But the ratings live viewing of shows on the days they air offer a glimpse into what is clicking with the audience.
"There were actually more bright spots than we thought there would be," Hughes said.
ABC appears to have its first big hit drama in several seasons with "The Good Doctor," which stars Freddie Highmore as a young surgeon with autism.
"The Good Doctor," premiered with 11.4 million viewers on Sept. 25 and held that number in its second airing on Monday. When delayed viewers were added, the premiere's total gained another 5.5 million.
CBS had a strong premiere from "Young Sheldon," a warm comedy prequel to "The Big Bang Theory." The 17.2 million viewers who watched on Sept. 25 were strong enough to get CBS to pick up the show a for a full season. The show moves to its regular Thursday time period on November 2.
While the original "Will & Grace" was an edgy comedy during its original run from 1998 to 2007, the new revival with the original cast intact was comfortably familiar, likely helping to draw 10.2 million viewers for its Sept. 28 premiere. Three days of delayed viewing boosted that total to 14.8 million.
"This Is Us," NBC's breakout family drama of last year, delivered an all time high in its second season premiere with 12. 9 million viewers on Sept. 27.
Preston Beckman, a former network executive and TV consultant, said the early successes indicate viewers are looking for uplifting entertainment.
"My gut is that people are wanting shows that make them feel good or are aspirational," he said. "There is enough darkness in the world where you don't have to watch it on TV right now."
The gritty military shows and realistic crime dramas that the networks have added delivered mixed results, another sign that viewers are moving to content that is less bleak.
CBS's "SEAL Team" with David Boreanaz as the head of a special ops forces unit, scored 9.9 million viewers in its premiere, giving the network the most watched show in the Wednesday 9 p.m. hour.
But NBC was less successful with the "The Brave," another special ops-themed drama that opened with 6 million viewers in its first week, dropping significantly from its lead-in from the network's top rated reality competition show "The Voice" on Monday at 10 p.m.
ABC's "Ten Days In the Valley," a serialized show about a kidnapped child, drew a modest 3.4 million viewers in its Sunday premiere.
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