NEW YORK (AP) – The surest sign of how the coronavirus shutdown has devastated the television industry is CBS’s fourth place finish in what was nominally the first week of a new fall season.
The network’s viewing audience was down a whopping 61% from its premiere week last year, the Nielsen company said.
Basically, CBS has been America’s favorite television network for twenty years. But that success was mainly based on the dramas and comedies in scripts, especially crime proceedings like ‘NCIS’. The cessation of TV production due to the pandemic means that every week CBS struggles to put together a competitive schedule.
ABC, NBC and Fox were also all behind last year. But between professional football and the return of some popular non-scripted shows like “The Masked Singer” and “Dancing With the Stars,” they weren’t as hurt as CBS. Fox’s animated series, including the timeless “The Simpsons”, are also back.
Overall television viewing was 13% lower than the same week last year, with the drop being more pronounced among younger viewers, Nielsen said.
Some scripted series have resumed production and are expected to return to the air gradually. CBS ‘”FBI” will begin new episodes on October 6, for example with NBC’s “This is Us” on October 27.
Technically, CBS was actually the fifth network last week, with Fox News Channel reaching more viewers in prime time. Fox News set a significant milestone as the first cable network to beat all broadcast networks in viewership over a three-month period, Nielsen said. That’s a testament to the popularity of Fox’s political programming and that the summer show is barren to broadcasters.
NBC led the season’s opening week, averaging 5.5 million viewers in prime time. Fox had 3.9 million, ABC had 3.8 million, CBS had 2.7 million, Univision had 1.14 million, Ion Television had 1.11 million, Telemundo had 1 million, and CW had 570,000.
Fox News Channel dominated the cable networks with an average of 3.73 million. ESPN had 2.91 million, MSNBC had 1.9 million, TNT had 1.82 million, and CNN had 1.2 million.
Nielsen has also started releasing a list of the best shows on streaming services, based on total minutes watched, although the timing is lagging behind TV ratings. For the last week of August, Nielsen said Netflix’s “Lucifer” was the most popular streamed show, with 2 million minutes watched, followed by “Cobra Kai” and reruns of “The Office.”
ABC’s “World News Tonight” won the evening news rating race, averaging 8.4 million viewers during the week. NBC’s “Nightly News” had 7 million and the “CBS Evening News” had 5.1 million.
For the week of September 21-27, the top 20 shows, their networks and viewers:
1. NFL Football: Green Bay in New Orleans, NBC, 17.8 million.
2. NFL Football: New Orleans Las Vegas, ABC and ESPN, 15.96 million.
3. “NFL Post-Game”, Fox 14.44 Million.
4. “NFL Pre-Kick,” NBC, $ 12.07 million.
5. “60 minutes,” CBS, 7.56 million.
6. “Football Night in America, Part 3,” NBC, 6.7 million.
7. “America’s Got Talent” (Wednesday, 9pm), NBC, 6.57 million.
8. “America’s Got Talent” (Tuesday), NBC, 6.16 million.
9. “Dancing With the Stars,” ABC, 6.1 million.
10. “The Masked Singer,” Fox, 5.92 million.
11. “Monday Night Kickoff,” ABC, 5.62 million.
12. “America’s Got Talent” (Wednesday, 8pm), NBC, 5.48 million.
13. NFL Football: Miami in Jacksonville, NFL Network, 5.43 Million.
14. “Celebrity Family Feud,” ABC, 5.27 million.
15. NBA Playoffs: Denver vs. LA Lakers (Tuesday), TNT, 4.89 million.
16. “Tucker Carlson Tonight” (Wednesday), Fox News, 4.87 million.
17. NBA Playoffs: Denver vs. LA Lakers (Saturday), TNT, 4.79 million.
18. “Tucker Carlson Tonight” (Monday), Fox News, 4.76 million.
19. “Tucker Carlson Tonight” (Thursday), Fox News, 4.75 million.
20. “Tucker Carlson Tonight” (Tuesday), Fox News, 4.74 million.