2010-11 Report: ‘Two and a Half Men’ Still Strong; Network Ratings Still Sliding

Horizon Media summary of the just completed campaign shows mid-season strength but continued audience erosion

All five major networks lost viewers, Super Bowl ratings set another record, "Two and a Half Men" remained the most-watched comedy on television, and the two biggest new shows debuted in mid-season.

That's the 2010-11 season at a glance, according to a report released Tuesday by top media-buying firm Horizon Media. The company summarized the past season in a report looking at the 2011-12 slate of new programming.

A few of the trends it noted for 2010-11:

Lower ratings for the five major networks

ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and The CW were all down in total viewers and in the 18-49 demographic. (See Horizon's chart, left.)

Fox, powered by a resurgent "American Idol," was the highest-rated network in the 18-49 demographic for the seventh consecutive year, while CBS had the most total viewers for the eight time in the last nine seasons. (The exception was in the 2007-08 writer's strike.)

Super Bowl up, World Series down

Thanks in part to an iconic matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers, Fox's presentation of Super Bowl XLV in February averaged 111 million viewers to surpass Super Bowl XLIV as the most-watched program in U.S. television history.

Fox's World Series coverage in November, meanwhile, in which the San Francisco Giants beat the Texas Rangers in five games, averaged just 14.3 million viewers, making it the second-least watched World Series ever.

The NBA Finals on ABC last month, in which the Dallas Mavericks beat the Miami Heat four games to two, averaged 17.3 million viewers. It was down four percent in the ratings from lower than the 2010 Finals between the fierce rivals the Los Angeles
Lakers and Boston Celtics.

The NCAA men's basketball championship on CBS, in which Connecticut beat Butler, averaged 20.1 million viewers, a drop-off of 16 from 2010, when Butler lost to the previous year when Butler lost to Duke.

"Two and a Half Men" Still on Top

Despite conflicts with star Charlie Sheen that cut the season's episode order to 16 episodes from 22, the CBS's "Two and a Half Men" remained TV's most-watched sitcom, averaging 11.6 million viewers — though it was down two million viewers from the previous, less-tumultuous season.

After a move to Thursdays, another Chuck Lorre-produced sitcom, "The Big Bang Theory" was the second-most-watched comedy. It also averaged 11.6 million viewers, a loss of 1.4 million from the season before.

"Men" also became the top-rated show in syndication, replacing "Wheel of Fortune." In the 2010-11 season, it averaged 12 million viewers, more than it averaged on prime time and 19 percent more than it averaged the season before.

The show's enduring success underlines why CBS would bring it back — with Ashton Kutcher replacing the fired Sheen — in September.

Mid-Season Successes

The season's most-successful first-year programs debuted in mid-season. Airing in March, the ABC drama "Body of Proof" averaged 11.2 million viewers, a 2.3 rating among adults 18-49 and a median age of 57.3.

NBC's "The Voice," meanwhile, averaged over 11 million viewers, an 18-49 rating of 4.9 and median age of 40.2.

Big Shifts in Audience

Several dramas suffered significant drops in audience:

Fox's "House" slipped 22 percent in viewers, while the network's "Fringe" moved to Fridays and lost 29 percent of its audience.

ABC's "Desperate Housewives," "Private Practice" and "Grey’s Anatomy" each slipped 19 percent. NBC’s "Parenthood" lost 21 percent of its audience. The CW's "One Tree Hill" fell 30 percent, and its "Gossip Girl" 27 percent. CBS' "Undercover Boss" lost nearly one-third of its audience in its second season.

In comedies, NBC’s "30 Rock" lost 23 percent and "Community" lost 21 percent.

Two ABC comedies made big gains: "The Middle" increased its audience 18 percent, while "Modern Family" was up 17 percent.

$#*! Out of Luck

The highest-rated new show that was not renewed was CBS's sitcom "$#*! My Dad Says," which averaged 9.8 million viewers but lost 15 of the audience from lead-in "The Big Bang Theory."