The first networks post looked at eleven years of the network race using what I consider the best available measurement of network strength: an average of their original non-sports series ratings. This one adds three additional angles: it widens to overall ratings (including repeats, sports and specials), then narrows in on scripted originals, then breaks the scripted originals into the still narrower comedies and dramas. I don't like any of these on their own as much as all originals, but they help supplement/explain those basic numbers. For today, we're just doing the big four. The netlets may be added in a future year, but they probably wouldn't be that interesting anyway (as they have little to no sports/comedies).
Overall Ratings (Original Series + Repeats, Sports, Specials)
*- includes Super Bowl
**- includes Winter Olympics
"vs.O" is the difference between the overall rating and the originals-only rating used in the first networks post. In other words, it measures how much all the "other stuff" affects the network's overall rating.
The main takeaway here is the increased impact of sports. In the first half of the table, not a single network ever finished with a higher overall average than original average. The streak finally ended in 2008-09, when a distant fourth-place entertainment network got a one-point boost from both Sunday Night Football AND the Super Bowl.
These days, the huge sports events are game-changers in the network rankings, frequently making a double-digit difference compared to the surrounding years. Even in a year when Fox's entertainment department declined by twelve points, it was up by nine overall because of a huge boost from the "other stuff," namely the NFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl.
By itself, NBC's Sunday Night Football more than cancels out all the other filler NBC airs (see 2012-13). Throw in a Super Bowl or an Olympics, and NBC is now regularly capable of a double-digit boost relative to their entertainment department. The 2017-18 season could be truly staggering, as NBC gets both the Super Bowl and the Olympics (plus four more years of sports ratings becoming more favorable in general).
Scripted Originals Only
"Uns" is the difference between the all-originals average and the scripted-only average. In other words, it measures "the scripted effect"; how much scripted programs affect the original series average if you start with all originals.
Since the rise of Dancing with the Stars and the resurgence of The Bachelor on ABC, both ABC and CBS have been pretty consistent; their original average is roughly five points lower than their scripted-only average. Therefore, the last seven years or so have tracked very closely with the scripted programming trajectories. ABC's slow decline since the peak years of Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy is reflected in the scripted numbers, while CBS' brief surge to dominance in 2011-12 and disappointment since were also scripted-driven.
Fox and NBC are much more driven by unscripted developments. Fox got a reliable 20-point boost from Idol for about nine years. Its prime period occurred when it was able to combine the Death Star with scripted programming that was just a bit above average. And the fall of Fox in recent years has also been largely unscripted-driven. In fact, the Fox of 2012-13 and 2013-14 has scripted programming that's very reminiscent of Fox just before it entered its prime (2003-06), and Empire made it even better in 2014-15. The difference is that Idol isn't worth 20 points anymore.
Meanwhile, NBC is now getting about the same-sized boost from two yearly cycles of The Voice that Fox long received from Idol, a boost that takes a fourth-place scripted network and makes it a fairly close second among all originals. NBC of 2013-14 and 2014-15 looks quite similar to Fox a decade earlier. But as I've said before, the big question is just how much longer The Voice will be capable of that kind of boost.
During NBC's darkest days in the late aughts, comedy was actually a notable kinda-bright spot (often trailing only CBS). The darkness was mostly about the network's massive incompetence in drama development. Aside from a couple slightly positive years lining up with the first two seasons of Heroes (2006-08), it was a pretty consistent collapse from 2003-04 to 2011-12. Now, the network has The Voice and is getting its act together to some degree in drama. But despite a positive trend overall, the comedy department (pretty steady for quite awhile after the last Friends year in 2003-04) has totally fallen apart. And it's continued even with a The Voice lead-in juicing Go On and About a Boy in the last couple years.
Bad as it is for NBC comedy right now, it's still not as ugly as ABC's comedies in the worst of the pre-Modern Family years. Now that they have a relatively healthy comedy setup, it's easy to forget just how hideously things were going there, even alongside what was easily the strongest drama department in the A18-49+ era.
2001-02 | 2002-03 | 2003-04 | 2004-05 | 2005-06 | 2006-07 | 2007-08 | 2008-09 | 2009-10 | 2010-11 | 2011-12 | 2012-13 | 2013-14 | 2014-15