Now that it’s November, it seems like the right time to take a step back and reflect on the highs and lows of this season’s network ratings. Overall, they have been a mixed bag for broadcast networks. Though there have been sizeable hits, there have been too many new shows that are either scoring average or poor numbers to call this season a success.
ABC has found some winners in its lineup, but the disappointments are not small. This is particularly true for “The Muppets,” whose ratings have been nothing short of a letdown. The show premiered nicely, bringing in 9 million viewers and a 2.9 rating in the 18-49 demographic. However, the ratings only declined from there, stabilizing at 4 million viewers and a 1.4 demo rating. That can’t be what ABC was imagining when they ordered the series and gave the show all the promotion they could, pitching it to the same audience which turned out in droves to the 2011 movie. That show isn’t the only one which ABC is unhappy about. Also, both “Blood & Oil” and “Wicked City” bombed, with the former earning below a 1.0 key-demo rating for the past three airings and having its episode order cut. The latter failed to even hit a 1.0 demo rating in its series premiere, which seemed to dominate every ad break on ESPN for the past several weeks.
However, ABC does have elements of its schedule that it can celebrate, the most important of which is “Quantico.” The show stars Priyanka Chopra, who was unknown in America but one of Bollywood’s biggest stars before the series began. Apparently, she has a fan base here, too, because the show has averaged a 1.7 rating through its first five airings. While that number might not be remarkable on its own, it’s a 50-percent improvement from what “Revenge” was doing in the Sunday 10 p.m. timeslot last season. It has also doubled its “Blood & Oil” lead-in on multiple occasions.
Because of Thursday Night Football, it’s a little early to tell the story of CBS’s season. The eight weeks of football games held back both the majority of CBS’s Thursday series and its most important new show, “Supergirl.” The series flew high for CBS in its premiere, with 13 million viewers and a 3.1 in the demo, but one airing is too little to call a show a hit. However, the Eye is definitely celebrating the launch of “Limitless,” whose ratings have stabilized at 8 million viewers and a 1.4 in the key demo. The series holds the majority of its “NCIS: New Orleans” lead-in and has improved the year-to-year timeslot performance by a few tenths (“Person of Interest” was in the slot last year).
FOX is lucky that it still has “Empire,” which is saving the schedule from being a complete letdown. That show is still a massive ratings giant, averaging a 5.36 through its first four airings. That number makes it the top scripted show on network television right now. However, the rest of FOX’s schedule has underperformed. Several of their returning shows are facing year-over-year declines, including “Gotham,” which is running about 30 percent below what it was doing last fall. “Sleepy Hollow” has also scored series lows most weeks of the new season. In addition, “Minority Report” had the distinction of being the first outright bomb of the season — opening to a 1.1 18-49 rating and declining from there.
But the biggest disappointment of FOX’s schedule is “Scream Queens.” The cast includes big names like Jamie Lee Curtis, Nick Jonas and Ariana Grande who have fan bases from past work, and the network gave the show a huge marketing push, with ads for the show airing as far back as February. Though the series adds another 50 percent to its live rating when a week’s worth of DVR viewing is factored in, the most recent airing earned a paltry 1.0 18-49 rating, which is low no matter which measure you use. It might squeak out a renewal because of creator Ryan Murphy’s pedigree and the love for him in the FOX Networks Group, but it won’t be because of ratings.
The one big caveat to everything mentioned here: It’s still early in the season, and a lot of this season’s story has yet to be told. It’s possible that midseason series can help some falling schedules (especially for FOX, which has both “American Idol” and a revival of “The X-Files” waiting in the wings). However, the fall picture is fairly clear at this point, and it’s certainly telling a story of ups and downs.