Broadcast TV's fall season is going so poorly that four out of five returning programs have a smaller audience than they had in 2007.
A top TV researcher said today that it's shaping up as a historically bad season for ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox. Only eight of the 66 returning shows have gained viewers, five of them on CBS. Five shows have no change. "Heroes," "Private Practice" and "Prison Break" are among the big losers.
The Turner Networks' research chief Jack Wakshlag said there are even darker clouds on the horizon for broadcasters. The mandatory conversion to digital TV by Feb. 17, 2009, will further cut into viewing. Current estimates are about one in 10 homes would lose TV service altogether that day if they don't buy new sets or order cable or converter boxes beforehand.
Overall TV viewing is up this year because of cable station gains, especially the news networks.