Friday, June 29, 2018

A18-49+ Update: The Network Race in 2017-18

Here's a look from several angles at how the big five networks fared in 2017-18.

Networks Compared to Previous Seasons


There was lots of movement in the network averages in 2016-17, but very little in 2017-18. The big three were all within a point of last year, but Fox had a three-point rally from last year's low. After breaking 40 for three years in a row, the CW was down by a couple points this year, but still well above its Dawn Ostroff depths.

Networks Across the Season


This table uses the full-season league average in all three sections of the season 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.

Like last year, NBC got off to a roaring start in the fall, CBS was comfortably in second and ABC and Fox were fighting for third. All four networks were below last year's fall Plus numbers, which just goes to illustrate how the broadcast league average was a lot less healthy in the fall than it was in the winter and most of the spring (when most of the networks were up from last year).

NBC looked even more dominant than last year by the end of the winter period, partly due to its programming (like Ellen's Game of Games) and partly because it was able to sit out for much of the between-Voice period due to the Olympics. The other three networks were (like last year) fairly close together in this period, which meant ABC was still fighting with Fox for the cellar.

But there was a major turn in the American Idol and Roseanne-fueled spring, as ABC became the #1 network in this period and by a rather comfortable margin. Meanwhile, NBC and Fox got slammed in the spring. In the season-long averages, that meant ABC left Fox in the dust and very nearly caught up to CBS for second place.

A Deeper Look at Networks
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This was the year in which NBC got both the Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics and, as expected, it was easily the most dominant season for a network in the era in terms of "overall" ratings.

It's funny to say this about the former American Idol network, but Fox is mostly so far behind the rest of the big four in the series world due to its reality programming. Gordon Ramsay and The Four were fine, but there's nothing along the lines of Idol, Survivor or The Voice. They were a much more competitive fourth place in the scripted world this year, with an impressive uptick from the drama department (though Fox benefits a lot there from not having to program at 10/9c). ABC and CBS are still largely carried by comedies.

Real Estate


ABC aired a record volume of series originals this season and was actually up in repeats as well, while dropping off in specials and movies. CBS and NBC were basically flat year-to-year in original volume. (NBC had a lot more sports with the Olympics, but dropped off a little bit in repeats/specials/movies to make up for it.)

In a rather jarring move for this day and age, Fox actually aired a record low volume of originals at 58% (down 4 points from last year). Almost all of those lost originals were replaced by repeats, most memorably on Friday at 9/8c where a ton of 9-1-1 repeats replaced flop dramas of a year ago. That's already low for a big four network, and it'll only get lower with Thursday Night Football in 2018-19 leading into full-on "New Fox" in 2019-20.

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

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

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