TV Long View: Massive Mondays and More Early Season Ratings Trends

The Hollywood Reporter inaugurates a regular look at delayed-viewing ratings and what they mean.
Courtesy of NBC; Courtesy of ABC; Courtesy of CBS
Melissa Roxburgh of 'Manifest' (left), Freddie Highmore of 'The Good Doctor,' Michael Weatherly of 'Bull'

More than a month into the 2018-19 TV season, it's readily apparent that NBC's Manifest has broken out; Last Man Standing has helped revive Fox; and shows like The Big Bang Theory and This Is Us are still at or near the top of the charts — even if they're down some year to year.

Examining the first four weeks of delayed-viewing returns, however, reveals some other interesting patterns at play. The delayed-viewing audience is changing a bit; one particular hour of primetime serves up huge returns after the first run; and a couple of shows are developing into under-the-radar powerhouses.

In the first installment of a regular feature called TV Long View, The Hollywood Reporter takes a look at some of the ratings trends for the early part of the season.

Younger Viewers Are Using DVRs (Slightly) Less

In 2017-18, at least 18 shows increased their adults 18-49 rating by at least a point over seven days. Through four weeks of the 2018-19 season, only 11 broadcast series are doing so (along with The Walking Dead, American Horror Story: Apocalypse and Mayans MC on cable).

That suggests that viewers in the key ad demo are using DVRs and on demand ever so slightly less than they did last season. The top 50 shows (as measured by seven-day increase) grow by an average of 0.87, down a slight 4 percent versus 0.91 for the top 50 in 2017-18.

Total-viewer lift has seen a smaller erosion, slipping just 2 percent among the top 50 shows versus last season (3.15 million vs. 3.21 million).

Some of those viewers may be streaming shows rather than using a cable box to catch up; networks don't regularly release streaming figures for their series.

The average bump in the so-called C3 and C7 commercial ratings hasn't really budged year to year, which is good news — or at least not bad news — for the networks.

Monday at 10 May Be the Most DVR'd Hour Ever

Manifest is by just about every measure the season's breakout new series, but it's not the only big performer in its time slot. In fact, Monday at 10 is the biggest hour for delayed viewing on all of TV.

Along with Manifest, ABC's The Good Doctor and Bull on CBS — both of which have histories of strong delayed returns —all rank in the top five in viewers added over seven days. The three shows add a combined 18.68 million viewers — 4 million-plus more than any other hour of the week.

Only 10 p.m. Wednesday has a bigger combined growth among adults 18-49 than 10 p.m. Monday (4.46 points versus 4.2) — and only if American Horror Story is included. No other hour comes close when considering broadcast only. Manifest, The Good Doctor and Bull all double their initial ratings in the demo.

Drama > Comedy

It's been the case for a number of years that dramas generally outperform comedies in delayed viewing. The difference so far this season, however, is pretty stark. Only The Big Bang Theory ranks among the top 10 gainers in either adults 18-49 or total viewers. Sixteen of the 20 shows with the largest seven-day growth in the 18-49 demo are dramas; Big Bang is the only comedy in the top 20 in viewers added.

The top five broadcast dramas as measured by seven-day growth in adults 18-49 (This Is Us, Manifest, The Good Doctor, Grey's Anatomy and New Amsterdam) rise by an average of 1.6 points over a week; that average is higher than the 1.54-point bump for the top comedy, The Big Bang Theory. It and the other biggest delayed-view comedies (Modern Family, Young Sheldon, Will & Grace and Last Man Standing) average a 1.04-point lift over a week.

'Last Man Standing' and 'Mayans MC' Are Stealth MVPs

Last Man Standing's 2017 cancellation at ABC continues to be the best thing that ever happened to its ratings. Had the show continued in its original home, it is exceedingly unlikely it would have grown its seven-day audience at all, much less by 29 percent in adults 18-49 versus 2016-17 (2.2 versus 1.7) and by 17.5 percent in viewers (9.78 million versus 8.33 million).

It is consistently the No. 1 show in the demo Fridays and has led the network to four straight wins on the night, the first time that's happened since 2011. It's also been a great launchpad for The Cool Kids, which has performed solidly and earned a full-season pickup.

As for Mayans, the Sons of Anarchy spinoff scores the biggest percentage gains of any show in the top 50. It grows by 175 percent in adults 18-49 (0.55 to 1.51) over seven days and 161 percent in total viewers (1.4 million to 3.64 million). It has remained fairly consistent week to week as well, auguring well for its future on FX.