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Networks Share the Ratings Pain

Midseason tough for new, returning shows on the Big Four

It’s been a tough midseason for new and returning shows bowing on the Big Four — plenty of tankings and yankings — and no net has been immune.

Though Fox’s “The Following” has carved out a sizable following, it’s pretty bleak elsewhere: A week after NBC axed “Do No Harm” following two very-low-rated episodes, CBS fired “The Job” after a second weak shift. Fox’s “Touch” has lost touch with whatever audience it had a year ago, while others like NBC’s “Deception” and “1600 Penn” and CW’s “The Carrie Diaries” have underwhelmed from the start of their runs in January.

Perhaps putting an exclamation point on the trend — at least the networks hope so — the last five days have seen historic-low drama premieres for both ABC with “Zero Hour” last Thursday (1.4 rating in 18-49) and CW with “Cult” on Tuesday of this week (0.3).

And then there’s everybody’s favorite punching bag, NBC’s Broadway-themed drama “Smash,” which dipped in the current week to a 0.9 rating in adults 18-49 after kicking off its second season two weeks ago with a mere 1.2. Even the granddaddy of all reality shows, CBS’ “Survivor,” returned off more than 20% vs. last year and is showing its age — finally.

The nets definitely need some new blood, but auds sure haven’t shown much interest in their winter offerings.

Elsewhere, “American Idol” is another decade-plus reality show that may not be what it once was, but three hours of the music contest were enough to lift Fox to victory in a shortened frame last week.

Tuesday’s State of the Union address by President Obama was not rated by Nielsen, cutting Fox’s week to less than 14 hours — with “Idol,” whose installments ranked third and sixth for the week in adults 18-49, accounting for nearly 22% of its sked.

Fox edged out CBS in adults 18-49, though the Eye claimed seven of the week’s top 13 programs in the demo. CBS did pull ahead in adults 25-54, and has now won five of the last six weeks in its target demo, and won easily in total viewers

Ratings for the broadcast dramas were somewhat muted Sunday as it was a big night elsewhere: AMC’s “The Walking Dead” dominated in 18-49 (5.6 rating/14 share, No. 1 for the week) while the NBA All-Star Game on TNT also beat every broadcast series. And at PBS, “Downton Abbey” wrapped its third season with a record 8.2 million viewers.

Overall for the week of Feb. 11-17, Fox’s 2.1/6 was followed by CBS (1.9/5), ABC (1.8/5), Univision (1.5/4) and NBC (1.3/4), which ranked fifth for a third straight week. Univision is on pace to beat out NBC in a February sweep for the first time.

For Fox, “American Idol” won Wednesday (4.3/13 in 18-49, 13.45 million viewers overall) and was the No. 3 show on Thursday (3.7/12, 12.59m). Through Thursday, “Idol” is off 11% from its year-ago pace but stands as the season’s No. 2 entertainment series, behind “The Big Bang Theory.”

Monday newcomer “The Following” fell off last week (2.4/6 in 18-49, 7.79m) but then bounced back to kick off the current frame (2.9/7, 8.39m). It has consistently built on its “Bones” lead-in and ranked as the night’s No. 1 drama among young adults.

Not so hot for Fox is Friday sophomore drama “Touch” (0.7/2, 2.56m), which ranked eighth in 18-49 for its hour.

At CBS, “The Big Bang Theory” stayed hot and “Elementary” ticked up (2.3/7, 10.98m), bookending another victory on the night for the net, which also won Monday behind “2 Broke Girls” (3.6/9, 10.90m).

“Survivor” kicked off its 26th edition Wednesday with soft numbers (2.4/7, 8.94m), down 22% from last year. It finished a tick behind the premiere of “The Amazing Race” (2.5/6, 9.57m), which was off 11% from last year but finished ahead of ABC’s “Once Upon a Time” (2.4/6, 7.61m) in 18-49 for the first time.

ABC, which was led by “Modern Family” (3.8/11, 10.05m), saw more good scores for “The Bachelor” kicking off the week (2.7/7, 8.48m). And on Thursday, “Scandal” (2.7/8, 8.02m) again retained nearly all of its “Grey’s Anatomy” lead-in (2.8/8, 8.57m).

NBC slogged through a roof week, with only “The Biggest Loser” (2.0/5, 5.58m) and “The Office” (2.0/6, 4.06m) achieving as much as a 2 rating. At least Wednesday drama “Chicago Fire” continues to look pretty good (1.9/5, 6.65m).

Despite its winter woes, NBC’s average through 21 weeks is on par with last year — when it was aided by the Super Bowl. And in the battle to avoid the broadcast cellar in 18-49, it leads fourth-place ABC by more than four-tenths of a ratings point (2.66 to 2.24).

TNT’s coverage of the NBA All-Star Game (3.6/9, 8.02m) was Sunday’s top program in 18-49 and grew about 10% from last year.

Also of note in cable, NatGeo’s “Killing Lincoln” drew the net’s largest-ever audience for its premiere Sunday (3.35 million), topping the previous high of 3 million set by “Inside 9/11” in 2005.

TNT’s “Dallas” edged up in its third week of the season (0.8/2, 2.41m), while newcomer “Monday Mornings” (0.3/1, 1.22m) dipped a bit from its low preem.

A&E’s “Swamp People” kicked off its fourth season as Thursday’s No. 1 cable program (1.8/5 in 18-49, 4.42m), and also edged out Fox’s “Glee” in 18-49.

Disney Channel’s “Jessie” hit a season high Friday (3.95 million), and then Sunday’s “Austin & Ally” (4.91m) and “Dog With a Blog” hit series bests on Sunday (4.26m).

HBO’s Beyonce biopic “Life Is But a Dream” averaged 1.75 million viewers Saturday, becoming the net’s most-watched documentary in at least nine years. In the preceding hour on OWN, Oprah Winfrey’s interview with the singer on a special off-night edition of “Oprah’s Next Chapter” drew 1.32 million viewers.

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