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By the Numbers: A Midseason Look at This Summer's Unusual Network TV Ratings

NBC dominates, while CBS and ABC scrape by without their reality tent-poles.
  • With The Bachelorette missing from ABC's schedule, to date NBC's America's Got Talent is this summer's ratings leader by far. (Photo: NBC)
    With The Bachelorette missing from ABC's schedule, to date NBC's America's Got Talent is this summer's ratings leader by far. (Photo: NBC)

    As the former editor of TV By the Numbers, Alex Welch knows a thing or two about TV ratings. In his latest column for Primetimer, he looks at how the COVID-19 production shutdowwns have impacted viewership this summer so far at the big three broadcast networks.

    Traditionally the summer TV season is a quiet time for the broadcast networks. With a few exceptions, most shows experience low-to-middling ratings during the warmer months, as viewers spend more time away from their TVs. As a result, most of the broadcast networks have come to rely on a small number of unscripted heavy-hitters like The Bachelorette, Big Brother, The Amazing Race, and America’s Got Talent to help them coast through the summer until the new TV season begins in September.

    However, due to production shutdowns, this year several of TV's banner reality shows have had to either delay their seasons or scrap them entirely. That means networks like ABC and CBS have been forced to operate with a lighter programming lineup than usual while leaning on lesser titles to carry them week-to-week.

    With all that in mind, let’s see how each of the broadcast networks are doing ratings-wise so far:

    NBC

    Ne-Yo, Jennifer Lopez, and Derek Hough in World of Dance. (Photo: NBC)

    Thanks to the absence of ABC’s The Bachelorette, NBC is leading the summer with little-to-no immediate competition from the other networks. It has the summer’s two highest-rated programs in America’s Got Talent and World of Dance, with the former currently averaging a 1.3 rating in the adults 18-49 demo and the latter sitting at a 0.8 average. Those numbers put AGT down a bit from its 1.5 demo average last year, while World of Dance is steady with what its previous season averaged in the spring of 2019. America’s Got Talent is also the most-watched show of the summer, with an 8.94 million viewer average. That puts it around 3 million viewers up on any of the summer’s other shows, including ABC’s Celebrity Family Feud, which is its closest competition in the measure.

    On the lower end of NBC’s summer ratings, Blindspot, which is currently airing its final season, and the Jane Lynch-hosted Hollywood Game Night are tied as NBC’s lowest-rated shows, with matching 0.3 averages in the 18-49 demo.

    ABC

    Holey Moley II: The Sequel (Photo: ABC)

    As it has in recent years, ABC’s game show-heavy summer programming strategy has worked out well. Celebrity Family Feud not only remains the network’s highest-rated summer game show, but it also has the highest averages in the adults 18-49 demo (0.8) and in total viewers (5.29 million) of any of ABC’s shows. As of right now, it's the summer’s third-highest-rated and second-most-watched show across all of the networks as well, and it has been performing generally on par with its numbers from last year. Elsewhere, Holey Moley ranks as the network’s no. 2 series in both adults 18-49 (0.7) and in total viewers (4.02 million).

    Only three episodes into its freshman season, the Adam Scott-hosted Don’t is currently sitting at third place (0.7, 3.65 million) in the network’s rankings. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which is in the midst of airing its final season, is ABC’s lowest-rated (0.3) and least-watched (1.50 million) show of the summer.

    Overall, ABC isn’t doing quite as well as NBC, but it is holding its own, especially without the added help usually provided by The Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise, both of which are absent from the network’s lineup this summer.

    FOX

    Ultimate Tag (Photo: FOX)

    FOX is airing only three original series this sumer, and none of them are quite as notable as the BH90210 revival that the network aired a year ago. The freshman reality-competition series Ultimate Tag is the network’s no. 1 show, with a 0.7 average rating among adults 18-49 and a 2.19 million viewer average across its first six episodes. Those are pretty good numbers for the series, which currently places seventh in the summer’s overall 18-49 rankings.

