Much has been written about the inevitable demise of broadcast television in the wake of fierce competition from cable networks and streaming video services such as Netflix and Hulu.
Thus far in 2018, marquee broadcast network draws like the Academy Awards, The Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics suffered significant audience losses compared to previous iterations due to a very crowded television landscape as well as shifting viewing habits in which viewers are less likely to watch shows when they are initially scheduled.
That’s why the recent ratings success last week of CBS’ 60 Minutes and ABC’s Roseanne opened eyes within the industry. CBS’ venerable news magazine drew more than 22 million viewers for its March 25 episode – the highest audience for the series in nearly a decade -- bolstered by an exclusive interview with porn star Stormy Daniels, whose claim of an alleged sexual relationship with President Trump has recently dominated headlines.
The same week, ABC’s return of its classic comedy series Roseanne shocked many industry observers by drawing more than 18.4 million viewers for its premiere, and 21.8 million in Nielsen Live+3 ratings, according to ABC.
The performance of the series' return to television -- now the most watched new series premiere for the 2017-18 broadcast season according to ABC -- was surprising, even as many other series reboots have performed well on the ratings front.
ABC didn’t waste any time in renewing Roseanne for an 11th season on Friday.
Both shows benefited from huge promotional buildup heading into their respective premieres, which obviously helped generate interest from casual viewers as well as hard-core fans of both veteran franchises.
The results show that unique or special event programming can still draw in huge viewership on linear television despite declining network audiences. Time will tell if Roseanne can maintain its strong ratings momentum throughout its nine-episode run, but its off to a promising start.
Live sports and news programming have proven to be consistent ratings draws for broadcast networks; 60 Minutes and Roseanne showed that water cooler-worthy event programming can also ring the ratings bell for traditional television in the age of video streaming.