Only 3 returning big network shows see rise in live viewers

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

NEW YORK (AP) — ABC’s sophomore drama “A Million Little Things,” reality show “Shark Tank” and the Fox firstresponders drama “9-1-1” have something in common that they can take pride in.

Over the first three weeks of the television season, they are the only three of 49 prime-time shows returning to ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox fall schedules that have a bigger audience on the night they originally air than they did last season, the Nielsen company said. Sports shows aren’t included.

A decade or so ago, such a statistic would prompt audible wailing from network executive suites. The nature of television has changed so much that it’s too early to tell if viewers are bored with the offerings or if those numbers reflect that more people are watching on their own time and making their own schedules.

Networks will have a better idea on how the shows are doing after a month, when delayed and digital viewing is figured in.

One quick example: Last season NBC’s “This is Us” averaged 8.3 million viewers on the night an episode first aired, Nielsen said. After 35 days of digital and delayed viewing was added, the typical episode of the show reached 19.9 million. It grew further to 21.7 million viewers after 100 days, meaning a minority of viewers actually watched it live.

Producer Dick Wolf likely isn’t panicking that his dramas “Chicago Fire” and “Chicago Med” are down 8% in live viewership this season. He isn’t alone.

The live numbers shouldn’t be ignored, though. The 45% drop in live viewership for Fox’s “Empire” isn’t likely to improve that much. Similarly, NBC might want to keep an eye on the comedy “The Good Place” and medical drama “New Amsterdam,” both of which are down 28%.