When I wrote a recent post about the collapse in ratings for television soap operas this year — pointing out that this collapse comes despite the fact that soap operas continue to air new episodes through the writers’ strike, albeit episodes apparently written by scabs — I received feedback to the effect of, “well, of course ratings collapsed, the writing got a lot worse.”
So that compels me to go back to the very start of the prime time season in September-October 2007, when the TV networks put their very best feet forward…
Pulling from a piece of research from Lehman Brothers (not accessible online):
According to the initially reported Live Ratings provided by Nielsen Media Research, audience levels for the first week of the new season are on average roughly 10% lower Y/Y across all demographics.
In the most advertiser-coveted demographic [of] 18-49, the networks seeing the most significant declines are CBS and ABC each at -15% Y/Y, followed closely by FOX at -14% Y/Y, and NBC at -8% Y/Y. [Bear in mind that NBC was already in the basement, ratings-wise.]
CBS and ABC had the most difficult premiere week of any of the networks, as many of their franchise shows (including “CSI: Miami” on CBS and “Grey’s Anatomy” on ABC) experienced >20% slides.
So, not to repeat myself, but: TV ratings collapsed year over year; it wasn’t the fault of the strike (which of course then caused additional viewers to flee); 2008 TV ad revenues will prove to be propped up by the election and the Olympics (as is usual for such years); and 2009 is going to be a deeply, deeply interesting year for the TV industry — which this blog will follow most closely when it happens!