For the most part when newspapers or magazines reported the Nielsen ratings in decades past only the Top Twenty or Top Forty programs were listed. Whether this was due to restrictions enforced by Nielsen (these days the company is very protective of its data) or an editorial decision is beside the point. What is important is that on October 12th, 1965 The New York Times reported both the Top Forty and the Bottom 15 programs for the first two weeks of the 1965-1966 season. The period in question ran from Monday, September 13th through Sunday, September 26th. All the way at the bottom with a 4.8 Nielsen rating was CBS Reports. Topping the chart was NBC’s Bonanza with a 31.1 rating.
One reason for the poor performance of these shows was their time slot. Killer competition on the other two networks would result in low ratings regardless of quality. ABC’s The Donna Reed Show, for example, was up against Gilligan’s Island (14, 22.3) on CBS and Daniel Boone (37th, 19.3) on NBC. The combined rating for the three programs was a 52.5, meaning more than half of all television households in the country were watching the networks (the share of the audience, or the number of televisions in use at the time, was likely close to 90%).
Here’s the complete list of the Bottom 15 programs. New shows are marked:
|83.||The Steve Lawrence Show (New)||CBS||12.6|
|86.||The Trials of O’Brien (New)||CBS||11.9|
|The King Family||ABC||11.9|
|88.||Ozzie and Harriet||ABC||11.4|
|89.||Camp Runamuck (New)||NBC||10.9|
|The Donna Reed Show||ABC||10.9|
|94.||Shindig II (New)||ABC||9.6|