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CBS Touts Season-to-Date Growth in Viewers

Dec 23, 2008  •  Post A Comment

It’s a Chrismukkah miracle: 2008 will end with at least one of the major networks showing year-to-year viewer growth.
The sorry story of the television season to date has been one of decline almost from the moment the first shows premiered in September. But now, 13 weeks into the ratings race, CBS has become the first network to finally pull ahead of its 2007-08 average.
According to Nielsen data released Tuesday, CBS is attracting an average audience of 12.02 million viewers through Sunday. That’s up a tiny 1% compared with the same frame a year ago, when the network averaged 11.87 million viewers.
Still, a gain is a gain—and CBS executives touted the progress with a press release.
The network managed to slip into the Nielsen black by scoring its 12th straight weekly win in overall viewers and its sixth consecutive week of year-to-year growth. Strong performances from CBS’ Monday comedies, a resurgent Tuesday drama block (powered by veteran hit “NCIS” and first-year hit “The Mentalist”) and a very solid season for Sunday staple “60 Minutes” have helped fuel the network’s growth this season.
Last week was a particularly impressive week for CBS in overall audience: The network had nine of the top 10 shows in total viewers. Take out sports programming (NBC’s “Sunday Night Football”) and one reality show (NBC’s “The Biggest Loser”), and the entire Nielsen top 20 was CBS shows.
As for the network’s main rivals, NBC, ABC and Fox all are down 9% year-to-year in overall audience so far this season, with ABC (9.85 million) in second, NBC (7.99 million) in third and Fox (7.84) fourth.
While CBS’ audience growth is a notable milestone in what’s been a lackluster season for the networks so far, it’s worth noting that among the demographic group that matters most to advertisers, adults 18-49, the Big Four are still all in negative territory.
CBS is in first place in that category with a 3.3 rating/9 share, down 3% from last year at this time. ABC (3.1/8, off 14%) is in second, followed by NBC (3.0/8, down 9%) and Fox (2.9/8, down 9%).
The 18-to-49 standings will shift radically in the next six weeks, when the return of “American Idol” and “24” likely will return Fox to first place in the Nielsen standings.
It also merits mention that, ratings growth or not, CBS Entertainment recently joined its network peers in cutting staff at both the network level and at the CBS Paramount studio.
One final note: MyNetworkTV, while not considered a major network, has been demonstrating year-to-year growth throughout the season. The main reason for its ratings revival: The acquisition of broadcast rights to “WWE Smackdown!” has dramatically improved MyNet’s Friday performance.

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