How ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and The CW Rank in Ratings Just Before Upfronts

Upfronts 2017: Broadcast networks will pitch advertisers on 2017-18 lineups next week

The 2017 TV upfronts will kick into high gear next week, when they’ll also (mercifully) come to a close.

Television’s biggest ad-buying opportunity of the year sees both NBC and Fox presenting on Monday, with ABC, CBS and The CW to follow over subsequent days. They’re all competing for (more or less) the same ad dollars, with a nod to slight variations as far as age and affluence go.

So, which network is the best position to ask for the big bucks? TheWrap looked into how each network stands through 33 completed weeks of the traditional September-May TV season.

In terms of all programming, NBC is out front in the key 18-49 demographic, thanks in large part to NFL football. The broadcaster is down just 5 percent year over year, which is pretty good in this changing television landscape. Fox is actually in second place, though that’s mostly thanks to Super Bowl LI and an extra National Football League Playoffs game.

The CW is currently suffering the worst decline versus the prior season, having slipped 25 percent. To be fair, however, CW really doesn’t appeal to people in their late 30s and 40s, and a low starting point makes for a dramatic percentage change.

Last year’s winner CBS is in second place, though it’s down 22 percent from the season it claimed Super Bowl 50. ABC is fourth, and the Disney-owned net has a double-digit decline of its own.

Here are the current standings, which include one week’s worth of delayed viewing where available. Year over year changes are in parentheses:
1) NBC: 2.1 (-5%)
2) Fox: 1.9 (No change)
3) CBS: 1.8 (-22%)
4) ABC: 1.6 (-11%)
5) CW: 0.6 (-25%)

And 2015-16’s comparable ratings, to-date:
1) CBS: 2.3
2) NBC: 2.2
3) Fox: 1.9
4) ABC: 1.8
5) CW: 0.8

As readers can probably ascertain from how much we touched on football above, live sports can really skew ratings averages these days. The story is a bit different when focusing solely on entertainment series — though NBC still wins and CW still loses.

Here’s what we’ve got for this season sans sports and news, including five-for-five drops:
1) NBC: 1.7 (-6%)
2) (tie) CBS: 1.6 (-16%)
2) (tie) ABC: 1.6 (-16%)
4) Fox: 1.3 (-24%)
5) CW: 0.6 (-25%)

That should demonstrate just how much more stable NBC’s lineup is than other networks’. That, or it proves how much “This Is Us” truly helped. It’s nice to have the new hit.

Sometimes it’s just easier to digest these things in terms of average total viewers. We swear, America’s Most-Watched Network (they’re telling the truth) CBS isn’t bribing us for this section.

Here are those rankings, inclusive of all programming:
1) CBS: 9.7 million (-12%)
2) NBC: 8.2 million (+0.2%)
3) ABC: 6.2  million (-8%)
4) Fox: 6.0 million (+2%)
5) CW: 1.8 million (-8%)

With all that new knowledge, which network would you put your money on heading for next fall’s TV season? Let us know in the comments section.