Key 18-49 Demo Watching Less TV

Top four networks were hit hardest

For the second year in a row, television viewership of 18-49 year olds (on traditional sets) dropped over the course of the TV season, despite the recent high ratings for show finales including American Idol and Oprah.

According to Nielsen, the overall TV audience grew 1.5 percent over the past year to about 61.3 million people, but numbers for the younger demographic are down. At any given time of day, about 25.1 million 18-49 year olds were watching television—live or recorded, broadcast or cable—this TV season through May 8. It's a 1.4 percent drop from the same period last year, and a 2.7 percent drop from two years ago.

The top four broadcast networks saw the biggest decline in viewership. About 3.6 million people between 18-49 years old watched prime-time shows on those networks this TV season through May 22, down 9 percent from last year. The only major broadcast network whose audience grew is Univision, with numbers up 7.6 percent from a year ago.

CBS had the most prime-time viewers for the season, averaging 11.6 million viewers per night, down 1.5 percent from the previous year. Fox held the top spot for the 18-49 demographic in prime time, averaging 4.6 million viewers in that age group, a decline of 5 percent from a year earlier. ABC and NBC were third and fourth in both overall and 18-49 year old viewership, with NBC’s prime-time numbers down 15 percent.