TV Networks – Which Networks Are Making Bank & Which Are Struggling?

Updated on October 7, 2015

The popularity of TV networks really depends on who you are and what you like!

And the results are in! The latest results for top broadcast TV networks are in, but if you don't like the results just wait another week and they may well be different. According to the latest survey, the following networks were rated in terms of their popularity among the 18-49 demographic, including the CW network, ABC, Fox, NBC, CBS, and Univision. At the conclusion of week 49 (Sunday 30th of August, 2015) this is how the popularity charts stacked up:

  • NBC ranked at #1 with 1.2 adults in the specified age range
  • CBS ranked at #2 was 1.1 adults in the specified age range
  • ABC ranked at #3 with 0.8 adults in the specified age range
  • Fox & Univision ranked at #4 with 0.7 adults in the specified age range
  • The CW Network ranked at #5 with 0.3 adults in the specified age range

It should be pointed out that the networks are not channels per se; they include multiple channels across different broadcast media such as news, weather, documentaries, action movie channels, reality TV and so forth. Many people prefer to actually know what the viewer count is per week, as opposed to the number of people within a specified age range. In that particular ranking, CBS topped the last week of August with 5.438 million viewers, followed by NBC at 4.973 million, and ABC in third place with 3.381 million people. Position four was occupied by Fox network with 2.307 million viewers, Univision claimed the fifth berth with 1.959 million, and the CW network was sixth on the list with 1.091 million. The good news is that if you’re unhappy with these rankings, close your eyes for a few minutes and check back again for the latest rankings because they’re that changeable.

How about the Most Valuable Television Networks?

Most people tend to think of CNN, NBC, Fox News, and ABC as the most valuable television networks in the world, but that's not necessarily the case. In fact the most prized network in the world is ESPN. And this just goes to show that sports trumps politics any day of the week. As the premier sports channel, featuring live broadcasts, in-depth talk shows and expert analysis, ESPN is the #1 most successful channel on television. The Entertainment and Sports Network (ESPN) has been going strong since 1979, and its Sportscenter channel is its crowning achievement. Other popular shows featured on this network include SportsNation, Sunday NFL Countdown, Around the Horn, Baseball Tonight, College GameDay, Outside the Lines and Pardon the Interruption.

According to Forbes.com, ESPN’s net worth is $51 billion. The company's valuation places it at a higher price than HP, Twitter, Sprint and Lowe’s. Of course it's not hard to see where the company generates most of its revenues from: Sports at the highest level. ESPN generated $4.5 billion in revenue in 2014 – almost 40% higher than the figure from 2009. This dwarfed the operating income of CBS Corporation (the top-rated broadcast television network) with income of $1.6 billion in 2013. A big part of the reason why ESPN can generate such high revenues is the affiliate fee which it charges. By 2014 ESPN's average monthly affiliate fee was four times higher than its nearest rival which was TNT.

TV networks are always competing for the patronage of viewers around the country, and fall of 2015 has seen a switch to many throwback favourites such as The Muppets, Supergirl, Minority Report, Limitless, Rush-Hour, the X-Files and Uncle Buck. TV networks are hoping that the reboots of these once-popular favourites will be a smash hit, but this is not necessarily the case. What all these shows have is a loyal following from yesteryear, but it is not certain if that will translate into present-day patronage. Broadcast networks are a little reluctant to try entirely new concepts, preferring instead to remake or reboot what was once successful. While one can never quite recapture the audience that was glued to the TV screens when Magnum PI, Dallas, Flamingo Road, Dynasty, or the X-Files were being screened, the hope is that there is enough of an appeal to reignite interest in these modernised versions. Of course, networks will occasionally throw in a new TV series to try and appeal to a new niche group, or an existing niche group within the community.

The Top 10 Prime Broadcast Network TV Programs (August 24, 2015)

  • America's Got Talent – Tuesday on NBC with 10.339 million viewers
  • 60 Minutes on CBS with 8.534 million viewers
  • NCIS on CBS with 8.394 million viewers
  • America's Got Talent – Wednesday on NBC with 8.463 million viewers
  • The Big Bang Theory on CBS with 7.249 million viewers
  • NBC NFL Preseason on NBC with 7.508 million viewers
  • Big Brother – Sunday on CBS with 6.732 million viewers
  • Zoo on CBS with 6.175 million viewers
  • Criminal Minds at 22:00 on CBS with 5.828 million viewers
  • Big Brother – Wednesday on CBS with 6.457 million viewers

There are scores of Top 10 listings for different demographics, including Cable Network TV, Syndication Network TV, Prime Broadcast Programs for Hispanics, Prime Broadcast Programs for African-Americans, TV Advertisements and much more. And even within each segment, the ratings can vary wildly depending on season, interest, national events (elections, NFL, NBA, major news developments, geopolitical events) and others.

The Rise of the Internet TV Network

Nowadays, cable TV is facing many of its own challenges with streaming Internet TV capturing an ever-increasing slice of the market. Hulu, Netflix, and similar online streaming services are wildly popular with a very broad base of viewers, and for a fraction of the cost too. In order to compete with online streaming TV and movie channels, the larger broadcast networks are also shifting their strategic focus to cater to viewers on iPad, iPhone, Android smartphones and tablets etc. Industry executives have gone so far as saying that US viewers will reach a maximum interest in TV in 2015, after which time it will be a slow but gradual decline in TV viewership overall.

The evolution of technology is happening at a pace that is outstripping the way in which traditional broadcast TV is delivered to viewers. In fact, the rise of Internet television and non-cable TV is fast cutting into the profits of cable TV broadcast networks. The following have taken pole position in this new trend: TV.com, Hulu, Shout! Factory TV, PBS, Cartoon Network Online, CNN Live, YouTube, Amazon instant video, Google play, iTunes Store, and Sling TV. Internet television broadcasting is available for a fraction of the price – usually less than $10 per month, or even free depending on where you search. Of course, for those who prefer watching a television screen, public broadcast television is still a good way to stay up-to-date on the latest news and catch a few good shows now and then.

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