Highs and Lows of the 2014-15 TV Season

A photo of the David Letterman marquee outside his studio in New York City.
The end of the Late Show with David Letterman was one of the memorable moments of the 2014-15 TV season.. Photo © Andrew Burton / Getty Images

Don Draper says goodbye. So does David Letterman. Those farewells are two of the biggest ratings winners of the 2014-15 TV season, which also had its share of lowlights.

In addition to the statistical top-to-bottom list of the prime time shows and how they performed in the Nielsen ratings, there are the stories behind the numbers. Each of the networks has reason to celebrate and to be concerned about the future.

ABC

ABC saw neither dramatic success or crippling failure in the 2014-15 TV season. It was neither the top-ranked broadcast network in households nor in the all-important 18-49 age demographic.

But Thursday night, which used to belong to rival NBC, is becoming ABC's to own. How to Get Away with Murder premiered in September 2014 and had a breakout freshman season, especially among younger viewers.

ABC's other Thursday night programs, Scandal and Grey's Anatomy remain strong performers. Modern Family and Dancing with the Stars may be aging, but they remain important parts of the lineup.

CBS

CBS is a perennial powerhouse, without the big up-and-down ratings swings of the other networks. It is usually strong in the household ratings, if not in the key demographic groups as well.

In this season, CBS was easily number one in households for the seventh straight year. The bigger challenge for CBS has been grabbing younger viewers.

This season, it moved from number 3 to number 2 among 18-49 year olds, which was a success.

But CBS said goodbye to long-running staples like the comedy Two and-a-Half Men and the drama CSI. But with a strong overall lineup, CBS should be able to maintain its ratings strength even without these hit shows.

The bigger question is in late night, where David Letterman is giving way to Stephen Colbert. While they share 5 similarities, Colbert will be appearing as himself and not the persona that brought him cable TV fame.

Fox

This was an up-and-down season for Fox, mostly down. While Fox is thought of as a young-skewing network, its ratings plunged 24% in the 18-49 demographic, which put it in fourth place.

Not only that, but its franchise American Idol, which has been dropping in the ratings in recent years, will be coming to an end after next season. Fox may see an upswing for the final stanza of Idol, but it will be nearly impossible to replace this monster hit that once frightened the other networks so much that they gave up trying to compete in the Idol time slots.

But the news wasn't all bad this season. Fox found a new hit in Empire, which ended up in the top 5 in both total viewers and in the 18-49 demo.

NBC

NBC can claim bragging rights to being the #1 network among 18-49 year olds and a distant #2 overall behind CBS.

But the story behind these numbers isn't quite as rosy.

NBC had the Super Bowl, which is such a huge event that it brought NBC the win. NBC Sunday Night Football was the top program in both the 18-49 demo and in households. No doubt, football is what helped NBC score the victory.

But NBC isn't the same network that once brought America "Must See TV". Outside of football, only The Voice and The Blacklist finished in the top 25.

Outside of prime time, NBC remains in second place in the morning news wars. In addition, its once-solid NBC Nightly News is faced with a bumpy ride in the midst of the suspension of Brian Williams.

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