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TV Ratings: CBS and ABC Lag in Season So Far, NBC Hangs Tough and Football Boosts Fox

CBS, ABC and the CW are having a rough go of it so far as the first third of the 2018-19 television season draws to a close.

NBC is hanging tough on a year-over-year Nielsen basis, and it has landed two new dramas — “Manifest” and “New Amsterdam” — in the top 10 in the adults 18-49 demographic. Fox is showing renewed signs of life thanks largely to the influx of “Thursday Night Football” viewers.

For the season to date, CBS and NBC are neck-and-neck for No. 1 in total viewers according to Nielsen’s live-plus-7 ratings incorporating a week’s worth of delayed viewing.

NBC is weathering the loss of “Thursday Night Football” games better than CBS (last season the Eye and the Peacock shared the package that moved to Fox this year). CBS is averaging 9.31 million viewers, down 10% from the comparable frame last year, in Nielsen’s L7 ratings from Sept. 24 through Dec. 16. NBC has pulled in 9.35 million, down 1%.

ABC is down 11% year-over-year to 6.12 million. Fox is up 15% to 7.33 million. CW has sunk 24% to 1.55 million.

NBC enjoys a clear lead in the adults 18-49 derby. The Peacock is averaging 2.3 rating and 10 share in L7, down 8%. Fox is up 11%, ranking second with 2.1/9, followed by CBS at 1.5/6 (down 21%) and ABC (1.4/6, down 18%). CW is seeing double-digit losses in its core target demo of adults 18-34 (0.4/2, down 33%).

The adults 18-49 rankings are paced by the fact that NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” (6.0/23) and Fox’s “Thursday Night Football” (4.4/19) rank No. 1 and No. 2 for the season to date in adults 18-49. NBC has also harvested solid numbers from freshman thriller “Manifest” (3.1/13) and medical soap “New Amsterdam” (2.6/12). NBC’s “This Is Us” is strong enough in season three to rank No. 3 (4.2/16).

CBS has two slots in the top 10, both from the Chuck Lorre shop: “The Big Bang Theory” (3.7/17) and “Young Sheldon” (2.6/11). Beyond football programs, Fox’s only entry is “9-1-1” (2.6/10). ABC is repped only by stalwart “Grey’s Anatomy” (3.1/13). CW’s top show remains “The Flash” (1.0/4 in adults 18-49).

ABC’s most-watched new series is “Roseanne” spinoff “The Conners” (2.3/10). The revival of “Last Man Standing” (1.9/10) on Fox has also helped that network’s cause.

CBS has some good news from its rookie Dick Wolf procedural drama “The FBI.” The series ranks No. 10 for the season in total viewers (12.7 million). It outperforms Wolf’s NBC troika of “Chicago Fire” (11.4 million), Chicago Med” (11.1 million) and “Chicago P.D.” (10.9 million).

“Sunday Night Football” (19 million) tops the season to date in total viewers. But entertainment fare claims the next three slots: CBS’ “Big Bang” (17.3 million) and “NCIS” (15.7 million) and NBC’s “This Is Us” (14.4 million). “Thursday Night Football” (14.4 million) rounds out the top five.

Nielsen numbers show that the overall level of television viewership in primetime across broadcast and cable is down for the season to date. That stat is hard for the networks to square with data indicating that many voracious media consumers are spending more time watching TV than ever before.

The total number of persons using television (PUT) so far is down about 4% compared to the same frame last year. PUT levels are down 15% in the adults 18-34 demo and 10% in adults 18-49 — the demographics most attuned to watching TV on alternative platforms beyond the reach of Nielsen’s yardstick.

(Pictured: NBC’s “Manifest,” CBS’ “The FBI” and Fox’s “Thursday Night Football”)

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