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Falling viewer levels sum up sad summer

There are many ways to examine the networks’ struggles this summer, beyond basic erosion and appallingly low network household ratings. One additional measure of futility is total viewer level, and by that standard, ABC suffers the most.

Impact for Alphabet

The same factor that gives the Alphabet web’s shows an appeal beyond their household ratings – more viewers per household – during the regular season works against the network during summertime when TV-watching is a more casual affair. The families that share ABC’s series during the regular season are not so quick to gather around the set during summer when everyone has more options and activities.

So, while “Home Improvement’s” 13.3 rating and 22 share on Aug. 22 were a weak 67% of the sitcom’s regular season average, the viewership levels were even worse: Its 19.65 million people was a mere 60% of its 1994-95 season viewer average. This is in stark contrast to the regular season when the show ranked third overall in ratings behind NBC’s “Seinfeld” and “ER” but finished first in total viewers.

On Aug. 23, “Grace Under Fire” pulled a 12.5/22, which was only 66% of the in-season average, but the viewership levels slid to 17.92 million – 62% of seasonal viewers.

Mitigating factors

The two kid-free NBC shows, more reliant on young, single viewers (especially “Seinfeld”), have not fared as badly. “Seinfeld’s” 17.0/29 on Aug. 24 was 83% of the regular season ratings and the viewership levels of 24.47 million were proportionally closer at 80%. That night, “ER” even managed to reverse the trend, scoring a 14.3/26 for 71% of the ’94-95 household average, while its 20.09 million viewers was 73% of the season figures.

Viewers ‘Step’ back

ABC’s problems extend beyond the top 10 to the middle of the pack. “Step by Step” garnered a 9.9/20 on Aug. 25, a solid 87% of its household rating. But the show’s 14.72 million viewers represented only 79% of the in-season figures.

By contrast, CBS’ “Walker, Texas Ranger” – a show more likely to attract the lone viewer – snagged a 9.6/19 the next night, 86% of the household rating, and its 14.24 million viewers came close to that ratio, holding 83% of the regular season average.

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