That Was the Year That Was: The 2015-2016 Broadcast TV Season


The 2015-2016 broadcast TV season officially concluded last Wednesday and on Thursday the final annual Nielsen rankings were released.

For the fourth time in five years, NBC Sunday Night Football took the top spot. For the fourth consecutive season, the Top 3 programs were football, The Big Bang Theory and NCIS – though The Big Bang Theory and NCIS swapped rankings from the previous year.

It was a tougher year for new series as only ONE – Little Big Shots – ranked in the Top 25 (the previous year there were five).

Below is a listing of the Nielsen Top 25 for the 2015-2016 Broadcast TV season with their ranking for the previous year in parentheses where applicable (rankings are based on L+7 day data):

  1. Sunday Night Football, NBC (same as last year)
  2. The Big Bang Theory, CBS (up from #3 last year)
  3. NCIS, CBS (down from #2 last year)
  4. Thursday Night Football, CBS (up from #6 last year)
  5. Empire, FOX (same last year)
  6. NCIS: New Orleans, CBS (down from #4 last year)
  7. The X-Files***, FOX
  8. Dancing with the Stars, ABC (up from #9 last year)
  9. The Voice – Monday, NBC (up from #12 last year)
  10. Blue Bloods, CBS (up from #13 last year)
  11. The OT, FOX (up from #17 last year)
  12. The Voice – Tuesday, NBC (up from #16 last year)
  13. Little Big Shots*, NBC
  14. Madam Secretary, CBS (down from #10 last year)
  15. 60 Minutes, CBS (up from #19 last year)
  16. Criminal Minds, CBS (down from #11 last year)
  17. Scorpion, CBS (down from #15 last year)
  18. Football Night in America, NBC (up from #29 last year)
  19. American Idol – Wednesday**, FOX (up from #41 last year)
  20. NCIS – Encores, CBS
  21. Grey’s Anatomy, ABC (up from #26 last year)
  22. The Blacklist, NBC (down from #14 last year)
  23. American Idol – Thursday**, FOX (up from #28 last year)
  24. NCIS: Los Angeles, CBS (up from #27 last year)
  25. Hawaii Five-O, CBS (down from #20 last year)

* – new series          ** – departed series          *** – revival of a series

Notes and Other Observations:

– One departing series (with two placements) ranked in the Top 25 — the fourteen-year-old American Idol at #19 and #23. As was the case with last year’s Top 25-ranked departing series, neither edition ranked in the Top 25 last year for the show’s penultimate season.

– 34 shows averaged more than 10 million viewers. This is down from 43 last year, up from 29 in 2014, down from 36 in 2013, down from 39 in 2012 — suggesting that last year’s development slate wasn’t as great as the year before. Still, broadcast TV isn’t as dead as people think. And since only three of these shows were new (including the one in the Top 25), viewers are returning to more veteran shows as evidenced by the rise of 11-year-old Grey’s Anatomy and the departed Idol.

– More than half of the returning shows in the Top 25 were either even or up in their rankings from the previous year. Of the seven that went down, only one fell by more than five slots.

– CBS has as many shows in the Top 10 AND the Top 20 as ABC, NBC and FOX COMBINED. Those can’t all be “old” viewers (or maybe they are,  but who’s to really say?).

– 13 of the Top 25 shows are scripted — four less than last year and indicative of a very lackluster 2015 development season.

– Only ONE comedy ranked in the Top 25 (The Big Bang Theory) — indicative of the broadcast networks’ tragic inability to create any new comedy hits (which they ridiculously blame on the content restrictions imposed on them by the FCC as if loosening them will suddenly cause them to improve their comedy development and crank out hit after syndicationable hit).

– 11 dramas ranked in the Top 25 (NCIS ranks twice). Despite the content claims here as well, the genre is quite healthy on broadcast TV (until Emmy time when the kvetching about the FCC’s content regulations will resume).

– Four reality-competition programs (Dancing with the StarsThe Voice, Little Big Shots and American Idol) hold six slots in the Top 25 — twice as many as last year before renewed interest in the final season of American Idol pushed it back into the Top 25 and Little Big Shots became the first new reality-competition show to rank in the Top 25 since The Voice and The X-Factor in 2011.

– Football on NBC, CBS and FOX as well as its ancillary programming hold four rankings in the Top 25.

– 60 Minutes continues to be the only newsmagazine to rank in the Top 25.

– Five Top 25 shows air on Monday (The X-FilesDancing with the StarsThe VoiceScorpion and NCIS: Los Angeles).

– Three Top 25 shows air on Tuesday (NCISNCIS: New Orleans and The Voice Results Show).

– Three Top 25 shows air on Wednesday (EmpireCriminal Minds and American Idol).

– Five Top 25 shows air on Thursday (The Big Bang TheoryCBS Thursday Night Football, Grey’s AnatomyThe Blacklist and American Idol Results)

– Two Top 25 shows air on Friday (Blue Bloods and Hawaii Five-O).

– No Top 25 shows air on Saturday.

– A leading six Top 25 shows air on Sunday (NBC Sunday Night FootballThe OTLittle Big ShotsMadam Secretary60 Minutes and Football Night in America).

– In the outdated A1849 demo, only 47 shows garnered a 2.0 ranking or higher (assuming that is the new benchmark for ratings success in that metric). Last year there were 65, indicating a continued erosion of that audience as younger viewers are not, will not and never will watch television in the same way as the older half of that demo has and does.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s