NBC has done its part thanks to “The Voice,” but it’s been an otherwise sluggish start to the summer for the Big Four.
The new singing competition series, which wrapped with strong numbers Wednesday, has helped the Peacock emerge as the only broadcaster up vs. the first month of last summer — or at least the only English-language broadcaster.
According to Nielsen, Spanish-language giant Univision has surged 17% in adults 18-49 and beaten at least one of the Big Four each of the first four full weeks of summer. And last week, aided by a big USA-Mexico soccer match, the net finished just a tick out of first in 18-49 while leading all networks on television among adults 18-34.
The Big Four are hopeful that popular returning shows like “Big Brother” and “Hell’s Kitchen” and some of the reality shows yet to bow will help turn the tide.
Forget the idea of scripted summer skeins helping the Big Four, though. While ABC has kept the lights on with firstrun dramas “Rookie Blue” and “Combat Hospital,” early summer “burnoff” shows at CBS (“Chaos”) and NBC (“Love Bites”) have performed about as poorly as expected. And repeats of scripted comedies and dramas have become less effective with each passing summer.
For the first four weeks of summer starting with Memorial Day, the Big Four and CW have combined for a 7.3 rating in adults 18-49 — down 11% from the same point a year ago (8.2). The dropoff isn’t quite as bad among total viewers (down 7%, 24.4 million vs. 26.1 million last year), a sign that the nets are doing a better job retaining older viewers.
Overall television usage is actually up slightly among adults 18-49, with Univision and cable taking advantage. One category that continues to watch less TV is teens 12-17, with only 24.3% of that age group watching primetime on average so far this summer, according to Nielsen — down a significant 5% vs. last year (25.5%).
Here’s a look at each net for summer to date and what’s ahead:
The NBA Finals, while among the top-rated in years, couldn’t quite match last year’s lofty level when the series was extended to a full seven games. As a result, the Alphabet started summer in a hole and was down 12% in 18-49 through four weeks (2.2 vs. 2.5).
Still, there have been some positives for ABC, including new Monday series “Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition,” which has been winning its hour (averaging a 2.3 same-night rating) and performing better than last year’s “True Beauty” in the hour; combined with “The Bachelorette,” ABC has won every summer Monday in 18-49.
Also, globetrotting adventure series “Expedition Impossible” opened well (2.4) and “101 Ways to Leave a Game Show” earned a solid-enough 1.9 for both of its first two airings (opposite NBC’s “The Voice”).
One thing that’s hurting ABC is the ratings erosion for “Wipeout,” a summer series that probably overstayed its welcome when it was called into duty in January and aired regularly for the rest of the regular season. Its first Tuesday seg of summer post-NBA Finals came in down a sharp 45% vs. last year (1.7 vs. 3.1), though the show did bounce back in its first regular Thursday airing (2.4).
ABC also has three fairly high-profile reality shows bowing in early August: the returning “Bachelor Pad” and newbie “Karaoke Battle U.S.A.” on Mondays,and the high-octane competition series “Take the Money and Run” (from the exec producers of “The Amazing Race”) on Tuesdays.
As it has in past years, the first month of the summer season — when it airs no original reality series — has become the Eye’s least competitive stretch of the calendar year. The net is down 14% in 18-49 vs. last year (1.2 vs. 1.4) and is running fourth or lower in all key demos.
Fortunately, returning July 7 is the thrice-weekly “Big Brother,” which should bring younger viewers to the net. And on Sundays, “Brother” eventually will be followed by the new mistaken-identity alternative series “Same Name.”
Other than that, though, it’s mostly repeats until late September for CBS.
“The Voice” wrapped its first season Wednesday with a 3.7/13 in 18-49 and 11.05 million viewers overall — below its performance show scores of the previous night but impressive for the 8 o’clock hour in summer. And “America’s Got Talent” seems to have benefited by airing alongside it, hitting a five-year high this week for a Wednesday seg that wasn’t a finale (4.1/12, 13.71m).
Less impressive was the 10 p.m. bow of “Love in the Wild” (2.2/6, 6.48m), though it did rule in demos. NBC also got off to a decent start with the return of “The Marriage Ref” last Sunday (1.7/5 in 18-49).
Still ahead are hidden-gem gameshow “It’s Worth What?” on Tuesdays and new half-hour comedy “Friends With Benefits,” whose Friday 8 p.m. timeslot could qualify it as “burnoff” material.
Through four weeks of summer, NBC was up 6% in adults 18-49 vs. last year (1.9 vs. 1.8).
Two-night summer staple “So You Think You Can Dance” has wobbled a bit opposite NBC’s talent shows, but it has performed in line with last year (averaging about a 3.1 in 18-49).
It’s the loss of ratings heavyweight “Hell’s Kitchen,” though, that has contributed most to Fox’s 19% tumble in 18-49 this summer vs. last (1.7 vs. 2.1); another culinary competish, “MasterChef,” has done OK in its place (averaging about a 2.3 in 18-49).
Fox is starting “Hell’s Kitchen” late this summer (July 18), which means it should still be cooking up some good numbers when September rolls around. The net also has high hopes for newbie “Buried Treasure,” a show similar in vein to NBC’s “It’s Worth What?” that will air on Wednesdays later this summer.