More Tricks Than Treats: November Sweeps Begin on Halloween

Ratings predictably meager as HUT levels plummet

By a quirk of the calendar, this year’s November sweeps began on Halloween night and will end on the night before Thanksgiving.

Bad news, good news.

In kicking off on an evening in which overall TV usage was down 10 percent versus the year-ago Thursday (and adults 18-49 were down 14 percent), the first night of sweeps should come freighted with a big fat asterisk. And while the networks may have been tempted to air a slate of encores rather than compete with the allure of free candy, sitting out the first night of Nielsen’s four-week paper diary roundup is a no-no.

Prefatory throat-clearing aside, the Oct. 31 fast nationals were about what you’d expect to see on a night in which overall deliveries were down 13 percent in the first hour of prime. Four series notched all-time lows in the 18-49 demo, and not a single program drew as much as a 3.0.

Bolstered by the classic Peanuts cartoon It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and first-run episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, ABC won the night with a 2.6 in the dollar demo and a 3.1 rating among adults 25-54. The animated special led off the night with a 2.2 rating, while Grey’s slipped two-tenths of a ratings point to a 2.6 and Scandal was flat (2.9).

Runner-up CBS averaged a 2.1 adults 18-49 rating and a 3.0 in its target demo, while winning the night in overall reach with an average draw of 9.50 million viewers—or about 1.2 million shy of last week’s delivery.

CBS elected to protect The Big Bang Theory, benching the 8 p.m. blockbuster in favor of a repeat. With a 3.7 rating, the encore was still the biggest draw in the 25-54 demo; the 2.6 it pulled with the 18-49 crowd was the night’s second-highest rating behind Scandal.

A new episode of the freshman comedy The Millers drew a series-low 2.1 in the 18-49 demo, down 22 percent versus the previous week. The loss of its cushy first-run Big Bang lead-in was bound to take a toll on The Millers; factor in the low Halloween HUT levels and the episode never really had a chance. Look for The Millers to bounce back next week, when an all-new Big Bang kicks off the night.

Also hitting a low-water mark was the Robin Williams comedy The Crazy Ones, which dropped 17 percent to a 1.9. (Again, not a surprise as the 9 p.m. hour was about as deserted as the 8 p.m. slot, with total TV usage down 10 percent.) A second helping of Big Bang drew a 2.1 at 9:30 p.m., while Elementary capped off the night with a 1.8.

Third-place NBC enjoyed its highest ratings in the 8-9 p.m. slot since the season began, as a Saturday Night Live Halloween special delivered a 1.7 in the dollar demo. (Parks and Recreation and the now-canceled Welcome to the Family had averaged a 1.1 in the hour.)

At 9 p.m., Sean Saves the World was flat with a 1.1, while The Michael J. Fox Show followed up with a series-low 1.1. Parenthood was down a tenth (1.2).

Deprived of a seventh World Series game, Fox aired a special non-competition installment of The X Factor (0.8) and a repeat of Glee (0.6). Not only was usage by adults 18-49 down 15 percent in the Glee time spot, but the 18-34 crowd was off 19 percent and teens were down a whopping 37 percent versus the year-ago Thursday.

Pre-emptions in New York and the total abdication of its target demo put the CW in a sticky situation, as The Vampire Diaries drew a series-low 0.8 rating among adults 18-34 and an 0.9 with viewers 18-49. From 8-9 p.m., the CW’s dollar demo was down 22 percent, while women 18-34 dropped 24 percent.

At 9 p.m., Reign stayed flat with a 0.6 rating. 

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