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May Sweeps Sees Record Low Ratings

May 18, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Low ratings during the February sweeps may have been a fluke due to the writers strike, but the May sweeps period is painting a picture of viewers out of sync with broadcast television: Shows across multiple networks rang up series lows during a time that historically lures in the viewers.
On average, the networks are off the mark by 10% from last year in total viewers and off 17% in the 18- to 49-year-old demographic.
Consistently performing shows like ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” NBC’s “Deal or No Deal” and Fox’s “The Simpsons” garnered ratings near or at their series lows in the 18-49 demo during this May sweeps period, which began April 24 and ends May 21.
NBC placed a lot of faith in “American Gladiators,” which performed well during its winter start and helped keep the network afloat during a rocky February sweep.
Coming back into the schedule on May 12, however, the show completely bottomed out, sinking 68% versus its series premiere in January.
“Gladiators’” winter launch hit an impressive 5.9 rating/14 share among viewers 18-49; it left the schedule at a 3.0/9 in February.
Even standard sweep stunts, like CBS’ “CSI”/“Two and a Half Men” crossover, in which the shows swapped writing staffs, or President Bush’s appearance on NBC’s “Deal or No Deal,” failed to move the needle substantially.
The CW resorted to funneling viewers directly to broadcast by withholding streaming episodes of the network’s freshman hit “Gossip Girl” from its Web site (although they were available for purchase via iTunes). The show is still performing within its same-day average during non-streaming weeks.
With only a couple of days left in the sweeps period, first-place Fox is poised to land near last year’s 18-49 numbers, thanks to this week’s finale of “American Idol.” Fox is currently running at a 3.5/10 average, down 13% from this time last year.
CBS currently leads the pack in households and total viewers, but the Tiffany Network is down 11% and 10%, respectively, from this time last year.
But MyNetworkTV is happy with the May sweeps; it’s averaging 1.2 million total viewers, up 35% year-to-year. MyNet is up 67% year-to-year in 18-49 for the sweeps to date and enjoyed its best-ever week last week.
The sweeps period is important in determining ad rates for TV stations, and lower viewership might send ad buyers looking elsewhere, including cable and the Internet.
The gravity of these sliding numbers was apparent no place more than at the upfront presentations to advertisers last week. Once-lavish presentations were scaled down, and the media companies focused on selling opportunities across multiple media.
Viewers out of the habit of watching broadcast TV might not return until fall, and the threat of an actors strike may have networks seeing déjà vu all over again this summer.

119 Comments

  1. How Many Will It Take Till Someone Does Something? 1. Top 20 American Idol Songwriting Finalist (Andy Zulla) is an engineer on Clay Aiken, Kelly Clarkson, Diana DeGarmo CD’s. 2. Top 20 American Idol Songwriting Finalist (Windy Wagner) is a backup singer on the NEW Clay Aiken CD. 3. Top 20 American Idol Songwriting Finalist (Ryan Gillmor) wrote the theme song for the Fox television show “Unhitched”. 4. Top 20 American Idol Songwriting Finalist (Dan Yessian) wrote jingles for Ford Motors. 5. Top 20 American Idol Songwriting Finalist (Luke Ebbin) is a producer on Austalian Idol 1st place runner-up Shannon Noll’s CD. 6. Top 20 American Idol Songwriting Finalist (Regie Hamm) is a co-writer on the New Clay Aiken CD and he’s also a co-writer of the winner of 2007’s American Idol Songwriting Contest Scott Krippayne……Anybody see a pattern yet?
    3 of the 2008 American Idol Songwriting Contest Top 20 songwriters get credit on Clay Aiken CD’s. Out of thousands and thousands of entries (At $10.00 each) 3 out of 20 work with Mr. Aiken. And nobody has a problem with this? For all the facts please visit……. http://americanidolexposed.weebly.com

  2. I don’t think ratings are going to mean much until the new fall season. Just like when there’s a sports league strike, fans take their time to return. Television will rebound … if the actors don’t get greedy. If there is an actors strike, put a fork in it … television will be done.

