1.9 million from 2.2 million, but it is up in viewers 55-plus by 200,000 to 2.3 million.

ABC’s most-watched summer series has been The Bachelorette, which recently concluded its run. The series averaged 6.5 million viewers, ranking it ninth among all summer broadcast series, and it averaged a 1.7 18-49 demo rating, also ranking it ninth.

ABC’s second-most watched series this summer has been 20/20 Friday which has averaged 6 million viewers and a 1.3 18-49 demo rating. The heavily hyped music competition series Rising Star has been a disappointment; it averaged 4.6 million and a 1.2 demo rating. NY Med, which just completed its run, returning this summer after a two-year hiatus, averaged 5.2 million viewers and a 0.9 18-49 rating.

ABC’s other top rated 18-49 series this summer, behind The Bachelorette and tied with 20/20, has been repeats of the sitcom Modern Family, which also averaged a 1.3.


CBS, like last summer, is drawing the most nightly viewers, averaging 5.3 million, down only 2% from the 5.4 it averaged last summer. However, among the Big Four, CBS is fourth in 18-49 viewers, averaging 1.2 million per night, down from last summer’s 1.3. 

CBS has the most watched new series of the summer in sci-fi drama Extant, averaging 8 million viewers to rank it third overall. CBS drama NCIS in repeats is averaging 8.4 million viewers and ranks as the second-most watched broadcast primetime series this summer. Returning from last summer’s freshman season, sci-fi drama Under the Dome is averaging 7.9 million viewers, which is down a whopping 30% from last year’s average viewership of 11.8 million viewers per episode.

Summer staple Big Brother, which airs three nights per week, is averaging 6.2 million viewers per night on Wednesdays and Sundays and 6 million on Thursdays. In addition to NCIS, NCIS Los Angeles in repeats is averaging 6.7 million viewers and surprising Blue Bloods, although it is skewing 65-plus this summer, is averaging 6.4 million viewers. Returning summer drama Unforgettable is averaging 6.3 million viewers, but like Blue Bloods, it skews older.

Repeats of The Big Bang Theory are averaging 7.9 million viewers for CBS this summer, while repeats of Mom, leading out of Big Bang, have averaged 6.1 million viewers.

Among 18-49 viewers Big Brother is CBS’ best series, with each of the three editions averaging a 2.1 rating in the demo. Big Bang is averaging a 1.8.


Fox is averaging 3.2 million viewers this summer, down from 3.3 million last summer, a decline of 3%. In the 18-49 demo, however, the network is down 18% from averaging 1.6 million viewers last summer to 1.3 million. Fox is also down 13% among 25-54-year-old viewers, averaging 1.3 million this summer, but is up 17% among viewers 55-plus, averaging 1.2 million.

Unlike CBS, whose regular season series produce lower but solid-for-summer viewership, very few Fox regular season series air during the summer. Its most watched series was 24: Live Another Day, which averaged 6 million viewers and a 1.5 18-49 demo rating. Its next most watched summer series has been MasterChef, which is averaging 5.3 million viewers and a 1.8 rating in the demo. Other than 24: Live Another Day, Fox has no series this summer among the top 20 in viewers.

In the 18-49 demo, in addition to MasterChef, other Fox summer series that do make the top 20 are Hell’s Kitchen with a 1.6 rating, Hotel Hell with a 1.5 and So You Think You Can Dance with a 1.4.


NBC is averaging 4.8 million viewers, down 6% from the 5.1 million it averaged last summer. It has seen its 18-49 viewership drop to 1.5 million from 1.7, a decline of 12%. Its 25-54 viewership is also down to 1.8 million from 2.1 million, a 14% decline. Meanwhile, it has 100,000 more 55-plus viewers, reaching 2.5 million.

NBC has the most watched series of the summer in America’s Got Talent. Its Tuesday night edition is averaging 10.3 million viewers and has a 2.4 18-49 demo rating, also the highest among broadcast summer shows. Medical drama Night Shift is NBC’s next most watched summer series, averaging 6.6 million viewers and a 1.4 18-49 demo rating. Night Shift is the eighth most watched summer broadcast series.

NBC’s summer reality competition series Last Comic Standing and American Ninja Warrior have not cracked the top 20 in viewers, but both are in the top 20 in the 18-49 demo, along with Night Shift. AmericanNinja Warrior is averaging a 1.7, while Night Shift is averaging a 1.4 and Last Comic Standing, which concluded this week, averaged a 1.3.

Like ABC with its newsmagazine 20/20, NBC is also drawing well this summer with Dateline. The series is averaging 6 million viewers and a 1.2 in the 18-49 demo, placing it among the top 20 in both categories.

The CW

The CW is averaging 866,000 viewers per night this summer, compared to 786,000 viewers per night last summer, up 80,000. In the 18-49 demo, the network is averaging 357,000 viewers per night, up from 337,000 last summer.

The CW, with lots of millennial viewers during the regular season who are not summer TV watchers, struggles during the hotter months. Its most watched show is summer improvisational comedy series Whose Line Is It Anyway which is averaging 1.6 million viewers and a 0.5 18-49 demo rating, but it holds a median age of 48, which is outside the millennial demo. The network’s most watched regular season series, Arrow, which averages 2.4 million and a 0.8 18-49 rating, is averaging 966,000 viewers and a 0.3 18-49 demo rating this summer.