To quote Taylor Swift's current cross-format hit, it's been a “Cruel Summer” for linear TV.
Live broadcast television trends from May 25-Aug. 13 show prime-time viewership down 25%, according to an analysis of Nielsen data by MediaPost. That's an average 1.81 million viewers per summer prime-time episode, compared to 2.4 million a year ago.
The news isn't much better for national TV's summer ad revenue, according to EDO Ad EnGage. Over the same period, spend was down 11% for the five major English-language TV networks (CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and the CW), off by $2.27 billion vs. $2.54 billion last summer at this point.
The double-digit audience declines, from Nielsen’s live program-plus-seven days of time-shifted video-on-demand metric, suggest viewing patterns are in line with those overall for broadcast TV. Among the first-run prime-time programs with similar viewership decreases are ABC’s “Celebrity Family Feud,” down 24% to 3.9 million (vs. 5.1 million a year ago), the network's “The Bachelorette,” off 21% to 3.1 million, and its “The $100,000 Pyramid” down 17% to 3.4 million.
Several network shows, however, are seeing minimal declines and, in a couple of cases, actual growth. NBC's summer standard “America’s Got Talent” has lost only 6% of viewers, at 7.3 million vs. 7.8 million a year ago, while the network's “American Ninja Warrior” is up 15% to 3.7 million viewers, compared to 3.2 million in 2022. Additionally, the first four episodes of ABC’s “The Chase" are up 21%, to 3.4 million.