  3. I truly hope CBS will reconsider their decision about cancelling “Moonlight”. I have never cared this much about a show before and I along with many other devoted and loyal fans are doing everything possible to get another network interested or have CBS change their mind. What were they thinking. This show had so much potential and an amazing cast that had so much chemistry. The story had so many areas to explore for future seasons. Please help us get back our “Moonlight”. Thank you.

  4. Would it be overdramatic to say that I saw this coming?
    Broadcast Television is a dying medium, allowing advertising to take up more and more time of the viewing experience, blasting commercials at high volume, and overall failure to adapt to the changing needs of the viewer makes TV a losing bet right now. Why do you think they decided to try the Hulu.com experiment (for that is what it is)?
    The Internet is an opportunity to completely change how people think of TV. I hope the networks catch on soon, or they’ll lose even more viewers to alternative and new media.

  5. The “Analog to Digital” switch in February of 2009 could very well be the final nail in the Broadcast Television coffin.

  6. I watched TV nonstop during the 60s and 70s. Even the old B/W reruns they played back then were better than whats on now. These days you have three times the commercials, distracting station logos on the screen, even more commercials DURING the show. There are a handful of decent shows to watch but it’s not fun anymore. These lame Ken and Barbie local news shows insult my intelligence. The national news shows don’t tell me anything I want to know.
    Instead of old movies and reruns all you get are infomercials.
    And they wonder why people stop watching???
    I don’t have cable and except for the late night shows my TV is usually OFF.
    I’ve already gone digital. I get all the shows I want , when I want, without all the annoying clutter and commercials.
    Their only hope is for the cable companies to allow ala carte, so people can have a say in what they pay for.

  7. Hey, you snooze, you lose.
    I’ve been enjoying watching British dramas via NetFlix. Better acting, interesting actors, actual plots in their storylines with real twists you can’t guess ahead of time… And best of all I don’t have to invent a drinking game to make it through a whole episode like I do watching CSI: Miami. (Simple rules, drink any time David Caruso puts on or takes off his glasses or whispers menacingly… just don’t plan on driving anywhere)
    If you aren’t interested in “Reality” TV, CSI: Whatever, some version of Law and Order or a lame comedy, there is nothing to watch. Some prime time shows are so bad, you have to wonder if the writers are even trying. I’m looking at you “According to Jim”, “Rules of Engagement” and “Two and a Half Men” … what utter crap!
    And you have to ask why people aren’t watching?! Hey, choice is nice thing and I’m making mine somewhere other than prime time, network tv.

  8. Dear “Moonlight” fan Margaret, thanks for making your voice heard! CBS needs to take note that its viewership drops are not just due to the writers’ strike and the “American Idol” phenomenon. “Moonlight,” “Shark,” and “Jericho” are all well-crafted dramas that deserved more time to build. Such programs build loyal fan bases that care enough to express themselves; all the networks need to start listening to what the fans are saying!

  9. If the networks would quit cancelling all the good TV shows perhaps more people would tune in.

  10. Kelly wrote: “If the networks would quit cancelling all the good TV shows perhaps more people would tune in.”
    I agree completely. Some of the longest running shows didn’t do well in their first year. Yet the nets are killing the good dramas if they don’t get good ratings in the first year.
    I tired of reality shows and boring crime dramas. I’m turning more and more to the cable shows, since the nets don’t care about me as a viewer.
    I want more Jericho!
    Gwen
    http://www.jericho-kansas.com

  11. I am trying to find out who sings the background music to your current American Gladiator commercial. I am thinking it is Pink or Duffy (certainly an older song that has been around for awhile). I watch the St. Louis/Southern Illinois market. Can you help me out here?
    Thanks for you time—

  12. Woozy the song is, “I dont think so” by Kelis

  13. I came across this thread tonight trying to find any articles / information about the in-play advertising (not sure what the buzzword for it is) that takes up 1/4 to 1/3 of your screen DURING the show.
    I was so disgusted trying to watch a movie on AMC tonight that after 45 minutes I had to walk away. It was like trying to read a good book with a large, buzzing bumble bee in the room.
    I actually wrote to AMC’s customer service and let them know why I stopped watching. As if commercials every 15 minutes aren’t bad enough, now we’re bombarded with useless information…often obscuring important elements of the show we’re trying to watch.
    I rarely watch TV anymore at all, and tonight was a reminder as to why.

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