That Was the Year That Was: The 2016-2017 Broadcast TV Season

For the fifth time in six seasons, NBC’s Sunday Night Football ranks #1 in total viewers on the annual Nielsen rankings.

The 2016-2017 broadcast TV season officially concluded on May 24 and the final annual Nielsen rankings have since been released.

For the fifth time in six seasons, NBC Sunday Night Football took the top spot. For the fifth consecutive season, the Top 3 programs were football, The Big Bang Theory and NCIS – with The Big Bang Theory and NCIS maintaining their rankings from the previous year.

This year was much kinder to new series. Whereas only one – Little Big Shots – ranked in the Top 25 last year, this year there were FOUR: Thursday Night Football on NBC at #4, Bull at #5, This is Us at #6 and Designated Survivor at #16.

Below is a listing of the Nielsen Top 25 for the 2016-2017 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 (same as last year)
  3. NCIS, CBS (same as last year)
  4. Thursday Night Football, NBC*
  5. Bull, CBS*
  6. This Is Us, NBC*
  7. Thursday Night Football, CBS (down from #4 last year)
  8. Blue Bloods, CBS (up from #10 last year)
  9. The OT, FOX (up from #11 last year)
  10. NCIS: New Orleans, CBS (down from #6 last year)
  11. NCIS: Los Angeles, CBS (up from #24 last year)
  12. 60 Minutes, CBS (up from #15 last year)
  13. The Voice – Monday, NBC (down from #9 last year)
  14. Dancing with the Stars, ABC (down from #8 last year)
  15. Hawaii Five-O, CBS (up from #25 last year)
  16. Designated Survivor, ABC*
  17. The Voice – Tuesday, NBC (down from #12 last year)
  18. Madam Secretary, CBS (down from #14 last year)
  19. Grey’s Anatomy, ABC (up from #21 last year)
  20. Criminal Minds, CBS (down from #16 last year)
  21. Football Night in America — Part 3, NBC (down from #18 last year)
  22. Scorpion, CBS (down from #17 last year)
  23. Empire, FOX (down from #5 last year)
  24. Survivor, CBS (up from #26 last year)
  25. Little Big Shots, NBC (down from #13 last year)

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

Notes and Other Observations:

– No departing series ranked in this Top 25.

– 25 broadcast shows averaged more than 10 million viewers. This is down from 34 last year, down from 43 in 2015, down from 29 in 2014, down from 36 in 2013, down from 39 in 2012 — suggesting that either each year’s development slate is getting worse than the year before and/or viewers are catching up on broadcast shows outside of the 7-day window. Still, broadcast TV isn’t as dead as people think. And since only four of these shows were new, viewers are returning to more veteran shows as evidenced by the rise of 8-year-old NCIS: Los Angeles (on new night and time), 49-year-old 60 Minutes, 7-year-old Hawaii Five-O (also in a new time slot), 12-year-old Grey’s Anatomy and 17-year-old Survivor.

— In its EIGHTH season, NCIS: Los Angeles had the most meteoric rise — from #24 last year to #11 this year.

Empire has the most precipitous drop — falling from #5 last year to #23 this year.

— The highest ranked new series is Bull at #5.

– CBS has as many shows in the Top 10, the Top 20 AND the Top 25 as ABC, NBC and FOX COMBINED.

– 14 of the Top 25 shows are scripted — one more than last year and more indicative of a resurgence in long-running shows than an improved 2016 development season.

– Only ONE comedy ranked in this 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).

– 13 dramas ranked in this Top 25. 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).

– Three reality-competition programs (Dancing with the Stars, The Voice and Little Big Shots) hold four slots in this Top 25.

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

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

– Three Top 25 shows air on Monday (The Voice Performance ShowDancing with the Stars and Scorpion).

– Five Top 25 shows air on Tuesday (NCIS, Bull, This Is UsNCIS: New Orleans and The Voice Results Show).

– Four Top 25 shows air on Wednesday (Criminal MindsDesignated SurvivorEmpire and Survivor).

– Four Top 25 shows air on Thursday (The Big Bang TheoryNBC Thursday Night Football, CBS Thursday Night Football and Grey’s Anatomy)

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

– No Top 25 shows air on Saturday.

– A leading seven Top 25 shows air on Sunday (NBC Sunday Night FootballThe OT, NCIS: Los Angeles60 MinutesMadam SecretaryFootball Night in America and Little Big Shots).

– In the outdated A1849 demo, only 33 shows out of 153 (22%) garnered a 2.0 rating or higher (using this as the benchmark for ratings success in that metric). Last year there were 52 out of 197 (26%). The year before that there were 65 out of 188 (35%). This indicates 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.


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