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Digital broadcast networks see increased viewership in 2023

Sinclair's Charge and Scripps-owned Grit saw the largest year-over audience growth last year.

Sinclair's Charge and Scripps-owned Grit saw the largest year-over audience growth last year.

The logo of Sinclair Broadcast Group's digital network Charge. (Graphic by The Desk)
The logo of Sinclair Broadcast Group’s digital network Charge. (Graphic by The Desk)

Digital broadcast networks saw some of the biggest audience gains last year as more cable and satellite households “cut the cord” in favor of free over-the-air channels and streaming platforms.

Sinclair Broadcast Group’s Charge led the pack in 2023, with its slate of action and drama-filled syndicated shows and movies pulling in an average of 102,000 viewers each day, or 28 percent more than the previous year, according to Nielsen ratings.

It was a huge victory for Charge, which refreshed its schedule last year to include more off-network hit series like “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” “Without a Trace,” “CSI: NY” and “CSI: Miami.”

Sinclair operates three other digital broadcast networks — general entertainment channel TBD TV and supernatural-oriented network Comet — which are available on over-the-air television in most cities and can be viewed online via Sinclair’s free streaming service, STIRR.

Comet saw a modest bump in overall daily viewership, with an average of 101,000 households tuning in to watch repeats of shows like “The X-Files” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” TBD TV, which refreshed its prime-time line-up in December to include comedy shows like “Key & Peele” and “Whose Line is it Anyway?” grabbed an average of 30,000 viewers each day, a year-over decline of 3 percent.

Weigel Broadcasting-owned Me TV won the year with its slate of classic TV show re-runs, with an average of 631,000 households tuning in each day, according to Nielsen. The figure marked an 8 percent viewership decline compared to 2022, likely due to the loss of a distribution deal with Sinclair, which replaced Me TV with Comet and Charge on some stations last August.

The E. W. Scripps’ western network Grit was the second most-watched digital broadcast network in 2023, with an average of 513,000 people tuning in on a daily basis, according to Nielsen ratings. Grit was the second fastest-growing network in its group during the year, growing its audience by 18 percent compared to 2022.

Scripps also notched a win with Defy TV, a network that was launched following the merger of the similarly-named, male-oriented Defy and female-focused lifestyle channel True Real last March. Defy TV saw a 34 percent lift in viewership when compared to the standalone Defy and True Real channels last year, with an average daily audience of 130,000 TV households, according to Nielsen.

The following is a breakdown of year-end average viewership figures for digital broadcast networks (national networks are excluded) based on Nielsen data for 2023:

  • Me TV: 631,000 (-8%)
  • Grit: 513,000 (+18)
  • Cozi TV: 196,000 (-3%)
  • Start TV: 190,000 (-8%)
  • Court TV Mystery: 174,000 (-6%)
  • Heroes & Icons: 169,000 (-22%)
  • Laff: 151,000 (+3%)
  • Defy TV: 130,000 (+34%) *
  • Antenna TV: 114,000 (-1%)
  • Charge: 102,000 (+28%)
  • Comet: 101,000 (+2%)
  • Get TV: 91,000 (no change)
  • Catchy Comedy: 69,000 (no change) *
  • Court TV: 56,000 (-3%)
  • Story Television: 40,000 (-2%)
  • TBD TV: 30,000 (-3%)

(Editor’s note: The E. W. Scripps Company merged Defy and True Real into a single channel, called Defy TV, in March. The viewership figure is an average weight of both channels during the two months of the year, and the merged channel during the remainder of the year. Catchy Comedy was previously known as Decades until late March 2023. As Decades, the network was not ranked by Nielsen.)


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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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