Thursday, June 29, 2017

A18-49+ Update: The Network Race in 2016-17

Here's a look from several angles at how the big five networks fared in 2016-17.

Networks Compared to Previous Seasons


In 2016-17, the "convergence" of the four networks came to an abrupt end. In adding megahit This Is Us to its already deep roster, NBC pulled away from the rest of the pack, posting the highest Plus average for a network's original non-sports series in five years. Fox, meanwhile, was looking shaky in 2015-16 and had to deal with the loss of American Idol as well, and it fell to the lowest Plus average for a network in five years.

Networks Across the Season


Trying a different way of approaching the "across the season" look this year... this splits up the season into the same sub-seasons that are used for Schedules Plus. "Fall" is everything up to December 31, "Winter" is January 1 up to the start of DST, and "Spring" is the start of DST to the end of the regular season. I used to use the Climate Center's weekly tracker in these updates, which uses the season-to-date league average so that the networks average out to 100 in each week. But this one uses the full-season league average throughout, so you can see how much the ratings fall in the spring.

Anyway, NBC got off to a roaring start with The Voice, This Is Us, and being able to avoid programming Sunday (and even Thursday to some extent) thanks to football. ABC was actually behind Fox as of New Year's Day; Scandal was really missed on Thursday.

In the winter, ABC went all the way from worst to first, riding the return of Scandal, another incredible The Bachelor season, and a rejuvenation for the Friday lineup. However, NBC was more competitive than usual during The Voice's hiatus. It pulled back into first with The Voice's return for the spring, but it was a less dominant first to be sure.

A Deeper Look at Networks
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Last year, NBC won the season despite finishing in fourth in scripted. This year, with the arrival of This Is Us, it made a ten-point, worst-to-first jump in scripted programming. That's how dominance happens. There's still room for improvement, as the comedy department remains in fourth place; it made a big jump over recent years, but owes much of that to improved timeslots. (There was no Undateable / Truth Be Told Friday hour this year.)

Fox's drop was seen in both scripted (96 -> 89) but especially in unscripted (106 -> 74). With Idol out of the mix, the network aired just 51 original reality hours this season. That's a really sharp drop from 86.5 just last year, 101 two years ago, and around 150 for many years in the rise/prime of Idol. It was the first time in 15 years that Fox had a higher scripted average than unscripted average, while ABC and CBS both went the other way (higher unscripted average than scripted) for the first time in over a decade.

NBC's lead was even more pronounced in the "overall" averages (including sports, repeats, specials, etc.), and Fox used the Super Bowl to vault to second place in that metric. If you think NBC's number was impressive this year, just wait for next year when the Super Bowl and the Olympics join the mix...

Real Estate


ABC, NBC and Fox all aired fewer original series than last year, while CBS and the CW ticked up. The only movement by more than a point was NBC (63% -> 59%), perhaps in part due to the addition of some Thursday Night Football. The big four networks in total were down almost a full point from 66% to 65% this season, perhaps suggesting we are approaching the saturation point for original volume. The volume of sports on the big four went over the 10% mark (10.4%) for the first time in the A18-49+ era.

Here's the now updated A18-49+ Networks post.

Here's the now updated A18-49+ Deeper Networks post.

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