HOLLYWOOD — It’s been a fairly hot start to summer for many of the unscripted programs to air, but repeats of some dramas and sitcoms are dragging the networks down in the ratings.
In general, a series that sees sharp declines in the summer is usually on its last legs or, at the very least, past its peak. And there appears to be a greater number than usual this year.
While the weekly top 10 list this summer has included hot reality series such as Fox’s “American Idol” and NBC’s “Dog Eat Dog,” veteran skeins like “The Practice,” “King of Queens” and “Drew Carey” are wilting in the heat.
And they’re costing their networks.
At the halfway point of summer, the six broadcast networks are down 10% year-to-year in adults 18-49, according to Nielsen. Fox and the WB are faring best although they’re merely flat summer-to-summer, while ABC is declining the most.
NBC, boosted early in the summer by the NBA playoffs, is the summer leader with a 3.3/11 in the demo, but that’s down year-to-year by 11%.
Net’s doing well with alternative programming like “Dog” and “Fear Factor” on Monday and “Crime and Punishment” on Sunday, but some of its core scripted series are off by double-digit percentages vs. a year ago. Even “Friends,” which had a renaissance season in the ratings, has looked mortal this summer — down 16% year-to-year.
“ER” (down 13%) has averaged a 3.4 rating in adults 18-49 this summer, about on par with the net’s average (3.3). This is a far cry from the September-May period, though, when its 10.7 rating towered over the net’s 5.3.
At least the Peacock had the right idea with “Providence,” sending the poorly repeating drama to hiatusville all summer. Extra editions of “Dateline” have filled in on Fridays at 8 and improved the net’s standing vs. last summer.
ABC has orchestrated a similar disappearing act with its “NYPD Blue,” opting to air original programming like the hospital documentary “Houston Medical” in place of repeats of the cop drama. Net is only seeing marginal gains, though.
But that’s still better than almost anywhere else you look on the Alphabet sked.
The downtrodden network has seen its only two veteran scripted series — “The Practice” and “Drew Carey” — plummet by more than 30% vs. last year. “Practice” is clearly suffering from the weak lead-in it receives from repeats of “Alias,” which itself is down by 53% vs. what “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” was fetching last summer.
Fox is enjoying great success with “American Idol” this summer, but its averages are being kept down by poorly repeating skeins like the outgoing “X-Files,” “Ally McBeal” and “Dark Angel.” Among returning shows, “Boston Public” (off 25%), “The Simpsons” (down 19%) and “That ’70s Show” (down 14%) have all shown troubling declines.
CBS’ series are holding up best in repeats this summer. With the exception of “King of Queens” (down 27%), net’s other anchor series (“Everybody Loves Raymond” and “JAG,” for example) are either flat or off only slightly.
And then there’s red-hot “CSI,” which is the summer’s highest-rated scripted series in adults 18-49 (5.1/15) — up an impressive 31% year-to-year.
What has also worked in repeats for each of the major networks this summer are popular theatrical movies, upon which viewers can hop onboard midway and ride to the finish. Pics like “A Time to Kill” (CBS), “Men in Black” (NBC) and “Jerry Maguire” (Fox) have all done well, with their final hours crushing the competish.