Why Winter Break Is Tough on TV Ratings But Great for Binging

Christmastime is one big lump of coal in terms of viewership

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tony maglio ratings report banner Networks aren’t finding many TV viewers in their stockings this week. Or below their Christmas trees, or on any couches across America, for that matter. That’s because this week, the one with the Yuletide smack dab in the middle of it, typically sees the lowest television usage of the entire traditional September-to-May Nielsen season. Merry Christmas, TV execs. Christmas week last year, which spanned Dec. 24, 2018 to Dec. 30, 2018, had a total usage of televisions (TUT)  level of 59.70. That means during an average primetime minute, 59.70% of homes were watching TV programming on either linear or digital platforms. That’s low. (By the way, in case you’re wondering, NBC won Christmas week 2018 in both the key adults 18-49 demographic and among total viewers. Best network of the worst week, we suppose. Congratulations?) Low, yes, but most summer weeks tend to be even lower, with the absolute lightest week of the past few years surrounding the Fourth of July holiday. (Continuing to make lemonade out of lemons, NBC also won that one outright in Summer 2019. Cue — and thank — the fireworks.) What’s interesting is that while we regularly see drops in TV tune-in during the holidays and in the summer, viewership on digital platforms actually increases, as those stretches become ideal times for viewers to catch up on series. Been doing some binge-viewing this week, readers? “Ozark” is a good one, though maybe a bit dark for this time of year. There is more good news for networks in the form of a light at the end of this dark tunnel. The highest TV tune-in of last season came shortly after the holidays, when America churned out a 65.16 (65.16% of homes watching television programming across multiple platforms) for the week of Jan. 7, 2019 to Jan. 13, 2019. Yes, that may seem like an underwhelming change from polar-opposite week, but it makes a big difference — just ask advertisers. Sorry, NBC, that TV-heavy week was won by Fox, which aired Episode 2 of its first “Masked Singer” season back then. Perhaps you’ve heard, that show’s a big hit, one that is currently delivering Fox the kind of goodies only Santa Claus normally does this time of year. Considering “The Masked Singer” Season 2 wrapped last Wednesday and Season 3 won’t bow until after Feb. 2’s Super Bowl LIV, a repeat may not happen for Fox in the weeks following this one — when all networks air a bunch of repeats. But we can still wish a Happy (almost) New Year to all TV channels, as their regular audiences are right around the corner.