MBPT Spotlight: Sizing Up the 2013-14 Broadcast TV Season Network by Network


  • The five broadcast networks finished the 2013-14 season down 2.2% in total viewers but down a more notable 10.5% in adults 18-49.
  • Yes, even without the Olympics counted in, NBC finished the season No. 1 among adults 18-49 (for the first time in a decade) with a 17% advantage over second-place CBS.
  • CBS easily won the season in both households and total viewers thanks to their roster of top-rated shows. However, the Eye network experienced double-digit losses in the adult 18-49 demo (to the tune of 14.3%).
  • NBC and The CW were the only two networks to see gains vs. last season.
  • The CW broadened its base and raised its ratings this season as Arrow stayed strong and newcomer The Originals drew in viewers and pumped up the long-running Supernatural.
  • Fox took the biggest hit of any network this season, falling to fourth place as The X Factor dropped 30%, while American Idol dropped by 25%. Overall the network was down 24.8% in adults 18-49.
  • Fox’s losses enabled ABC to move up to third place for the season for the first time in recent memory. And yes Jimmy Kimmel, we agree they’re not in first, but hey—the news isn’t all that bad.


The Peacock has something to crow about—its return to first place in the 18-49 demo for the first time in ten years, and that’s without the Winter Olympics factored into their average.

NBC was the only general market broadcast network to see ratings increases across the board in every major demographic group. Its ratings strength, however, was largely due to Sunday Night Football and The Voice and fewer weeks of lower-rated midseason programming due to the Olympics.

Rookie The Blacklist quickly became an instant smash for the network and is now NBC’s top-rated scripted series. In addition, the drama has the distinction of being the top-ranked new drama series for 2013-14 in households, total viewers and adults 18-49. The Blacklist, as well as midseason drama Chicago PD (a Chicago Fire spin-off), along with new comedy About a Boy were the only scripted series to be renewed by NBC out of eleven that were introduced.

While The Voice had some minor growth in total viewers, the singing competition has been shedding younger viewers, especially adults 18-34, which slid by 21%. Adults 18-49 was also off by nearly 16%. Moving Chicago Fire to Tuesdays at 10 p.m. paid off. It enabled the drama to increase its audience across all key demos during its sophomore season.

During midseason, NBC moved Tuesday night’s edition of The Voice to 8 p.m. and launched two new half-hour comedies in the 9 p.m. hour: About a Boy and Growing Up Fisher. About a Boy will be back next season; Growing up Fisher is a goner. That’s because About a Boy outperformed Fisher by 17% in adults 18-49 thanks to its post-Voice position.

NBC’s decision to move Revolution to Wednesdays at 8 p.m. hastened the demise of a show that had already weakened creatively. Law & Order: SVU, the lone survivor of the long-running franchise, held up remarkably well. Season 15 of the crime procedural grew by more than 6% in adults 18-49. The remake of Ironside, which aired at 10 p.m., underwhelmed audiences and was canceled after four episodes. Midseason spinoff Chicago PD fared much better in the hour, outperforming Ironside by 15% in total viewers and 44% in the demo.

There wasn’t much in the way of good news for NBC’s Thursday night comedy block. Parks and Recreation, which led off the night at 8 p.m., shed close to 25% of its adults 18-49 audience vs. last season. Rounding out the rest of the Thursday comedy block were three new comedies: Welcome to the Family, The Michael J. Fox Show and Sean Saves the World. All three were canceled. Most disappointing was viewers’ disenchantment with TheMichael J. Fox Show. For those of you who are fans of the actor, not to worry—you can still see him in a recurring role on The Good Wife.

Midseason sci-fi drama Believe struggled opposite ABC’s sci-fi entry Resurrection in the 9 p.m. hour on Sunday. That show won’t be back, either.


CBS retained its leadership status in households, total viewers and older demographic groups. Its ongoing success has been founded on veteran procedural dramas and multi-camera comedies. Unfortunately, whenever the network attempts to deviate from familiar formats, it has had less success.

Of the eight new series that were launched (six comedies and two dramas) only two of them—Mom and The Millers—will be back this coming fall.

How I Met Your Mother, which closed out its run after nine seasons, ended up being CBS’ best performing comedy on Monday nights in both adults 18-49 and adults 18-34. Returning comedy 2 Broke Girls lost nearly 25% of its adult 18-49 audience vs. last season. Mike and Molly, which just concluded its fourth season, sustained a 20% loss in the demo. CBS also added two comedies on the night, We Are Men, which was canceled after only two episodes, and Chuck Lorre’s aforementioned Mom, which had decent retention from lead-in Mike and Molly and will be back this coming fall.

The serialized storytelling format of Hostages struggled opposite NBC’s The Blacklist in the 10 p.m. Monday hour, while midseason drama Intelligence also faced the same fate in the time period. Neither will be back.

