Sunday, May 31, 2009

May Sweeps 2009: The Recap

I started on this post at the end of sweeps but couldn't finish it before I had to go out of town for a few days. I meant for it to be a bit longer, but I'm just including the stuff that I got done.

Here we go. The post that the other 65 have been leading up to. What actually went down in this year's May Sweeps? There are other ways to learn how networks or how broadcast TV in general did on a year-to-year basis, but since I don't really root for networks, I created this thing to see how my favorite shows are doing.

Let's start with the most sound-byteable part of the program. Who are the biggest gainers and the biggest decliners in May Sweeps 2009 vs. May Sweeps 2008? These lists will only include shows that aired in the same timeslot both years and had at least three airings in corresponding weeks both years. (Complete list of same timeslot shows can be found here.)

1. BBT 3.50 vs. 2.93 (+19%, 3 airings)
2. NCIS 3.40 vs. 2.98 (+14%, 4 airings)
3. Supernatural 1.23 vs. 1.08 (+14%, 4 airings)
4. 30 Rock 2.97 vs. 2.67 (+11%, 3 airings)
5. 20/20 (10-11pm) 1.70 vs. 1.63 (+5%, 4 airings)

1. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (8-9pm, plus 2-hr finale) 2.60 vs. 3.74 (-30%, 4 airings)
2. CSI 3.60 vs. 4.93 (-27%, 4 airings)
3. Dateline (7-8pm, Sun.) 0.97 vs. 1.30 (-26%, 3 airings)
4. Desperate Housewives (9-10pm, plus 2-hr. finale) 4.52 vs. 6.04 (-25%, 4 airings)
5. Medium (10pm) 2.33 vs. 3.10 (-25%, 3 airings)

All right, so if your least favorite or favorite show is on one of these lists, let the spinning begin. ;-)

Was it a good May or a bad May for your favorite show? Obviously, if you're a top 5 gainer, you did well. Furthermore, if you're a gainer at all, you had a good year. Period. Out of the 46 shows that aired in the same timeslot in May 2008 and May 2009, only ten gained on average from 2008, and only three others were even year-to-year. Only four of these 46 shows rose by a double-digit percentage, while more than half (24) declined by double-digits. This year, like probably every year till the broadcast network model dies, is filled with decliners.

So your favorite show probably dropped. Is it really that bad in the great scheme of broadcast TV? Let's look at this from a few different angles. First, as reported by PIFeedback poster dumont here, broadcast TV has declined by 6% from May 2008 to May 2009. You may use that as the dividing line between success and failure. But it isn't an absolute, and an important reason for that is that this May Sweep has had a lot more original programming than May 2008. Plenty of 2008 days were filled with repeats because networks had burned through their entire midseason slates getting through the writer's strike and hadn't ordered episodes of all their shows after the strike ended.

So I'll look for some other bars for success. Let's take some of these lists that I've been churning out this evening and take the median numbers on those lists - the idea being that half of the shows will be better than these numbers and half will be worse. All of these medians will be among same-timeslot shows, so those not in parentheses.


ABC: -17.5%
CBS: even
FOX: -10.5%
NBC: -21.5%
CW: -10%
(network list)

(genre list)

8:00 HOUR: -11%
9:00 HOUR: -9%
10:00 HOUR: -9%
(timeslot list)

The lesson here is that a 10% decline is pretty much the norm, regardless of what hour you air in or what kind of program you are. If your show gained or only declined by single digits, it was not a bad effort. The network numbers are both more variable and, in my opinion, less useful, because the lists are a lot shorter for the networks. However, it's pretty clear that CBS had a lot more success stories than an ABC or an NBC.

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