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MBPT Spotlight: Some Top Broadcast Network Hits Are Bleeding Live Viewers This Season

Some of the most-watched broadcast network primetime series through the end of November have lost between 700,000 and 2 million viewers compared to last season, according to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data. No wonder the networks are pushing for media agencies to buy based on extended viewing numbers.

The most-watched primetime program, NBC’s Sunday Night Football is averaging 20.4 million viewers, down from 21.5 million last season. And its 18-49 demo rating is 7.4, compared to 8.0 last season. SNF might not be the best example of defecting TV viewers, however, since those telecasts are based on the live team matchups, making the circumstances quite a bit different than for scripted entertainment series. And most of the viewers are watching live, not in delayed mode.

However, the most-watched broadcast scripted drama, NCIS on CBS, is averaging 17.6 million viewers and a 2.6 18-49 demo rating, compared to 18.6 million and a 3.0 in the demo last season. That adds up to one million fewer viewers and a 13% dip in the demo.

The most-watched broadcast sitcom, The Big Bang Theory on CBS is averaging 16.2 million viewers and a 4.5 in the demo, down from 17.1 million and a 4.9 in the demo, the latter rating an 8% drop. Big Bang did start out the season airing in a more competitive Monday night time period for several weeks with CBS televising Thursday Night Football in its usual 8 p.m. Thursday slot. But since moving back to Thursday at 8 it is averaging about the same number of viewers as on Monday, with a lower 18-49 demo rating.

NBC’s The Voice on Monday nights is averaging 12.1 million viewers and a 3.5 18-49 demo rating, compared to 13 million and a 4.1 in the demo last season, which is a 15% decline in the demo. On Tuesday nights The Voice is averaging 11.5 million and a 3.5, down from 12.2 and a 3.7.

NBC’s The Blacklist, which just went on its midseason hiatus, is averaging 10.1 million viewers and a 2.7 in the demo, down from 11.1 million viewers and a 3.1, a demo decline of 13%.

CBS drama Person of Interest, which averaged 11.9 million viewers and a 2.0 demo rating in its Tuesday night at 10 time period last season, is averaging 9.8 million viewers and a 1.6 demo rating, a demo decline of 20%.

The largest drop in audience has been for CBS drama NCIS: Los Angeles, which last season aired out of NCIS on Tuesday night at 8. The network moved it to Monday nights at 10 and its viewership has declined from 14.3 million to 8.9 million, while its demo rating has fallen from 2.5 to 1.6, a drop of 36%.

That move actually has worked out well for CBS, however, since it replaced NCIS: Los Angeles in the Tuesday night slot with new series NCIS: New Orleans, which is averaging 16 million viewers and a 2.3. However, more importantly, NCIS: Los Angeles, although its numbers are down from last season in its new, more competitive time period, is still averaging more viewers and a higher demo rating than the CBS series that aired in the time period last season at this point.

Last season, drama Hostages was averaging 5.2 million viewers and a 1.2 in the demo, 71% lower in viewers and 25% lower in the demo than NCIS: Los Angeles is averaging this season.

CBS freshman drama Scorpion, which airs on Monday night at 9 is also doing better than the two sitcoms it replaced from last season, and is averaging 11.2 million viewers and a 2.4 demo rating.

Castle on ABC has taken a big viewer hit also this season. At this point last season it was averaging 10.9 million viewers and a 2.1 in the demo. This season it is drawing 9.4 million and a 1.8 in the demo.

Some of the most-watched series on broadcast are down in viewers and in the demo but by lesser numbers. ABC’s Dancing With the Stars, which recently ended its fall run, averaged 13 million viewers, down from 13.4 million last fall, and a 2.0 in the demo, which was flat from last fall. CBS drama Criminal Minds was averaging 10.9 million viewers and a 2.6 in the demo last season. This season it is averaging 10.6 million and a 2.4 in the demo. Survivor was averaging 9.8 million last season and a 2.5 in the demo. This season it is drawing 9.5 million viewers and a 2.4.

Blue Bloods on CBS is averaging 11.2 million viewers, the same as last season at this point, and its 18-49 demo rating, remembering it airs on lower-skewing Friday when lots of younger viewers are out, is a 1.3, compared to 1.4 last season.

Another heavily watched series that’s flat in viewers is ABC sitcom Modern Family, averaging the same 10.3 million viewers it had last season to this point. In the 18-49 demo, Modern Family is averaging a 3.5 this season, down slightly from a 3.6 last season.

Not all series have fallen victim to the trend, however; some series are drawing better than last season. They include CBS drama The Good Wife, which is averaging 10.6 million viewers compared to 9.5 million last season; CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes, averaging 13.7 million viewers compared to 13.5 million; ABC drama Scandal, averaging 10.1 million vs. 9.1 million last season; ABC drama Once Upon a Time, averaging 7.6 million vs. 7.3 million last season; NBC’s Law & Order: SVU, which is averaging 7.7 million viewers compared to 6.5 million last season; and ABC’s The Goldbergs, which is averaging 7.1 million viewers vs. 5.6 last season.

Three series showing an increase in its 18-49 demo rating season to date—all ABC shows—are Scandal, which was averaging a 3.0 rating last season and is now averaging a 3.2; Once Upon a Time, which was averaging a 2.2 last season at this point and this season is averaging a 2.6, and The Goldbergs, which was averaging a 1.8 last season and is now averaging a 2.2.

Last season at this point, the most watched freshman series were: CBS sitcom The Millers (11.1 million viewers); NBC’s The Blacklist (11.1 million); CBS sitcom The Crazy Ones (9.6); NBC drama Chicago Fire (7.9 million); ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (7.4 million); Fox drama Almost Human (7 million); Fox drama Sleepy Hollow (6.6 million); ABC sitcom Back in the Game (6.4 million); ABC comedy Super FunNight (6 million); and The Goldbergs (5.6 million).

Of last season’s top 10 freshman series at this point in the season, six returned this season, and CBS just pulled The Millers off the air.

This season’s top 10 freshman series to this point are NCIS: New Orleans (16 million viewers); CBS drama Madam Secretary (12.5 million); CBS’ Scorpion (11.2 million); ABC drama How to Get Away WithMurder (10.4 million); NBC drama The Mysteries of Laura (8.6 million); ABC comedy Black-ish (8.1 million); CBS drama Stalker (7.8 million); NBC drama State of Affairs (7.1 million); CBS sitcom TheMcCarthys (6.8 million); and Fox drama Gotham (6.6 million).