The departure of beloved character Ziva David, combined with the arrival of ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. impacted viewership levels of NCIS. However, although the 11-year series veteran lost 20% of its audience in adults 18-49, it remains the top-ranked drama overall in broadcast primetime in households and total viewers.

Thursday night returning comedies also saw some shrinkage. The Big Bang Theory remained dominant and continues to retain its top-ranked comedy title, despite a 7% decline in adults 18-49. Two and a Half Men, on the other hand, fell by more than a third in the demo. Two new comedies joined the lineup—multi-camera ensemble comedy The Millers, which was renewed, and David Kelly’s single-camera comedy The Crazy Ones, starring Robin Williams, which was not. Several industry experts have pointed out that single-camera comedies have never succeeded on CBS.

Hawaii Five-0’s relocation to Fridays at 9 p.m. registered a 7% gain in total viewers, but lost over a third of its adult 18-49 audience. Viewership to Friday’s Blue Bloods (a hit among the blue-haired) remained stable across all key demos.

The story arc surrounding the death of character Will Gardner and the post-death aftermath kept fans riveted to season five of The Good Wife on Sunday night. Viewership levels across all measures remained on par with last season.


Despite across-the-board declines, ABC finished the season in third place in both viewers and adults 18-49, edging ahead of Fox. However, the network has had a tough time launching new series. Of the 14 freshman scripted series introduced during 2013-14, all but three were canceled.

A major misstep was scheduling four new series on Tuesday night. The expectation was that the highly anticipated fall launch of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D would become a fan favorite of boys and girls and viewers would show up in droves to the entire Tuesday night lineup. After a very strong launch, the series performed respectably in the demo in subsequent weeks. And yes, agent Coulson still lives! He and his posse will be back on the schedule in the fall.

ABC’s ongoing attempts to program successful comedy companions to Wednesday night’s The Middle and Modern Family have yet to pay off. Rookie comedy Back in the Game struck out after a handful of episodes at bat, while Rebel Wilson’s Super Fun Night was neither fun nor super.

Although canceled fantasy freshman drama Once Upon a Time in Wonderland disappointed, there was far better Thursday night news from Shondaland. While the successful Ms. Rhimes’ Grey’s Anatomy experienced some minor audience declines in key demos, it still remained a solid performer in the 9 p.m. hour. Viewer affinity to Scandal at 10 translated to both major social media buzz and audience gains vs. last season. Scandal is currently the top-ranked drama on broadcast television among adults 18-49 and women 18-49.

The fall launch of Sunday night drama Betrayal was a major letdown for ABC despite being paired with Revenge. However, the late midseason entry of Resurrection returned ABC’s Sunday night performance to ratings strength and quickly became one of the most watched dramas on TV once all delayed viewing is taken into account.


Fox had a disappointing season to say the least (and no one agrees with that more than soon-to-depart entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly). The network finished fourth in total viewers, adults 18-49 and adults 25-54. Of the seven new scripted series that were introduced during 2013-14, only two will be back.

Sleepy Hollow, a modern-day take on the infamous legend of the headless horseman, quickly developed a following. Speaking of The Following, the sophomore season of the suspense drama lost more than a third of its audience vs. its freshman year. Both of Fox’s two new Tuesday comedy entries, Dads (8 p.m.) and Brooklyn Nine-Nine (8:30 p.m.) had difficulty attracting viewers during a very competitive time period. While Dads was critically panned and quickly canned, Brooklyn Nine-Nine was critically acclaimed. Golden Globe wins for both Andy Samberg and the comedy series guaranteed it a sophomore season.

Other failed freshman series included: Futuristic rookie cop drama Almost Human; dramedy Rake and midseason comedies Surviving Jack and Enlisted.

American Idol, which had been a star performer for ten seasons and also known as “the death star” for the competition, experienced major audience declines over the past three years, especially among younger demos. The season 13 finale, which anointed Meatloaf-esque rocker Caleb Johnson as this year’s champ, delivered 10.1 million viewers. That represents a whopping 29% decline vs. the finale audience delivery for season 12. To give even more perspective, the audience for this year’s finale was 66% below season 10’s finale, which attracted 29.3 million viewers. In addition, the Simon Cowell-helmed singing competition series The X Factor continued to underwhelm audiences, plummeting nearly 50% in adults 18-34 vs. last year. Season five of Glee tumbled by more than 45% in adults 18-49 vs. its season four performance. The upcoming sixth season of Glee will be its last.

The CW

The CW experienced a sliver of growth in all key demos and was the only other network (besides NBC) to boast increases in men 18-49 (6.8%) and men 25-54 (10.4%).

Of the five series launched last season, three will be back: The Originals, Reign and The 100. Unfortunately, neither Star-Crossed nor The Tomorrow People will live to see another day. Also gone from the schedule are legacy series Nikita, which ended its run after four seasons, and The Carrie Diaries.