With the nation transfixed by one of the most captivating presidential elections ever, the broadcast networks have struggled to draw eyeballs for their entertainment and NFL programming this fall. It’s been a pretty rough couple of months for them, with a few bright spots among new series, most notably NBC’s This Is Us; a couple of returning series, including CBS’ Hawaii Five-O; and a World Series for the ages.

Image (1) networklogos-300x175.jpg for post 595147

With a huge boost from the blockbuster seven-game World Series, Fox is the only broadcast network in positive territory year-over-year in the “most current” Nielsen ratings, which include delayed viewing. Here are the season-to-date averages and year-over-year changes for the five networks in adults 18-49 and total viewers.

Adults 18-49                                                      Total Viewers
Net….Fall ’15…Fall ’16…%Diff               Net….Fall ’15…Fall ’16…%Diff
NBC…2.8……..2.6………-7%                            CBS…11.8 million…10.7 million…-10%
Fox…..2.2……..2.4…..…+9%                           NBC…9.7 million….9.2 million..…-5%
CBS….2.5………2.1……..-16%                          Fox….6.5 million…..7.6 million…..+17%
ABC….2.2………1.9…..…-14%                          ABC…8.1 million..…7.3 million..…-10%
CW……0.8…..…0.7……..-12%                         CW.…1.9 million……1.8 million..…-6%

But when sports and news (election) coverage are taken out, all networks are down, driven by virtually across-the-board declines for returning series.

Adults 18-49
Net…Fall ’15…Fall ’16…%Diff
NBC…2.1………2.0…..…-5%
ABC…2.3……….1.9…….-17%
CBS…2.0……….1.8……..-10%
Fox….2.0…….…1.7………-15%
CW….0.8…….…0.7…..…-12%

Here is how the broadcast networks have fared this fall with new and returning series.

New Series

There has been one true breakout new series this fall, NBC’s This Is Us (4.3 in 18-49), which checked all boxes: significant (and organic) pre-launch awareness from its trailer going viral on Facebook, good reviews, a strong ratings launch followed by an impressively consistent run — This Is Us just hit a new Live+Same Day series high in total viewers last night — backed by substantial delayed-viewing bumps. Its average Live+7 lift now stands at a 1.97 rating, the biggest on broadcast TV, just ahead of The Big Bang Theory‘s 1.96 and Designated Survivor‘s 1.95. The time-jumping family drama is not only the highest-rated new series by a mile in the demo, but it also is the third-highest-rated broadcast entertainment series behind Big Bang Theory and Empire, and it is gaining on the latter. For the most recent week with L+7 data, the November 15 telecast of This Is Us (4.65 in 18-49 L7) edged Empire (4.64) to rank as the week’s No. 1 broadcast drama.

This Is Us (NBC)
NBC

This Is Us is followed on the list of top new series by ABC drama Designated Survivor starring Kiefer Sutherland (3.0). After a solid opening, the new series has followed the ratings pattern of Quantico last fall — so-so Live+SD numbers and big DVR lifts that have set all-time ratings highs. Other new series that have done reasonably well this fall, earning full-season orders, include CBS dramas Bull, which is keeping up with its lead-in NCIS and drawing some 17 million viewers a week, the most for a new series this fall, and MacGyver, which has boosted the network’s Friday lineup. Both series are owned by CBS and sell well internationally, making them good business for the network.

Comedy-wise, ABC’s American Housewife (2.3) has exceeded expectations, regularly building on its The Middle lead-in to rank as ABC’s highest-rated series on Tuesday. The network’s other new half-hour, Speechless (2.3), also had been solid as part of ABC’s established Wednesday comedy block, while sophomore The Real O’Neals (1.3) has been shaky, only earning a three-episode back order vs. nine episodes for the freshman comedies.

kiefer-sutherland-designated-survivor
ABC

On the drama side, Designated Survivor has been ABC’s sole bright spot, with new Monday legal drama Conviction (1.2) not getting a back order, and Notorious (1.4) getting its order trimmed after failing to capitalize on its sizable Grey’s Anatomy lead-in on Thursday.

