While the national cable ratings won’t be in until later this afternoon, the early broadcast numbers suggest that a significant cohort of viewers may have ditched the networks in favor of the Breaking Bad finale.
According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, Sunday night’s scripted dramas were down across the board. Returning for a third season at 8 p.m., ABC’s Once Upon a Time delivered 8.52 million viewers and a 2.6 in the 18-49 demo, down 33 percent from a year-ago 3.9 rating. Lead-out Revenge averaged 8.11 million viewers and a 2.3 in the dollar demo, down 28 percent from last season’s 3.2, while newcomer Betrayal sagged badly at 10 p.m., drawing just 5.16 million viewers and a 1.5 rating. (By comparison, the short-lived 666 Park Avenue bowed last September in the same time slot with a relatively strong 2.1 rating.)
Betrayal is the season’s second lowest-rated series premiere, trailing only ABC’s Tuesday night drama Lucky 7 (4.43 million viewers, 1.3 rating). Critics who’ve weighed in on Betrayal say the show fails to live up to its billing as a guilty pleasure.
Since Brothers & Sisters was canceled in 2011, ABC’s Sunday 10 p.m. slot has been a black hole of sorts. Among the one-and-done series that have inhabited the hour are Pan Am, GCB, 666 Park Avenue and Red Widow. The highest-rated of those shows, the sudsy dramedy GCB, averaged a 1.9 in the demo over the course of its 10-episode run.
CBS’ dramas also struggled, as The Good Wife returned to 9.15 million viewers and a 1.5, down 17 percent from last season’s 1.8 rating. The Mentalist fell 24 percent to a 1.6 rating; both dramas were down proportionately in the 25-54 demo.
Fox notched the night’s highest rating for a scripted series, as The Simpsons returned for its silver jubilee with an average draw of 6.37 million viewers and a 2.9 in the demo, down 24 percent from last season’s 3.8 rating. Bob’s Burgers bowed to a 2.2 (down 15 percent), Family Guy dropped 21 percent to a 2.6 and American Dad was down 16 percent to a 2.1.
Things aren’t about to get any easier for the networks, as AMC’s zombie apocalypse drama The Walking Dead returns for a fourth season on Oct. 13. Season 3 of Dead averaged a staggering 11.4 million viewers per episode and a 5.8 adults 18-49 rating, establishing it as the No. 1 scripted series on all of television. (CBS’ The Big Bang Theory averaged a 5.3.)
As expected, NBC’s Sunday Night Football dominated the night, as the Patriots-Falcons brawl averaged 18.5 million viewers and a 6.7 in the demo. Fast nationals for live sporting events are not time zone adjusted; as such, the L+SD numbers tend to be adjusted upward.
UPDATE: As expected, the Pats-Falcons game was upgraded significantly (20.5 million viewers/7.6 rating).