On the last day of the turbulent 2020-21 television season amidst a year of pandemic and programming chaos, we have once again learned you don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit into the wind and you don’t mess around with the NFL, NCIS or The Masked Singer.
Standing on data reminiscent of last year’s results, CBS (6.3 million viewers) again is the most-watched network on broadcast primetime and Fox (1.1/7) is the highest-rated network, as Nielsen metrics indicated would be the case nearly a month ago. While both outlets are down double digits in their respective categories from the 2019-20 TV season, it is déjà vu with NBC’s Sunday Night Football, Fox’s Thursday Night Football and CBS’ NCIS in the three most-watched show slots.
However, there was a bit of a shuffle from the 2019-20 season, with TNF moving up to second place and the long-running Mark Harmon-led procedural dipping to third. All of the trio declined overall, as has been the hard truth for most of the industry during these lockdown months.
Leader SNF stumbled 18% in total linear eyeballs and 20% among the adults 18-49s demographic, as you can see in our interactive Top 40 viewership and key demo charts below that cover the TV season that ran September 21, 2020-May 23, 2021:
Despite the shifts in viewing habits and platforms over the past few years, live sports is still the big player on the small screen, as we’ve indicated in blue in both charts. That reality must be gnawing at ABC, which was tops in the key demo for a second year in a row if you take sports out of the TV game. The Comcast-owned NBC, meanwhile, expected to be flying high from airing the XXXII Olympiad last summer out of Tokyo and instead finds itself in second place (5.3 million viewers,1.0/7 rating) in both viewers and the demo. Covid-19 cases and concerns postponed the Olympics last year and may see them canceled altogether any day now with the state of the affairs in Japan — though NBC insist the Olympics will go on as planned.
On this side of the Pacific, there were a fair numbers of ties this season in the key demo, but overall the top-rated non-sports show was The Masked Singer, just like last year. Although again, not without a downturn: movement south in the musical competition series repped a a hard -38%.
Looking in the rearview mirror at last week’s optimistic, “exited”- and “thrilled”- filled virtual upfronts, perhaps brighter days are ahead for the Big 4 as America opens up again. But, as the math shows, the standards that defined the good times of old may truly be over coming out of the global health crisis.
To that end, here’s some trivia: What was the most watched show that was deep-sixed this season?
The answer: Mom. Ending its eight-season run May 13, the Allison Janney-starring sitcom averaged an audience of 7.05 million this year. Which is not bad at all.
See you in September!