TV network ratings slide in 2010-11 season

Wed Jul 6, 2011 2:43pm EDT

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NEW YORK (TheWrap) - All five major television networks lost viewers, Super Bowl ratings set another record, "Two and a Half Men" remained the most-watched comedy on television, and the two biggest new shows debuted in mid-season.

That is the 2010-11 TV season at a glance, according to a report released on Tuesday by top media-buying firm Horizon Media. The company summarized the past season in a report looking at the 2011-12 slate of new programing.

A few of the trends it noted for 2010-11 included ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and The CW all being down in total viewers and in the key 18-49 age group.

Fox, powered by resurgent singing competition "American Idol," was the highest-rated network among viewers 18-49 years-old for the seventh consecutive year, while CBS had the most total viewers for the eight time in the last nine seasons.

SPORTS HIGHLIGHTS

Thanks in part to an iconic matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers, Fox's Super Bowl XLV averaged 111 million viewers to surpass Super Bowl XLIV as the most-watched program in U.S. television history.

Fox's World Series, meanwhile, in which the San Francisco Giants beat the Texas Rangers in five games, averaged 14.3 million viewers, making it the second-least watched World Series ever.

The NBA Finals, in which the Dallas Mavericks beat the Miami Heat four games to two, averaged 17.3 million viewers. It was down four percent in the ratings from the 2010 Finals between the fierce rivals Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics.

The NCAA men's basketball championship on CBS, in which Connecticut beat Butler, averaged 20.1 million viewers, a drop-off from 2010, when Butler lost to Duke.

"TWO AND A HALF MEN" STILL TOP COMEDY

Despite conflicts with star Charlie Sheen that cut the season's episode order to 16 from 22, CBS's "Two and a Half Men" remained TV's most-watched sitcom with 11.6 million viewers -- though it was down two million viewers from the previous, less-tumultuous season.

"Men" also became the top-rated show in syndication, replacing "Wheel of Fortune." In the 2010-11 season, it averaged 12 million viewers, more than it averaged on CBS in prime time and 19 percent more than it averaged the season before.

The show's enduring success underlines why CBS would bring it back -- with Ashton Kutcher replacing the fired Sheen -- in September.

After a move to Thursdays, another Chuck Lorre-produced sitcom, "The Big Bang Theory" was the second most-watched comedy. It also averaged 11.6 million viewers, a loss of 1.4 million from the season before.

The season's most-successful first-year programs debuted in mid-season. Airing in March, the ABC drama "Body of Proof" averaged 11.2 million viewers, a 2.3 rating among adults 18-49 and a median age of 57.3. NBC's "The Voice," averaged over 11 million viewers, a rating of 4.9 among adults 18-49 and a median age of 40.2.

AUDIENCES ABANDON SOME DRAMAS

Fox's "House" slipped 22 percent in viewers, while the network's "Fringe" moved to Fridays and lost 29 percent. ABC's "Desperate Housewives," "Private Practice" and "Grey's Anatomy" slipped 19 percent.

NBC's "Parenthood" lost 21 percent of its audience. The CW's "One Tree Hill" fell 30 percent, and that network's "Gossip Girl" 27 percent. CBS' "Undercover Boss" lost nearly one-third of its audience in its second season.

In comedies, NBC's "30 Rock" lost 23 percent and "Community" lost 21 percent.

Two ABC comedies made big gains: "The Middle" gained 18 percent, while "Modern Family" was up 17 percent.

The highest-rated new show that was not renewed was CBS's sitcom "$#*! My Dad Says," which averaged 9.8 million viewers but lost 15 percent of the audience from lead-in "The Big Bang Theory."

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