The Big Four broadcasters are boasting about how they are reinventing the traditional TV season, programming every week of the year. So isn't it time to take the summer months into account when measuring TV ratings?
NBC thinks so. The Peacock Network will be counting ratings for the entire 52-week period, which it says it "now considers the standard season going forward."
What the industry historically views as the TV season -- the months stretching from September through May -- only tells part of the ratings story these days as broadcasters move away from airing reruns in the summer months and turn to more original, scripted programming.
These offerings perhaps are still not as robust as the slate of new shows that hit in the fall and winter months, but there's still enough new content airing in the summer to make year-round ratings an important barometer.
While thus far the numbers don't alter the picture dramatically – even when taking account the summer months, all four networks retain their same rankings as the traditional broadcast season -- there may come a time in the not-so-distant future that these shows change the broadcast story.
"As the business continues to see significant original programming launched throughout the calendar year, the 52-week statistics become more and more meaningful," Robert Greenblatt, chairman of NBC Entertainment, said in a statement.
Though there's still one more week to count, NBC continues to rank No. 1 among the all-important 18-to-49 demographic with a 2.4 rating, a title it also held during the traditional broadcast season. NBC was No. 1 in the demo for the first time in a decade.
The network notes that even when you exclude its coverage of the winter Olympics, it still ranks No. 1 in the demographic.
CBS continues its winning streak when it comes to total viewers. From September to September, the Eye Network averaged 9.3 million viewers, down from nearly 10 million in the same period last year. It's No. 2 among adults 18-to-49 with a 2.0 rating.
"Under the Dome" returned for its sophomore season, but it didn't generate the same buzz as its first year. Monday night's episode, the last before the finale, averaged 7 million viewers. Last season's finale was watched by nearly 12 million viewers.
And CBS' new summer series, "Extant," starring Halle Berry, didn't quite live up to the hype. It's most recent episode was watched by just 4.6 million viewers.
"What's interesting is that with the success of 'Under the Dome' last season, everyone was so eager to get into the summer programming game, but this year with few shows hitting, the expensively produced 'Extant' performing poorly, and 'Under The Dome' a shell of its former self in the ratings, it will be interesting to see how much more the networks will continue to invest in original scripted summer fare," said Billie Gold, VP-research and programming, Carat.
NBC holds on to its No. 2 position among total viewers, averaging 8.3 million viewers, up 25% from the 52-week period last year.
Much of NBC's summer ratings continue to be lifted by its reality competition show, "America's Got Talent." It also airs other reality fare like "Last Comic Standing" and "American Ninja Warrior."
Earlier in the summer, NBC also aired its new drama, "The Night Shift," which it renewed for season 2, as well as "Undateable," which was also picked up for a second season.
This summer ABC took a big swing with its real-time reality series, "Rising Star." But after lots of hype, the singing competition series fell short. The finale was watched by just 3.1 million people.
ABC came in third in total viewers, averaging 6.8 million viewers for the year, down 2% from last year. It ranked No. 4 among adults 18-to-49, with a 1.9 rating, the same position it held from September through May.
Fox averaged 6.2 million total viewers, a 3% increase from last year, and was third in the demo, with a 2.1 rating.
Fox's biggest investment this summer was with its reboot of "24." Agent Jack Bauer returned this summer in a 12-episode limited event series, "24: Live Another Day." It debuted in May to 8.1 million viewers, and the finale was solid, with 6.5 million people tuning in.
"Yes, the networks claim to be programming 52-weeks a year now, but all that really means is that they're not totally laying down during the summer months and may put two or three new scripted series, in additional to their usually reality fare," Ms. Gold said.