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Strikes Delayed TV’s Top Hits, But Audiences Came Back

The six months of labor action in Hollywood last summer and fall led to a host of network series having to shorten their seasons, with premieres four to five months later than their usual fall spots. The good news, though, is that viewers didn’t abandon their favorites: Viewer totals for a host of shows are on par with or better than their 2022-23 averages. A couple of newcomers have put up strong showings, and an unscripted stalwart is growing, too. (All ratings figures are Nielsen live +7 averages through March 4.)

Abbott Elementary (ABC)

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3.78M viewers | DOWN 4% from 2022-23.

The Emmy-winning comedy has dipped in linear ratings this season, though it’s a modest decline. The audience hasn’t gone away so much as switched to platforms outside the reach of Nielsen’s linear ratings. Per ABC, the show frequently doubles its first-night audience after three days of cross-platform viewing, with most of that coming from Hulu.

The Bachelor (ABC)

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How to Stream 'The Bachelor' Season 28 for Free Without Cable

4.11M viewers | UP 9%

After several seasons of declines — and possibly helped by the breakout success of The Golden Bachelor in the fall — ABC’s long-running romance show has rebounded some this season. It’s running ahead of the show’s 2022-23 average, with the typically more heavily watched final episodes of the season still to come. The series is also among ABC’s top performers in the key ad demographic of adults 18-49.

Chicago Med (NBC)

CHICAGO MED Steven Webber as Dr. Dean Archer, Oliver Platt as Dr. Daniel Charles
CHICAGO MED Steven Webber as Dr. Dean Archer, Oliver Platt as Dr. Daniel Charles

8.45M viewers | EVEN

In the leadoff position of NBC’s all-Chicago Wednesday, the medical drama has been rock steady (OK, it’s down one-tenth of 1 percent) despite cast turnover — three series regulars departed last season. Med is part of the network’s most watched night of the week. Companion shows Chicago Fire (9.04 million viewers) and Chicago P.D. (8.24 million) are also within 2 percent of last season’s averages.

The Floor (Fox)

Contestant Jacquelyn
Contestant Jacquelyn

3.47M viewers | First season

The Rob Lowe-hosted game show quietly became one of Fox’s best-performing shows of the first quarter. The Floor consistently — and substantially — added viewers from its lead-in, Name That Tune, and had the second-highest viewer tally of any show on the network in January and February, behind Next Level Chef.

Law & Order: SVU (NBC)

Mariska Hargitay as Captain Olivia Benson and Christopher Meloni as Det. Elliot Stabler in LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT.
Mariska Hargitay as Captain Olivia Benson and Christopher Meloni as Det. Elliot Stabler in LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT.

7.28M viewers | UP 6%

The longest-running primetime drama in American TV history shows little sign of slowing down: SVU is celebrating its 25th season with its largest seven-day audience since 2018-19, aided in part by a rare multi-episode story arc about a kidnapping case. The show has led its Thursday night hour every week since its Jan. 18 premiere and also has a sizable streaming audience on Hulu and Peacock.

NCIS (CBS)

(L-R): Wilmer Valderrama as Nicholas “Nick” Torres and Katrina Law as Jessica Knight.
(L-R): Wilmer Valderrama as Nicholas “Nick” Torres and Katrina Law as Jessica Knight.

10.32M viewers | UP 5%

For the first time in memory, no scripted network series topped 10 million viewers per episode in 2022-23. That may not repeat this season — NCIS and fellow CBS show Tracker (see below) are both above 10 million so far, with the venerable crime drama drawing audiences that outpace both its opening episodes of the 2022-23 and its full-season average.

Next Level Chef (Fox)

Next Level Chef
Next Level Chef

3.97M viewers | UP 8%

That the third season of the Gordon Ramsay-led food competition has improved on last year’s numbers is all the more impressive because last season’s opener aired following the Super Bowl, drawi ng nearly 16 million viewers. Take away the post-NFL premieres for both this season and last, and the current run is even further ahead, improving by 13 percent in viewers.

Tracker (CBS)

Justin Hartley in Tracker
Justin Hartley in Tracker

10.59M viewers | First season

Tracker is on pace to be the most watched series (excluding live sports) on a broadcast network this season. The drama starring Justin Hartley got a big showcase following the Super Bowl — but the viewer tally above doesn’t even include that, as the premiere — which drew well above 20 million viewers over seven days — aired outside primetime and thus isn’t part of Tracker’s official season average.

Young Sheldon (CBS)

Young Sheldon
Young Sheldon

9.48M viewers | UP 2%

Like its predecessor, The Big Bang Theory, the final season of Young Sheldon will likely go out as the most watched comedy on television, as it has been for each of the last four seasons (and Big Bang was for eight of its 12 seasons). It’s running a little ahead of its 2022-23 total. It’s no wonder that CBS is continuing to extend the franchise with a new spinoff.

This story first appeared in the March 14 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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