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Fall TV season continues, and this past week saw the premieres of some networks' biggest shows. The CW got most of its superheroes back, AMC swapped from one zombie apocalypse show to the original zombie apocalypse show, and primetime competition increased all around. So, now that we're heading toward a new week of new episodes, the time is right to look back at what worked, what didn't, and what we should keep an eye on in the ratings.
Note: all calculations are Live+Same day.
The Walking Dead Needs Some Life Support
Once upon a time, The Walking Dead was a ratings juggernaut that broke records on the regular and had millions upon millions of viewers on the edges of their seats every Sunday night. In recent seasons, however, the ratings and viewership for television's top zombie apocalypse TV show have been dipping. Season 10 had the potential to win back some viewers or even recruit some newcomers, due to the new threat posed by The Whisperers and the temptation of seeing how The Walking Dead says goodbye to Danai Gurira. So, how did the Season 10 premiere perform on October 6?
Not well, as it turns out. Although The Walking Dead won the night in cable TV with a 1.4 rating and 4 million viewers in the 18-49 age demographic, according to TV By The Numbers, those numbers meant the Season 10 premiere scored the lowest in both the key demo and overall viewers in Walking Dead history. This represents a drop of 23.4% in the demo and 19% in viewership from the Season 9 finale, and a significant drop from the Season 9 premiere last year, which scored a 2.49 rating and 6 million viewers.
Yes, even though Season 10 will be Danai Gurira's swan song, the premiere aired shortly after the news of a Season 11 renewal and return of Lauren Cohan as a series regular, and promised to take the show in a refreshing direction, the numbers were the lowest yet for The Walking Dead. Fans shouldn't fear that the show is going anywhere, as one AMC exec recently said that The Walking Dead has "decades" of story left. But how many people will still be watching unless The Walking Dead gets new life?
Fox's Animation Domination Actually Dominated
Fox has long touted its Sunday night lineup as "Animation Domination," which is objectively true for the broadcast network that has pretty much cornered the market on animated TV shows. Last week saw the returns of The Simpsons, Bob's Burgers, Family Guy, and the premiere of Bless the Harts. None of them won their time slot with the exception of Family Guy, which airs without any other show beginning in the 9:30 p.m. ET slot on Sunday nights. All four shows... did just fine last week. Perfectly adequate.
The three returning series dropped in key demo ratings and viewership, but they did well enough. Bless the Harts put up a respectable showing with a series premiere scoring an 0.7 rating and winning 1.81 million. The good news for Fox is that in this past week, Animation Domination really did dominate. This week, with the exception of football broadcasts, every single one of Fox's new animated episodes won their time slot, and it wasn't even close in the episodes that went head-to-head with other major network broadcasts.
The Simpsons got a boost of 188.9% in the demo and 199% in viewership, with a 2.6 rating and 6.98 million. Bless the Harts got a ratings boost of 85.71% to 1.3 and a viewership boost of 75.26% to 3.18 million. Then, Bob's Burgers beat the competition with a ratings jump of 57.14% to 1.1 and a viewership jump of 35% to 2.45. Finally, Family Guy increased its ratings by 28% to hit 0.9 and its viewership by 18.7% to hit 2.23 million. Fox totally dominated Sunday night with animation. Take that, crime procedurals!
The CW's Superheroes Need A Super-Boost
This was a big week for The CW as most of its highest-profile series returned to the airwaves for the 2019-2020 TV season. Despite fan-favorite series like Supernatural and Legacies, The CW is best-known nowadays as the home of the largest superhero universe on the small screen, with no fewer than five shows existing in the Arrow-verse (so named for Arrow, which launched this generation of superhero TV on The CW back in 2012), with Black Lightning on the side until the "Crisis On Infinite Earths" events brings it to the Arrow-verse.
Well, four of The CW's six superhero shows premiered this week (with Arrow debuting next week and Legends of Tomorrow remaining off the air until midseason 2020), and none of them delivered super results. Let's start at the beginning.
Sunday, October 6 saw the series premiere of Batwoman and the Season 5 premiere of Supergirl on The CW. Batwoman actually beat Supergirl in both ratings and viewership, with Kate Kane earning an 0.5 in the 18-49 demo and attracting 1.8 million viewers, whereas the Girl of Steel only pulled in a demo of 0.4 and 1.3 million. These Supergirl numbers mark an 11% drop in ratings and a 14% drop in viewership from the Season 4 finale.
The drops were even more dire for Black Lightning on Monday, October 7. With an 0.3 rating and 0.9 million viewers, Black Lightning was down more than 20% across the board from last season's finale. The Flash, which has been The CW's biggest superhero winner since it premiered back in 2014, did score the highest superhero numbers of the week with its October 8 episode, but that doesn't mean they were good.
Like Black Lightning, The Flash dropped more than 20% across the board from its previous season finale. The demo rating of 0.6 and audience of 1.63 million puts it just ahead of the Batwoman series premiere in the demo and a bit behind Batwoman in viewership. It should be interesting to see how Arrow fares compared to these four shows once it premieres on October 15.
On the one hand, it has generated a lot of buzz over hiatus due to the fact that it's heading into its final season, and Oliver is supposed to die. On the other hand, the entire Arrow-verse has generated a lot of buzz due to the approaching "Crisis On Infinite Earths," and that seemingly hasn't done much for the ratings so far. The superheroes of The CW need a super-boost sooner rather than later.
NCIS Might Really Need Ziva In Season 17
NCIS had a lot of fans on the edges of their seats over hiatus thanks to the Season 16 cliffhanger return of none other than the very-much-not-dead Ziva David, and there was the promise of Cote de Pablo reprising her role as Ziva for the first two episodes of Season 17. The Season 17 premiere crushed in viewership, with 12.56 million people tuning in, and the demo rating wasn't too shabby either with a 1.30.
Unsurprisingly, the numbers for the week after were lower, as is usually the case from shows moving from their premiere week to their second week, but the drop was pretty insignificant. The 12.56 million fell to 12.51, which was only a dip of 0.44%, and the demo rating fell only 3.7% from 1.35 to 1.3. Basically, a Ziva two-parter was a killer way to start Season 17. Now that the numbers for the first Ziva-free episode of the season are in, though, I have to wonder: does NCIS need the Ziva boost in Season 17?
The numbers for the third episode of NCIS Season 17 were just not great by NCIS standards. 11.2 million people tuned in to watch, and the demo only hit 1.1. This marked a 10.5% drop in viewership and a whopping 15.4% drop in ratings. Considering the original NCIS was the only of the three NCIS series to drop in both ratings and viewership this week -- with NCIS: New Orleans staying even in the demo rating and NCIS: Los Angeles actually getting a boost in viewership -- it seems that Ziva is what bring the ratings for the mothership.
Well, at least Ziva is returning two more times this season! If NCIS can throw in Michael Weatherly to deliver some on-screen closure for Tony/Ziva, I'm guessing NCIS would be unbeatable for that week at least. For now, we may want to keep an eye on the numbers for NCIS and see if Ziva-free drops are a trend or a one-off.
So, those are some of the most interesting, unexpected, and troubling trends from this past week in TV ratings! Check back next week for a new rundown of the Sunday-Thursday ratings, and be sure to take a look at our 2019 fall TV premiere schedule for some upcoming viewing options.