Nielsen, we have a problem. Broadcast executives are scratching their heads this morning over inexplicable across-the-board ratings declines last night on a night in the middle of February with no major sports or cable events (news networks’ coverage of Whitney Houston’s death was winding down in Day 3) and with HUT levels on par with last week. The latter is key for all the conspiracy theorists who blame last minute Valentine’s Day gift buying or other out-of-home activities, including dining or going to the movies, for the decline — there was roughly the same number of people watching TV last night as there were last Monday. Nowhere was the mystery more confounding than on CBS, which saw all of its series hit season lows — How I Met Your Mother (3.4/10 in 18-49, down 15% from last week), 2 Broke Girls (3.7/10, down 14%), Two And A Half Men (3.8/9, down 12%), Mike & Molly (3.3/8, down 3%) and Hawaii Five-0 (2.6/7, down 4%). It seems hard to believe that the CBS comedy lineup, which is the epitome of unflappability, would be down so much against weaker competition. (It faced Super Bowl-inflated The Voice last week). And it seems impossible for that to happen after CBS series got plenty of promotion the night before during the second most watched Grammy Awards ever, which were sampled by some 74 million viewers throughout the telecast.
ABC held up the best, with The Bachelor (2.5/6) down 4% and Castle (2.0/5) flat. NBC’s The Voice (5.9/15) dropped 12% from last week’s episode, which was running high following the post-Super Bowl special, for a decline within the expected margin. But Smash (2.8/7) was down a big 26% from its premiere last week, a warning sign for the new Broadway-themed dramedy. NBC (4.9/12, 13.4 million) still won the night in 18-49 and total viewers. In its first airing since last week’s announcement that Fox’s House is ending its run this season, the veteran medical drama (2.4/6) was down a tenth for a season low. Alcatraz (1.9/4) is yet to bottom out, down another 17% from last week for a new series low. The CW’s Gossip Girl (0.5/1) was down a tenth to a season low, while Hart Of Dixie (0.6/1) held steady.