Breaking Bad May Have Dented Broadcast’s Sunday Dramas

ABC's Revenge, CBS' Good Wife slip

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).