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%.
So far this season, the most popular scripted program in live viewing is a dependable one, CBS' "NCIS," and it is down only 2% from last year. CBS won last week in prime time, averaging 6.6 million viewers. NBC was second with 6.4 million, Fox had 6 million, ABC had 4 million, Univision had 1.3 million, ION Television had 1.12 million, Telemundo had 1.06 million and the CW had 1.03 million.
ESPN was the week's most popular cable network, averaging 3.03 million viewers in prime time. Fox News Channel had 2.72 million, TBS had 2.22 million, MSNBC had 2 million and TLC had 1.25 million. ABC's "World News Tonight" topped the evening newscasts with an average of 8.1 million viewers. NBC's "Nightly News" was second with 7.4 million and the "CBS Evening News" had 5.1 million viewers.
For the week of Oct. 7-13, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: NFL Football: N.Y. Giants at New England, Fox, 16.26 million; NFL Football: Pittsburgh at L.A. Chargers, NBC, 14.89 million; "60 Minutes," CBS, 12.41 million; NFL Football: Cleveland at San Francisco, ESPN, 11.56 million; "Sunday Night Pre-Kick," NBC, 11.54 million; "NCIS," CBS, 11.21 million; "Football Night in America, Part 3," NBC, 9.73 million; "Thursday Night Pre-Kick," Fox, 9.34 million; "FBI," CBS, 8.7 million; "The Voice" (Tuesday), NBC, 8.55 million.
ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co. CBS is owned by CBS Corp. CW is a joint venture of Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corp. Fox is owned by Fox Corp. NBC and Telemundo are owned by Comcast Corp. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks.