Skip to main content

Screen Wars Thought Leader Interviews are also available on

SpotifyApple PodcastGoogle Podcast
State of the Screens

Networks See Steep Drop In (Sub)Prime Time Ratings

By January 8, 2021No Comments


Big news: Prime-time viewership for the major broadcast networks was down between 7% and 32% during the fall season.

YoY change in average prime-time viewers during fall season according to Nielsen:

1) ABC – ↓ 7%
2) NBC – ↓ 25%
3) Fox – ↓ 28%
4) CBS – ↓ 32%



Interesting: COVID related protocols have added an estimated $300K in cost for every hour of production.

Top 10 TV networks by prime-time viewership according to Nielsen:

1) CBS – 5.6M
2) NBC – 5.0M
3) ABC – 4.5M
4) Fox – 4.2M
5) Fox News – 3.6M
6) MSNBC – 2.1M
7) CNN – 1.8M
8) ESPN – 1.5M
9) Univision – 1.5M
10) TLC – 1.4M


Flashback: Volatility Has Some TV Advertisers Seeing (And Paying) Double

Why this matters: This reflects two big shifts that are just starting.

Big shift #1: Time spent consuming video is at a record level, but consumers have access to more content than ever.  The explosion of choice has led to fragmented viewership.

A good example is the largest series finales of each decade.  The largest finale of the 2010s (Game of Thrones) was watched by 82% fewer people than the record holder (M.A.S.H.).



Big shift #2: Scripted programming is better suited for on-demand (streaming, etc.), which is why TV viewership for this type of content is dropping faster than live sports.

% of total viewership within 35 days, according to Nielsen:

1) Same day – 63%
2) Delayed within 7 days – 29%
3) Delayed between 8 and 35 days – 8%


Media viewer age for NBC dramas according to Nielsen:

1) Digital – 37.4
2) Linear – 56.3

Michael Beach

Michael Beach

Michael Beach is the Chief Executive Officer of Cross Screen Media, a media analytics and software company that enables marketers to plan, activate, and measure CTV and linear TV at the local level. Michael is also the founder and editor of State of the Screens, a weekly newsletter focused on video advertising that is a must-read for thought leaders in the advertising industry. He has appeared in such publications as PBS Frontline, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Axios, CNBC and Bloomberg, and on NPR’s Planet Money podcast.

Leave a Reply