CBS’ Kevin Can Wait (2.6 in 18-49) remains the highest-rated and most watched (10.21 million viewers) new comedy series of the season thanks to an early boost from airing behind The Big Bang Theory. The sitcom starring Kevin James still does a decent job anchoring Monday night for CBS and serving as a lead-in for fellow newbie Man with a Plan (1.6). The new family sitcom starring Matt LeBlanc as well as new CBS Thursday ensemble comedy The Great Indoors (1.9) have underperformed. The latter is not taking advantage of its Big Bang lead-in, and its ratings are running on par with the 9-10 PM Thursday comedies Mom (1.7) and Life in Pieces (1.8).

New CBS medical drama Pure Genius (1.2) has been consistent but soft, missing out on a back order, while sophomore medical drama Code Black (1.5), which has done a tad better, received an order for three more episodes.

NBC’s new Monday 10 PM drama Timeless (2.3) has done OK but not great for a post-Voice Monday NBC series, which, combined with elaborate production for the time-travel drama that requires new sets and costumes every week, led to a three-episode back order. After a string of flame-outs on Thursday, NBC brass seem happy with new comedy additions Superstore (1.8), picked up for a 22-episode sophomore season, and the binge-able The Good Place (2.0), designed for 13-episode runs.

LETHAL WEAPON
Richard Foreman/FOX

Fox has had a middling fall outside of the spectacular seven-game World Series. Its best new performer has been Lethal Weapon (2.5), which has benefited from being lead-in to Empire and received a five-episode back order. (The reboot just matched its biggest L+7 lift, 51%). The other new Fox series, Pitch (1.3) and The Exorcist (1.1), both have struggled and neither has gotten additional episodes, with their long-term fate in limbo.

The CW got a boost with the addition of new (to the network) DC drama Supergirl, but it struck out with the new fall series it had developed as neither No Tomorrow nor Frequency connected with audiences, leading to the CW’s decision for the first time in its 11-year history not to give at least one new fall series a back order.

Returning Series

All returning broadcast series are in the red year-to-year with a couple of exceptions, most notably CBS’ Friday dramas Hawaii Five-O and Blue Bloods, which have been invigorated by the addition of new action procedural MacGyver as 8 PM anchor. Hawaii Five-0 (1.8 in 18-49) at 9 PM is up 13% year-to-year, while Blue Bloods (1.8) is even.

ncis-los-angeles-2016
CBS

Also up vs. last season is CBS’ drama NCIS: LA (1.9, 12%), which moved from Monday to Sunday, where it is getting NFL football boosts and has topped AMC juggernaut The Walking Dead in Live+SD total viewers for two of the past three weeks. CBS’ Thursday comedy Mom (1.7) and the CW’s Jane the Virgin (0.6) and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (0.3), which relocated from Monday to Friday, all have been steady year over year. (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend solidified its renewal chances with a Gotham Award this week.)

While NCIS: LA has thrived (we will see how it will after the end of the football season), several series were hurt by being moved to new time slots. NBC’s Blindspot, which was relocated from the protected post-Voice Monday 10 PM to Wednesday 8 PM, has posted the biggest year-to-year decline, 53%, to 1.8 in 18-49. Fox’s Rosewood (1.0) has dropped 52% in its transition from Wednesday to Thursday; The Vampire Diaries (0.6) on Friday is off by 40% from last fall when it aired on Thursday; and Scorpion (1.9) has declined by 30% in its shift from 9 to 10 PM.

Other returning series with drops over 30% include Quantico (down 47% to 1.6), How to Get Away With Murder (32% to 2.3), Once Upon a Time (32% to 1.7) and Dr. Ken (1.1, 31%) and Fox’s flagship Empire (33% to 4.6) and Scream Queens (40% to 1.2).

Holding up well again is veteran ABC medical drama Grey’s Anatomy (3.4), off only by 6%, and Dick Wolf’s NBC’s procedurals, veteran Law & Order: SVU (2.3, -8%), Chicago Fire (2.4, -8%) and Chicago Med (2.1, -5%) as well as another long-running producedural, NCIS (2.6, -10%). Ditto for Fox animated stalwarts The Simpsons and Family Guy, which also are roughly even with last fall, with the former recently hitting the 600-episode milestone and the latter getting a major boost from digital play on Hulu and FoxNow.