Crisis for Broadcast Nets? Veteran Shows Struggling to Hold Viewers

Feb 20, 2013  •  Post A Comment

Much of the coverage of the current television season has focused on the lack of new hit shows on the broadcast networks, but TV writer Joe Flint reports in the Los Angeles Times that veteran series are also struggling.

“So far this season, only a handful of returning programs are doing better than they were last season. CBS’s ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ NBC’s ‘Grimm’ and ABC’s ‘Shark Tank’ are members of that club,” Flint writes. “At CBS, shows that have declined from last season in viewers and the 18-49 demographic include ‘Two Broke Girls,’ ‘The Mentalist’ and ‘Hawaii Five-0.’ NBC’s ‘Law & Order: SVU’ and ‘Parks & Recreation’ are down as well. At ABC, ‘Once Upon a Time’ has seen double-digit declines, as has Fox’s ‘New Girl.’"

Flint notes that the latest airings of CBS’s “The Good Wife” and CW’s “Beverly Hills 90210” produced all-time lows in the ratings for both series.

Admittedly, the numbers don’t take into account the growing acceptance of nonlinear viewing platforms — DVR, Internet and VOD. “But odds are that even with ancillary viewing factored in, the ratings would still be lower,” Flint writes. “This has to be of concern to the broadcast networks, especially if new shows are not emerging to pick up the slack.”

Only one network — NBC — is up this season in both total viewers and adults 18-49, Flint notes. “However, that was primarily in the fall when ‘The Voice’ was on,” he writes. “CBS, which is first in both categories, is down 4% in viewers and 13% in adults 18-49. ABC is off 7% in viewers and 8% in 18-49, while Fox has fallen 18% in both categories. The CW is up 3% in viewers but down 13% in the 18-49 category.”

New programs, meanwhile, aren’t doing much to help turn things around. “Indeed, while a few shows such as CBS’s ‘Elementary’ and Fox’s ‘The Following’ are posting some decent numbers, there have been far more flops in the fall and midseason,” Flint writes. “Recent casualties include NBC’s ‘Do No Harm’ and CBS’s ‘The Job.’ Among other disappointments from earlier this season are Fox’s ‘Ben and Kate’ and ABC’s ‘Last Resort.’"


  1. Until they can accurately rate all forms of viewership, ratings are like polls for political figures – highly suspect and controversial. I don’t watch anything “live” except sports. I record over 100 different shows (fortunately, they are seasonal and don’t all appear during the same time period). And none of them are unscripted shows – except The Voice and Shark Tank. I love Shark Tank, but didn’t know what it was until I found it by accident after it had been on a couple of years (I thought it was related to Shark Week – having a great descriptive title really helps – look at Cougar Town, my favorite comedy). Last Resort was great, but with a lot of shows, you wonder how long can you keep it going. How I Met Your Mother should have only lasted a few years. Shows like Seinfeld and Friends could have gone on for 20 years. Tuesday nights at 9 pm CST have 6 shows I would like to record. I can only record 4 at the same time. Fortunately one also shows at different times during the week, so I can record it later. The people who schedule the times should know better – they can’t win if they put good shows in competition with each other. USA probably has more shows I like than any other network as well as FX and some of the Turner stations. Figure out a better ratings system and include cable networks in the analysis to get a real picture of what people are watching and when.

  2. Tom is correct about ratings. Even at over 50 I record almost everything and watch it on my schedule, not theirs. That has put a lot of wasted time back in my life, doing many other things instead of appointment viewing. Until their ratings add all types of views within a 2 week period, ratings that should be correct won’t even be close.

  3. So Tim and Tom admit to being commercial-skippers (without saying so). Of what value is non-live viewing to the business model of a 20th century medium like TV?(Hint: Zero).

  4. Tom and Tim ought to be improving their minds by reading a good book or engaging in some kind of productive, worthwhile activity instead of assiduously recording so much worthless junk. It’s that simple.

  5. Well Biff, aren’t you high and mighty!? Just because one person watches crap you assume everyone does?
    And Doug, the article has nothing to do with skipping commercials but how many watch. But you are right that it is a dead business model and I skip every commercial possible. I have been doing that since the vhs days.

  6. Except that in the VHS days, reocrding and playback were a hassle (unlike the ubiquitous DVR)

  7. I have cataracts which make reading very difficult. I suppose getting a backlit reader might help, but I’m just not interested in reading. I read quite a bit on subjects related to my job already. Unless you saw the list of the shows I have set to record, you don’t know what mind-provoking shows I watch. I said I don’t watch unscripted. In the past several years, writing and acting has vastly improved in the TV medium. I don’t choose to watch comic book heroes, vampires, werewolves, etc. at the theater. Nor do I watch psychological thrillers. I choose shows with witty banter, deep and interesting characters, as well as shows that make me laugh – though the comedy field is rather limited. I liked the British Office, but the American version sucked. Other than Modern Family, Cougar Town, and Rules of Engagement, most of the others I think you have to be on drugs to enjoy. I used to just mindlessly flip channels and watch shows I didn’t like while waiting for one I did. Now I can choose what type of show and when. I also save 20 minutes per hour skipping commercials I have seen before. And I am in advertising.

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