MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- Monday's NBC "infront" presentation was an unofficial kick-off to the next TV season, after a year NBC -- and most of its ratings rivals -- would like to forget. Nielsen seems to be obliging -- at least for a few days, anyway -- as data delays due to technological difficulties backed up the release of ratings this week, with Sunday's scores (at least fast-affiliate ratings) not released until Wednesday, rather than the usual Monday. (Updates on final live-plus-same-day Sunday-Wednesday ratings will be issued Thursday morning.)
Sunday's ratings show why most networks would just as soon have Nielsen take its time. Most shows were down in the demo advertisers concentrate on, adults 18-49. ABC, for instance, which won with an overall 3.1/9 rating and share, had new episodes but the same old problem of waning May ratings for "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" (2.6/8, off 26% from its season to date original episode average), "Desperate Housewives" (down 20% to a 4.4/11) and "Brothers and Sisters" (falling 14% to a 3.0/8). Still, "Housewives" and "Brothers and Sisters" won their time periods, as did "America's Funniest Home Videos," which was actually up a tenth of a rating point to a 2.3/8.
As was CBS's "Amazing Race" (3.2/9), which won the only hour ABC didn't. And in general, most CBS series held closer to their averages, as the network's more august audience generally has more stable viewership. At 9 p.m. "Cold Case" was up two tenths to a 2.9/8 and lead-out "The Unit" (2.3/6) held just about at its season average. But lacking a big "get" or a big game lead-in, "60 Minutes" slumped 31% to a 2.0/7. Overall, however, CBS was second with a 2.6/8.
Fox's animation lifeless
Fox, too, lacking its NFL Sunday surge that marks the first half of the TV season, was lower rated and finished third with an overall 2.3/7. The most dramatic decline was for comedy "Sit Down, Shut Up" (.8/3), which was down two-thirds from its premiere three weeks ago in the cushier post-"Simpsons" timeslot. Lead-out "American Dad" was a repeat and yet still out-delivered "Sit Down" with a 1.1/4. (An original at 9:30 nearly hit its average with a 2.8/7.) But in between, each animated sitcom was lifeless in the ratings, with "The Simpsons" (3.2/10) "only" off 9% before "King of the Hill" (2.4/7) and "Family Guy" (3.5/9) tumbled 20% and 15%, respectively.
NBC, finishing fourth with a 2.1/6, had a bit more ratings stability and announced it will have Sunday scheduling stability as well, as fall's "Sunday Night Football" will become winter and spring's "Celebrity Apprentice." And it's no wonder, considering it was 150% higher than its "Dateline" (1.2/4) lead-in and kept 94% of its regular viewers with this week's 3.0/8.
As for the CW, just like its bigger broadcast brethren, it too would like to forget about this season. Or at least Sunday. Which it will, according to news reports today, opting instead to work on its weekday grid. And with Sunday's "Jericho" and theatrical "Be Cool" both rating an uncool .3/1, who could blame the network?
WHAT TO WATCH:
Wednesday: "Scrubs," the ambitious -- but uneven -- sitcom has its season (or will it be series?) finale on ABC.
Thursday: One night later, ABC has a show sure to come back next year -- and beyond -- as the 100th episode of "Grey's Anatomy" runs.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Sure, today's big news is about the CW's Sunday schedule, which obscures tonight's big story about the ratings success for "America's Next Top Model," which is down to its final four contestants.
NOTE: All ratings based on adults 18-49. A share is a percentage of adults 18-49 who have their TV sets on at a given time. A rating is a percentage of all adults 18-49, whether or not their sets are turned on. For example, a 1.0 rating is 1% of the total U.S. adults 18-49 population with TVs. Ratings quoted in this column are based on live-plus-same-day unless otherwise noted. (Many ad deals have been negotiated on the basis of commercial-minute, live-plus-three-days viewing.)
John Rash is senior VP-director of media analysis for Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis. For more, see rashreport.com.