ABC's Ratings the Most Glaring Challenge for Anne Sweeney's Successor

ABC's Ratings the Most Glaring Challenge for Anne Sweeney's Successor

ABC ranks fourth in key demo

Anne Sweeney's successor will take on a slew of responsibilities, from overseeing ABC Studios and the Disney channels to heading the ABC Family and Disney's interest in A&E Networks and Hulu. But the most obvious problem for the Disney-ABC Television Group is the flagship network's ratings.

Sweeney is announcing her resignation during a season in which ABC has slipped to fourth place in the key 18-49 demographic. It is down 9 percent year-over-year, with a 2.1 average in the ratings that reflect viewing over a week.

Also read: Anne Sweeney Exits Disney: TheWrap Picks Potential Replacements

The person directly responsible for ABC is Paul Lee, who answers to Sweeney. Whoever replaces her will need to find a way to jumpstart the network, where reliable reality hits like “The Bachelor” and “Dancing With the Stars” no longer earn the ratings they once did. “Modern Family” is the network's top-rated scripted show. “Scandal” and the aging “Grey's Anatomy” continue to be top-rated dramas.

But ABC, like most networks, hasn't found many big hits this season. “Agents of S.H.I.EL.D.” started strong but has slipped. And the network has suffered the cancellations of “Lucky 7,” “The Assets” and “Back in the Game.” “Killer Women” is shelved, and the new “Mind Games” is averaging a mere 0.8 in the advertiser-sought 18-49 demographic.

Also read: Anne Sweeney Exiting Disney-ABC to Become TV Director

One new bright spot? Sunday's “Resurrection” debut scored a 3.8 rating. Also, last month, the Oscars on ABC hit a 10-year viewership high, with 43 million.

All told, the network has 20 regular shows that have averaged below the 2.6 mean rating for shows across ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC. Only nine of its shows are at or above a 2.6.

Below are the season-to-date primetime ratings and rankings of the top networks. Total viewers are beneath the ratings chart.

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  • James Cieloha

    I feel the executives at ABC should think about abolishing the pay wall set up to force online users to pay to view ABC shows online hours after being first run on ABC TV or wait till 8 days to view the shows online for free as the only last resort way to help ABC to do better in the ratings than making it go worse.

    • shutupandknit

      Networks are trying to preserve eroding advertising revenue from loss of eyeballs on live programming. Having content next day for free on all networks is coming to an end. Hope you enjoyed the free ride. It's about making money, not giving you free tv.

  • Obvi

    How low does the tv business have to fall before networks admit the obvious. The 18-49 obsession is killing your business and killing television. It's astounding that these people would rather go out of business and lose their jobs than simply change that erroneous paradigm. By valuing only 18-49, they tailor the shows to what they perceive that demographic wants – and that perception always translates to dumbed down, low quality shows.

    Just make quality shows with quality people irrespective of age, and viewers of all ages will watch them. Stop trying to be “hip,” stop trying social media gimmicks, etc. Let things happen organically, if they will. Also, restore scheduling consistency and dial back a little on the flood of commercials.