Broadcast television continues to take a beating that not even its premiere week can save it from. Traditional Broadcast networks experienced a decent drop in numbers this past week. CBS had an average of 9.5 million viewers between Sept. 25 – Oct. 1 according to Nielsen, but that figure was down 15% from last year’s season opener. Its the same story with most broadcasters, a sign of long-term changes in television viewing habits, analysts said. NBC averaged 7.8 million viewers, down 11 % from a year ago; and ABC, ranked third with 5.8 million viewers, down 1%. Fox, despite serious efforts of promoting its content on Twitter, saw a 14% drop with 3.1 million viewers.
The numbers above are a clear sign that tides are changing and networks have two options: drown or get on the OTT boat. And many have already started paddling their way into the over-the-top world. For example, CBS recently launched its All Access streaming service, which saw its subscriber revenue nearly double after the company made it the exclusive home of its the new Stark Trek series “Discovery.” Unfortunately, companies like NBCU, owner of the recently failed comedy-driven OTT services Seeso, haven’t been so lucky. After its failed attempt at niche OTT, NBC has placed more of a focus on moving its shows like “30 Rock,” “Will & Grace,” and “Last of Us” to Hulu.
Even when it came down to sports, a broadcast friendly event, the networks didn’t hold up to previous years. The weekly averages for CBS and NBC were hurt by year-to-year comparisons for both prime-time NFL football games, which were down from 2016.
Still, despite a drop in ratings, the five major English-speaking broadcast networks sold $9.1 billion in advertising for the 2017-18 season, a 4.1% increase over the previous year according to the research firm Media Dynamics.
NBC was the leader in the 18 to 49 age group with 2.7 million viewers (a 16% decline from last season), followed by CBS (2.4 million, down 24%), ABC (1.7 million, even with last year), Fox (1.3 million, down 18%) and CW (292,000, down 10%).