Turner Ent. reports shaky season so far

The Big Four have lost 2.2 mil in 18-49 this season

NEW YORK -- Bad news for broadcast TV came in again Wednesday with a Turner Entertainment analysis that showed further gains by cable and an executive that proclaimed broadcast TV had gotten off "to its worst start ever."

The data points to a shaky season for broadcast TV so far, atop 2007-08 that was decimated by the writers strike. This year, only CBS has shown any kind of life in the ratings, with the only genuine scripted hit and only modest declines in adults 18-49, viewers and adults 25-54. The other three networks are down sharply.

According to Jack Wakshlag, chief research officer at big cable player Turner, it's the worst year that the Big Four have had in households since 1995-96 and the worst-ever in terms of declines in adults 18-49, the key advertiser-friendly demographic. Turner's Nielsen data shows that the Big Four have lost 2.2 million viewers in the demo this season, and 2.6 million households. Wakshlag said that was comparable to the entire Philadelphia region, the nation's No. 4 TV market.

At the same time, he said, only two of the 16 new shows on broadcast TV have been up in adults 18-49 compared to six of 25 new programs last year. And only 8 of 66 returning series on broadcast are up compared to last season, just 12%.

"Broadcast is off to its worst start ever," Wakshlag said Wednesday afternoon. He said that the networks had hoped that with the writers strike settled, things would return to normal and that shows that didn't get a good run last year could perform better this season given a chance. "The bottom line is that strategy has not succeeded for them," Wakshlag said.

At the same time, TV viewing overall is up to its highest level ever and ad-supported cable has garnered a record amount of viewership this year. It now has 59% of household primetime viewing, up 3%, compared to the Big Four's 33%, down 6% year-over-year. The declines are even steeper among adults 18-49.