TV Ratings Nail-Biter: CBS Gaining Ground on NBC as Season Enters Home Stretch
No new hits and 'The Blacklist's' ineffectual move to Thursday erases a Super Bowl-fueled lead heading into the calendar's final weeks.
This story first appeared in the May 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
On a May 4 earnings call, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts touted "the turnaround" at former ratings doormat NBC, saying "we have sustained the momentum." But the lack of any new hits has taken the gloss off of NBC's No. 1 status for the 2014-15 season. And one year after wrapping the traditional broadcast calendar as the uncontested champ among adults 18-to-49 for the first time in a decade, there's a chance NBC could tie CBS for that honor by season's end — even with Sunday Night Football, The Voice and a Super Bowl.
Hope for a breakout among NBC's freshman crop lingered well into midseason. But the pricey event series A.D.: The Bible Continues landed softly, joining such substantial drama flops as The Slap, Allegiance and American Odyssey and DOA fall comedies A to Z and Bad Judge. "Considering where they were five years ago, they have to be pretty pleased with themselves … but sports is a big part of their success," notes analyst Brad Adgate of Horizon Media. "They didn't really have that great of a year in their entertainment programming."
NBC likely will win the season. But CBS is narrowing the gap in the final weeks before the May 20 finish, averaging a 2.4 rating in the key demo just behind NBC's 2.5 and making a tie a real possibility. (Ignoring Super Bowl Sunday, NBC ranks second — just ahead of a resurgent ABC.)
Worse for NBC, all of its rivals have launched at least one new hit in the past nine months. ABC has How to Get Away With Murder, CBS has Scorpion and fourth-ranked Fox has the megahit of the season in Empire. And NBC's lack of fresh blood is worsened by the fact that darling The Blacklist is hitting series lows in its new Thursday roost. "Every other network had at least one slam-dunk first-year hit to build around," sums up Adgate. "You can't do that a few years in a row without it catching up with you."