When the broadcast networks announce their new lineups to advertisers in coming weeks, they may boast about some old timers instead of their rookies: Six veteran hits are actually gaining ratings in a season that's been dismal overall.
From television's biggest show, NBC's "Sunday Night Football," to ABC's "The Bachelor," aging programs are among the few bright spots in a season that has produced few new hits.
TheWrap looked at the top 30 shows on broadcast television as of last week, and found that only seven of them have gained in the key 18-49 demographic since last season. Six of the seven debuted in 2007 or earlier. The other is CBS's sophomore "Person of Interest."
Of this season's roughly three dozen new shows, meanwhile, only two have made the top 30. They are NBC's "Revolution" and Fox's "The Following," which airs its season finale Monday.
The lack of new hits makes the networks' job harder as they try to promote their new slates to advertisers at upfront presentations in two weeks. They have to make the case that their new shows will thrive – despite the shortage of hits among the shows they unveiled this time last year. The absence of sparkly newcomers also makes the networks' more reliant on their rising veterans.
Here are the seven shows that have gained, by network:
>> NBC's "Sunday Night Football" and its pre-kickoff show, which debuted in 2006, are up both slightly.
>> ABC's "The Bachelor," which debuted in 2002, had the biggest gain over last season – 13 percent. "Grey's Anatomy" is also up, but made much smaller gains. It debuted in 2005.
>> CBS's "Big Bang Theory," which premiered in 2007, is up 11 percent. The "Big Bang" gain makes it the top-rated scripted show on broadcast television. "NCIS," which debuted in 2003, and last year's "Person of Interest" are also up somewhat.
Even slight increases are significant in a year when ABC, Fox, and NBC are all down in the key demo and total viewers. CBS is flat in the 18-49 group, and up very slightly in total viewers.
The "Big Bang" gain comes at the expense of its Thursday rival, "American Idol." The Fox singing competition, TV's top show for eight years, is down 21 percent on Thursday nights and 25 percent on Wednesdays.
That has been a factor in Fox slipping from first in the demographic – where it has been for several seasons -- to second this year, behind CBS. CBS also leads in total viewers, as it has for years.
The networks' overall slide comes as cable and online shows are making big gains. AMC's "The Walking Dead" is now the top-rated drama of the season, and may beat out "Big Bang" as the top-rated scripted show overall.
Meanwhile, Netflix is making inroads with the drama "House of Cards" and the horror series "Hemlock Grove," which viewers can watch anytime online. New episodes of "Arrested Development" are due at the end of May.
Networks are also dealing with new threats from at least two technologies they say threaten TV's traditional ad-funded model.
Dish's AutoHop allows viewers to skip commercials on previously aired primetime shows. And Aereo allows viewers to watch shows on their computers, fast-forwarding through commercials. Networks are locked in litigation with both Dish and Aereo.
One hit show this season is both up and down, ratings-wise: "The Voice" is down on Mondays, but up on Tuesdays. But the Tuesday comparison with last season isn't apples-to-apples because NBC began airing Tuesday episodes much later last year.
NBC's "Football Night in America," meanwhile, is the only show in the top 30 that is flat in the demo.
Take out the freshman shows "Revolution" and "The Following" – which have no previous seasons for comparison – and we're left with 19 shows in the top 30.
Every one of them is down.