Summer TV Ratings: NBC Will Finish First, But Who Will Be Last?

Who will join the Olympics host on the Nielsen ratings medal podium: CBS, Fox or ABC?

Last Updated: June 16, 2016 @ 9:41 AM

Spoiler alert: Thanks to the Olympics in Rio, NBC will win the summer in TV ratings, and likely claim the No. 1 spot for the 52-week season that runs through mid-September. So enjoy your victory from the traditional fall run while you still can, CBS!

That early prediction takes care of the summer’s top slot, but which of the Big 4 broadcast networks will finish at the bottom as the weather warms up?

We have an actual answer for you, but it’s not quite a walk on the beach to get there. After all, NBC, CBS and Fox will each get a nice NFL football boost as preseason games kick off in early August. Sorry for reminding you, ABC.

Don’t feel too terrible for the Disney-owned broadcaster, however — that network is currently enjoying a very nice NBA Finals boost. Some conspiracy theorists, including disgraced NBA official Tim Donaghy — who was fired in a points-shaving scandal — believe the National Basketball Association actually suspended Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green just to extend the mostly one-sided series, boosting TV ratings and advertising revenue.

Speaking of gambling, if we had to bet, TheWrap would go all-in on ABC riding the Cleveland Cavaliers-Warriors championship series to an overall runner-up slot this summer, sitting behind Summer Olympics host NBC in the key 18-49 demographic. With a nice start last night for “Uncle Buck,” ABC Entertainment boss Channing Dungey may want to start ascending the silver medal podium right now.

That leaves last fall’s champ CBS and spring winner Fox competing to avoid the dreaded summer cellar. Even in the August heat, it’s awfully cold down there.

Unfortunately for Fox, it doesn’t have another Women’s World Cup in 2016, something that helped keep it even afloat last year.

The biggest unknown in the race for third place may be how a trio of CBS “Big Brother” nights will perform over the second half of the summer. If they’re hot, CBS could even challenge ABC for second place. If the heavy investment in the 16-year-old reality franchise stumbles, Les Moonves’ network could theoretically even fade behind Fox.

Hey, at least the so-called Tiffany Network will probably still hold off ABC in total viewers through mid-September, just like they did last year. So there’s that.

Last summer, CBS managed a 1.1 rating, dropping two-tenths of a ratings point from the prior year — the worst decline of the four broadcasters. ABC was the sole riser, growing to a 1.4, thanks in part to “Celebrity Family Feud.”

Even with women’s soccer, Fox faded to a 1.1. NBC stayed steady with a 1.6, but didn’t have the big Olympics coverage, which guarantee growth come August.

So far, early summer results haven’t really shown any potentially game-changing surprises that would throw a wrench in tradition. Therefore, it’s not too early for us to crown NBC Summer 2016 champ, and wish best of luck to the pack galloping quite a few furlongs behind.