Everybody in TV knows that fortune in a fickle beast, but today is a good day to be Lachlan Murdoch.
After eight long years without topping the rankings, the Masked Singer- and Super Bowl-injected Fox is poised to take first place among adults 18-49 for the 2019-20 television season. While the leaner Fox will score the long-sought win for its Fox Corp CEO and Fox Entertainment boss Charlie Collier, CBS will be having a bit of the been there, done that moment, with the now George Cheeks-overseen network wrapping its 12th consecutive year No. 1 overall in total viewers.
With just under a week to go until this season officially ends May 20, Fox has a 1.7/8 average in the key demo. Not only is that a rise of 13% for the Murdoch-owned outlet compared with its second-place showing for the 2018-19 TV season, the network rich in NFL, WWE SmackDown and unscripted is the only one up in the demo and viewers (17%) this year.
Things may have gone back to the future at CBS via its re-melding with Viacom, but the song pretty much stayed the same in terms of sets of eyeballs. Yes, overall audience slipped 13% from last year in Live+Same Day metrics, and this was the first season since the The Big Bang Theory ended. But don’t cry too many tears for the House of (Shari) Redstone, as CBS has the February 7, 2021 Super Bowl LV coming down the line, aiming to provide a touchdown or two.
As of the most recent Nielsen figures of May 10, CBS had the most watched scripted series and the second most watched show overall (after NBC’s very healthy Sunday Night Football) with NCIS. In its 17th season, the Mark Harmon-led procedural held steady with last year in viewership and moved up a notch from the third spot with the absence of Big Bang Theory.
It may seem far off in today’s sportless COVID-19 lockdown America, but its no surprise to see the NFL dominate the season’s 18-49 ratings with the four top shows: NBC’s SNF, Fox and NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football, NBC’s Sunday pregame show and Fox’s The OT. That’s a leap of three spots for The OT from last year, pushing The Masked Singer down almost 16% for its second season. NBC’s emotional powerhouse This Is Us, meanwhile, took a 24% hit to slide to sixth place in the overall 18-49 rankings, down two places from 2018-19. Having said that, the Dan Fogelman-created drama remains the Everest of scripted series among the key demo.
Looking outside the Big 4 and the CW, Univision beat Telemundo once again and came in fifth place overall when you do the math. Actually, the #1 Spanish-language network for the 28th broadcast season in a row was up 6% in both viewership (1.5 million) and adults 18-49 (0.5) over this time last season, according to Nielsen data.
While it wouldn’t have changed much in the end, this season did see things go a little differently than planned, with a number of shows prematurely exiting due to the all-encompassing production halts due to the coronavirus pandemic. For instance, Fox’s Empire did not get the series finale it had desired. Two short of the supersized 20 episodes that had been promised, Lee Daniels and Danny Strong’s once-dominant hip hop drama instead had to make do with a slightly Frankenstein-ed ender on April 21 that drew its lowest finale ratings ever.
While Fox has yet to make a final renewal call on the likely returning The Resident, Prodigal Son and Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing, Empire was the highest-rated show to be canceled this season — though with a long runaway for its farewell, canceled may be too harsh a term. What is truly harsh is the fate of CBS’ now-axed Tommy. Coming in at No. 43 in the 200 most-watched series and shows this season, the Eddie Falco drama about the LAPD’s first female police chief was cut loose May 6, just one day before its season and now series finale aired.
Which is why they call it show business and not show friends. Just ask the Murdochs.