On the heels of a May that saw a double-digit decline in broadcast ratings, the summer season is getting off to a similarly draggy start.
According to Nielsen C3 ratings for the final month of the 2014-15 season, deliveries of adults 18-49 fell 11% in broadcast prime, while cable demos were off 7%. This in turn appears to have had a chilling effect on the early summer ratings, as just about every returning network series has lost ground when compared to the year-ago period.
Through Thursday, June 18, returning tent poles are down 20% in live-same-day demo ratings. Even the current highest-rated summer show, NBC's "America's Got Talent," has slipped when compared to a year ago; through the first four episodes, the competition series is down 14% to a 2.4 in the demo.
A slate of new series isn't doing much to stop the bleeding, either. The 11 freshman shows that have premiered since mid-May are averaging a 1.1 in the demo, and the five scripted newcomers together are delivering a 0.9 rating.
Thus far, only two broadcast shows are enjoying year-over-year ratings growth. NBC's "American Ninja Warrior" is up 18% with an average 2.0 demo, while ABC's "The Bachelorette" has improved 12% to a 1.9.
The misfires aren't confined to the broadcast nets, however, as a string of high-profile cable debuts has been met with the equivalent of a collective shrug. The June 16 premiere of TNT's supernatural drama series "Proof" averaged 2.66 million viewers and a negligible 0.4 in the demo, effectively negating the network's first stab at attracting a younger audience. (Given that only 470,000 adults 18-49 tuned in for the premiere, more than 80% of the overall deliveries missed the target.)