Upfronts 2019: How CBS, NBC, Fox, ABC and CW Rank by Ratings Ahead of Big TV Ad Sales Push

Expect these Nielsen numbers to be twisted every which way next week

Last Updated: May 7, 2019 @ 1:19 PM

May’s annual broadcast television upfronts period is when networks parade out their new shows and existing stars in a big-money competition for media buyers and advertising dollars.

Before the presentations, parties and weeks-long (and occasionally, months-long) negotiations for fall commercials commence, it behooves both sides of the bargaining table to know exactly where they stand, TV ratings-wise. Now you can as well.

Below are the primetime Nielsen averages through 31 weeks of the 2018-19 television season. All numbers include seven days of delayed viewing where available.

First, let’s look at the ratings among adults ages 18-49, since that is the age range most-coveted by these broadcast primetime advertisers:

18-49 Rating
1. NBC: 1.6 (down 27% from last year’s 2.2)
2. (tie) Fox: 1.5 (even with last year’s 1.5)
2. (tie) CBS: 1.5 (down 6% from last yer’s 1.6)
4. ABC: 1.3 (down 13% from last year’s 1.5)
5. CW: 0.4 (down 33% from last year’s 0.6)

CBS had the Super Bowl this season, Fox had “The Masked Singer” and 11 “Thursday Night Football” games. NBC is beating them both, but is also down heavily from last year, when it hosted the big game and the 2018 Winter Olympics, hence those hefty declines.

Readers will notice similar trends among total viewers:

Total Viewers
1. CBS: 9.0 million (even with last year’s 9.0 million)
2. NBC: 7.3 million (down 20% from last year’s 9.1 million)
3. ABC: 5.7 million (down 7% from last year’s 6.1 million)
4. Fox: 5.5 million (up 10% from last year’s 5 million)
5. CW: 1.3 million (down 24% from last year’s 1.7 million)

Here is next week’s upfront schedule for the so-called Big 4 networks, plus The CW:
NBC (Monday)
Fox (Monday)
ABC (Tuesday)
CBS (Wednesday)
The CW (Thursday)