Still feeling sleepy because of that lost hour Sunday morning? While you’re grumbling about daylight saving time, remember who really has it tough this week: TV executives.
Poor Hollywood suits! It happens every year like clockwork: Daylight saving time takes over, and television ratings inevitably drop across the board. The reason is pretty much common sense: The weather gets warmer, it’s light outside, and people don’t feel like staying cooped up and watching TV. That’s what they did all winter.
[Related: 5 myths about daylight saving time]
This week, as usual, the networks are coughing up the DST defense to explain their live ratings, some of which are lower than usual. Shows such as Fox’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and “Last Man on Earth” along with CBS’s “Madam Secretary” and “The Good Wife” dipped; even NBC’s hit “The Voice” dropped a bit.
Even if the declines aren’t drastic, execs have reason to be concerned: This particular daylight savings week has several factors working against TV shows. First, the sudden arrival of lovely weather.
“This year, daylight saving time coincided with actual seasonable temperatures,” said Brad Adgate, senior vice president of research at Horizon Media. He pointed out this is the case in major markets like New York and Washington, where big populations of TV viewers reside and are eager to finally escape their couches. “A lot of people were stuck inside in sub-freezing, sub-zero temperatures for a lot of the winter.”
Given that it’s technically still winter, the sun still sets fairly early — so the 8 p.m. shows historically see the biggest decline. The rest of prime time, from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m., could shake out back to normal, Adgate said, at least at this point. But as the weather gets nicer throughout the spring, ratings naturally drop anyway, especially since people can increasingly turn to OnDemand options.
Another issue: TV usage among young adults had already dropped notably this year. In December, Nielsen reported that viewers ages 18 to 24 watching actual television — as opposed to streaming via laptop — have declined over the last three years. That hurts ratings across the board, so it really doesn’t help if numbers sink this week.
The real test will come Wednesday night: So far, Fox’s “Empire” (an 8 p.m. show) has grown consecutively in the ratings for a historic eight weeks in a row, so no doubt the network will be waiting anxiously for the numbers on Thursday morning.
Either way, it’s not really fun for TV execs. “I think the networks will feel this, broadcast and cable,” Adgate said. “They know it’s coming, they have to. There’s really nothing they can do about it.”