This continues to be a cruel summer for broadcasting, as the most recent week saw the four major networks’ aggregate audience decline by 15%--or nearly 5 million viewers per average minute of prime time--versus the corresponding period in 2000, based on viewing estimates issued Tuesday by Nielsen Media Research.
Both ABC and CBS are down substantially compared with a year ago--when their totals were inflated by “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and “Survivor,” respectively--but even Fox and NBC are experiencing modest erosion despite the latter’s ratings success with the unscripted series “Fear Factor” and “Spy TV.” Notably, those two programs and NBC’s quiz show “Weakest Link” ranked as the three highest-rated series among adults age 18 to 49, the demographic most widely used in selling broadcast time to television advertisers.
The older-skewing “Millionaire,” meanwhile, remained the most watched program overall. Newsmagazines also keep faring well against summer reruns, including ABC News’ latest John Stossel special, “Tampering With Nature.”
HBO’s “Sex and the City” (5.1 million viewers) and “Six Feet Under” (4.6 million) dipped slightly in viewership Sunday but are still generating solid tune-in for the pay channel, though “Arli$$" (3 million) has slipped since moving to 10:30 p.m. Elsewhere, TBS’ “Rush Hour” drew the biggest cable audience since “The Sopranos” season finale.