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MBPT Spotlight: Millennial’s Continue To Defect From Summer Broadcast TV—To the Tune of 20%

Millennials are continuing to defect from live broadcast television viewing this summer. Through July 27 the five English-language broadcast networks in primetime were cumulatively averaging 2.3 million 18-34 viewers per night, down about 600,000 or 20% from the 2.9 million they were averaging during the same period last summer.

Fox has suffered the biggest millennial defections, down 207,000 18-34 viewers this summer, or a whopping 27%; ABC is next, down 164,000 viewers in the young demo, a decline of 19%. NBC is drawing 126,000 fewer 18-34 viewers, down 19%, while CBS is down just 68,000, off a lower base but down 16% in that demo.

The CW is a bit below being flat compared to last summer, down only 8,000 viewers per night, or 5% compared to last summer, but again, off a very low base audience. Just how bad millennial viewing has been tapering off can be seen in The CW’s recent move to cancel two new millennial-targeted summer comedies after only two weeks on the air.

The network scratched Backpackers and Seed after they both left the gate with paltry viewership. Backpackers averaged only 471,000 viewers, while Seed averaged 497,000. Of those numbers, Backpackers averaged just 88,000 18-34 viewers per episode, while Seed averaged 101,000.

It’s no surprise the 18-34 ratings for broadcasters during the summer continue to decline. Most younger people are just not home during the summer months to watch television on a regular basis and many of those that do are now doing so on other platforms, some of which are not measured.

So how many 18-34 viewers are the broadcast networks averaging this summer and what are the most watched shows by millennials?

ABC this summer has been averaging 719,000 18-34 viewers, followed by Fox with 572,000, NBC with 554,000, CBS with 357,000 and The CW with 145,000.

The most watched summer series by viewers 18-34 has been NBC’s America’s Got Talent on Tuesday nights, which is averaging 1.2 million millennial viewers. It’s the only broadcast network show airing this summer that is averaging more than 1 million 18-34 viewers. Last summe,r the Tuesday edition averaged 1.4 million so viewership, while still high among millennials, is down about 14%.

While CBS is in fourth for 18-34 viewer averages per night, the network’s summer series Big Brother is a winner among millennials with the Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday editions averaging 938,000 18-34 viewers per night. The Wednesday edition of Big Brother is the second-most watched show among 18-34 viewers this summer, averaging 969,000, down a bit from the 1 million viewers in the demo it was averaging last summer at this point. The Sunday Big Brother is the fourth-most watched show among millennials, averaging 940,000 viewers, and the Thursday Big Brother is ranked sixth, averaging 906,000. Those latter two editions are also down from last summer.

The third-most watched broadcast show of the summer was The Bachelorette on ABC, which recently ended its summer run. The Bachelorette averaged 942,000 18-34 viewers. In addition to America’s Got Talent, another NBC summer show, American Ninja Warrior is drawing a sizable 18-34 audience, averaging 840,000, ranking it seventh among all broadcast shows. CBS’ summer sci-fi drama Under the Dome is ranked 10th among millennials, drawing 771,000 so far for each episode, a drop of about 29% in the demo from it’s 1.1 million last summer

Fox has two Top 10 shows among millennials this summer—Family Guy and Hell’s Kitchen. Family Guy is the eight-most watched show in the demo, averaging 838,000 viewers and Hell’s Kitchen is ninth, averaging 821,000, but both are down about 30% in the demo from last summer.

Season’s Greetings

There is a bit of irony in that while fewer 18-34 viewers are watching broadcast TV this summer, nine out of the 10 most watched broadcast shows air over the summer exclusively. Only Family Guy is a regular season show, and it has one of the lowest median age audiences of any on broadcast TV.

Several of the shows ranked 11-20 among viewers 18-34 are also summer series, including Fox’s drama 24: Live Another Day, new NBC sitcom Night Shift and ABC’s summer singing competition series Rising Star.

24: Live Another Day is averaging 713,000 18-34 viewers, 14th best among broadcast summer shows, while Night Shift is averaging 617,000 millennials, ranking it as No. 17. While Rising Star is averaging 648,000 18-34 viewers, the series overall is drawing only 4.6 million viewers and more than 40% of them are 55-plus.

The most-watched comedy on television during the regular season, The Big Bang Theory on CBS, is averaging 773,000 18-34 viewers, good for 11th among that demo. Fox’s two other animated series, American Dad (732,000) and The Simpsons (716,000) are ranked 12th and 13th. America’s Got Talent repeats on Wednesday night have averaged 657,000 18-34 viewers, ranking it 15th.

 Rounding out the Top 20 in the young demo are NBC’s Last Comic Standing (610,000), ABC’s Modern Family (585,000) and ABC’s What Would You Do?, which is somewhat of a surprise on Friday nights, averaging 577,000 18-34 viewers. CBS’ new sci-fi drama Extant just misses the Top 20 list among viewers 18-34, averaging 508,000 per episode.

Sure to break into the Top 10, however, is Fox’s reality series Hotel Hell, which aired only one episode so far but pulled in 750,000 18-34 viewers.

Brad Adgate, senior VP, director of research at Horizon Media sees both a positive and negative in this summer’s 18-34 ratings. The positive, he says, is that the decent 18-34 viewer numbers being produced by veteran summer series America’s Got Talent and Big Brother show that “there’s still an appetite for broadcast television among the younger demos if the right shows are put on.” The negative is that it is becoming harder and harder for the networks to find those shows.

“Not only is TV watching down among younger audiences this summer, but so is movie viewing,” Adgate says. “Marketers who want to reach this audience, particularly during the summer, are going to have to be more creative in where they place their ad dollars and on what platforms.”