TV Long View: The 2019-20 Season's Hidden Numbers

At the end of a strange year, digging deeper into the ratings reveals more about the season that was.
Courtesy of NBC; Netflix (2)
'This Is Us' (left), 'The Last Dance,' 'Tiger King'

The primary portion of the strange 2019-20 TV season — which saw a host of shows end before they planned to, and some never debut, due to the coronavirus pandemic — is over. The broadcast rankings have been tallied, and the downward trend in linear ratings continues, despite a spike in viewing during the spring as millions more people than normal stayed in and turned on their televisions.

All that has been covered. The ratings figures below, however, give a fuller picture of the ups and downs of the season. Like how seemingly everyone was watching and talking about Netflix's Tiger King … until they weren't. And how a documentary series about the NBA 22 years ago became the biggest thing in sports in the absence of live competition (and bigger than a lot of the competition that did air earlier in the season). And how the season's top broadcast shows may have lost viewers, but remained on top because nearly everything else did too.

Here are some of the hidden numbers of the 2019-20 season.

2: Non-sports shows on the broadcast networks with a seven-day adults 18-49 rating of 2.5 or higher — The Masked Singer (3.2) and This Is Us (2.9).

7: The number of shows that met that standard in 2018-19.

16 percent, 24 percent, 20 percent: Declines in adults 18-49 for The Masked Singer and This Is Us, and the average drop for all broadcast shows this season.

5.65 million: Average same-day viewership for The Last Dance, ESPN's 10-part docuseries about Michael Jordan and his final season with the Chicago Bulls in 1997-98. All 10 episodes surpassed the previous record for an ESPN original documentary (3.6 million for You Don't Know Bo in 2012).

4.41 million: The audience for ESPN's most-watched actual NBA game of the season (Lakers-Blazers on Jan. 31, when the Lakers honored the late Kobe Bryant). Only a pair of Christmas Day games on ABC and TNT's All-Star Game coverage in February outdrew The Last Dance.

19 million: The average U.S. viewership of Netflix's Tiger King over its first 10 days, according to Nielsen (figures Netflix says are incomplete; the streamer doesn't release viewer averages of its own).

5.34 billion: The number of minutes U.S. Netflix users spent streaming Tiger King at its peak from March 23-29. That's equivalent to 10,156 years.

4: Weeks before the show fell off Nielsen's top 10 streaming minutes chart.

30: The number of first-year broadcast scripted shows to premiere since September.

14: The number that have been renewed as of publication time.

47: Percentage of first-year network shows renewed thus far (with seven shows still to be determined), in line with the past two years (49 percent) and ahead of the 10-year average (40 percent).

1.93, 5.37 million: Adults 18-49 rating and total viewers with a week of delayed viewing for The Walking Dead this season.

27 percent, 68 percent: The show's margins over the next highest-rated scripted series on cable, FX's American Horror Story.

15: Network series (excluding NFL telecasts) that averaged at least 10 million viewers per episode, including a week of delayed viewing.

7: The number of those shows that aired on CBS: NCIS (15.34 million), FBI (12.55 million), Blue Bloods (11.96 million), Young Sheldon (11.55 million), Bull (10.61 million), 60 Minutes (10.46 million) and FBI: Most Wanted (10.2 million).

23.73 million, 3.2: The audience for the post-Super Bowl episode of The Masked Singer, and the number of times larger it was than the same-day average for all other episodes (7.39 million).

4.2 million: Average three-day audience for 90 Day Fiancé: Before the 90 Days on TLC, the most ever for a series in the multi-show franchise. So strong were the show's numbers in the spring — it also hit franchise highs in TLC's target demo of women 25-54 — that the cable channel has ordered B90 Strikes Back, a remotely shot show in which Before the 90 Days cast members watch the just completed season, comment on it and respond to social media criticism and mockery.

4: Seasons it had been since a network show had averaged more than 20 million viewers before NBC's Sunday Night Football averaged 20.09 million in the fall. Three shows (SNF, The Big Bang Theory and NCIS) accomplished the feat in 2015-16.

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