    FOX’s other two summer series, Celebrity Watch Party and Labor of Love, haven’t done nearly as well, with the former averaging a low 0.4 rating and the latter posting an even more disappointing 0.2.

    CBS

    Game On! (Photo: CBS)

    Of the broadcast networks, the production shutdowns have hit CBS hardest, with Big Brother, The Amazing Race, Love Island, and Blood & Treasure all absent from the network’s summer programming lineup as of this writing. In fact, only one series has been airing new episodes these past few weeks -- the Keegan Michael Key-hosted freshman game show, Game On! -- and in case things weren’t already bad enough for CBS, that series hasn’t been doing particularly well, either.

    Across its first five episodes, Game On! has averaged an OK 0.6 rating in adults 18-49, placing it eleventh in the summer’s 18-49 demo rankings. The series has performed a little better in total viewers, with its 3.52 million viewer average making it the summer’s eighth-most-watched series.

    The network is gearing up to premiere a brand new reality-competition series this week with the Phil Keoghan-hosted Tough as Nails, which has the potential to make a bigger ratings impact than Game On! There are also presistent rumors that CBS is planning an all-star season of Big Brother for later this summer, which has the potential to turn things around for the network.

    The CW

    Brec Bassinger in Stargirl. (Photo: The CW)

    The CW’s summer numbers are predictably low across the board, despite the network airing more original series than either CBS or FOX. Its rookie superhero series, Stargirl, has averaged a 0.2 rating among adults 18-49 and 1.05 million viewers across its first six episodes. The returning Penn & Teller: Fool Us has been performing on par with Stargirl, with a 0.2 average adults 18-49 rating of its own and a 1.07 million viewer average. The 100, which is currently airing its final season, sits third in the network’s 18-49 rankings with a 0.2 average rating as well. Meanwhile, Masters of Illusion has averaged a 0.1 rating and 730,000 viewers so far this season, which puts it just a bit below its averages from last year (0.2, 775,000).

    The network’s two foreign imports, Bulletproof and Burden of Truth, round out its summer rankings with matching 0.1 averages in the adults 18-49 demo.

    Here are the summer's top 20 shows, ranked by their 18-49 averages:

    Rank

    Show

    Adults 18-49

    Viewers (millions)

    1

    America's Got Talent (NBC)

    1.31

    8.85

    2

    World of Dance (CBS)

    0.84

    4.31

    3

    Celebrity Family Feud (ABC)

    0.81

    5.29

    4

    The Titan Games (NBC)

    0.75

    3.85

    5

    Holey Moley (ABC)

    0.74

    4.02

    6

    Don't (ABC)

    0.73

    3.65

    7

    Ultimate Tag (FOX)

    0.65

    2.19

    8

    Press Your Luck (ABC)

    0.63

    3.72

    9

    To Tell the Truth (ABC)

    0.63

    3.54

    10

    Songland (NBC)

    0.62

    3.27

    11

    Game On! (CBS)

    0.56

    3.52

    12

    Match Game (ABC)

    0.53

    3.25

    13

    The Bachelor: Greatest Seasons - Ever! (ABC)

    0.44

    2.18

    14

    Council of Dads (NBC)

    0.40

    2.83

    15

    Celebrity Watch Party (FOX)

    0.38

    1.55

    16

    The Genetic Detective (ABC)

    0.35

    2.76

    17

    Hollywood Game Night (NBC)

    0.30

    1.85

    18

    Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC)

    0.30

    1.50

    19

    Blindspot (NBC)

    0.29

    1.90

    20

    Labor of Love (FOX)

    0.24

    0.96

     

    Alex Welch has written about television and film for TV by the Numbers, IGN, The Berrics, Paste Magazine, Screen Rant and GeekNation. Follow him on Twitter @alexrwelch.

    TOPICS: Ratings, ABC, CBS, The CW, FOX, NBC, America's Got Talent, Celebrity Family Feud, Don't, Game On!, Holey Moley, The Titan Games, Ultimate Tag, World of Dance