Monday, July 5, 2010

In AD 2010 War Was Beginning.

This post will just fill in some boring details about The War of 18-49, my huge project which kicks off in about an hour. Most people could probably skip this entirely and still appreciate the posts to follow, but I decided to do this just in case someone particularly thorough ever stumbles on this series.

What is The War of 18-49?  It is this blog's magnum opus, an examination of the complete ratings history of most of the veteran scripted/reality shows airing on TV today and several that were recently axed. Each post will look at one show, from its premiere to its peak ratings to its worst ratings, and compare where it was in the past to where it is now, ratings-wise.  It was born out of my searching through lots of old press releases/websites for ratings info to try to expand my horizons as a TV ratings enthusiast, and if these posts do the same for some other people, that's great.

How did I pick which shows to cover?  I've created a 48-post schedule which will span at least 49 shows and possibly an additional one or two if I decide to double up on a couple other posts. Here are the criteria for the included shows:
  •  Must be at least 4 years old.  Might seem kinda arbitrary, but I just wanted to cover ground that I didn't really know anything about, and 2007-08 was the first year that I remember pretty closely.  I'd say there's a good chance of me going back and doing another batch next year and covering some newly eligible shows; after all, stuff like Big Bang Theory and Private Practice should have some interesting stories to tell.
  • Must be still ongoing or off the air for less than two seasons. I don't want to dig into a bunch of stuff that I don't remember ever following, so some stuff that was really important to the landscape like Friends, Millionaire, and Everybody Loves Raymond will not be included, but stuff that was canceled relatively recently like Heroes, ER, and Without a Trace will be eligible, since a lot of that stuff is still somewhat fresh on my mind. Again, I may visit those older shows later, but I think forty-eight posts is enough for now.
  • Don't expect to see any of the newsmagazines (60 Minutes, Primetime, 20/20, Dateline, 48 Hours) or other really old non-scripted franchises like Cops, America's Most Wanted, America's Funniest Home Videos. I'm not that interested in them, I can't track them all the way back to the beginning, and most of them aren't that important to the primetime landscape. Again, maybe I'll revisit them later.  But unlike the First Two Weeks posts I do during the regular season, this is far from a scripted-only party.  Lots of the big unscripted franchises put up enormous numbers once upon a time, so there's a lot of interesting stuff to say about those.
Seasons highs/averages/lows: The last section in each post will be an info dump where I'll list the season high in A18-49, original average, and season low for every season of the show's run. All these numbers are calculated by me based on the numbers I have, not stolen from someone else's calculations. Just A18-49, not total viewers, because A18-49 matters a lot more.

A few words on these numbers: I'm not going to have complete data on every season of every show I'm talking about, so a lot of the averages are not going to be exactly on target. Sometimes I'll only have preliminary (AKA non-final) numbers a lot of the time, and sometimes I'll be missing some or many numbers altogether. I'll always be forthcoming about what I'm missing from a season if I'm missing anything at all. (And if I say nothing along those lines, assume I have all the data.)

There will be two types of averages: those with one number after the decimal (ex. 3.3, 4.0) and those more precise ones with two numbers (3.33, 4.00). This is a code I'm using to denote how accurate they are; the one-number averages are less accurate because 1) I have missing data or a significant number of preliminary data points or 2) episodes of varying lengths were averaged equally. On 2), for the most part when I archive ratings, I try to note how long each episode is and weigh those when averaging to get a true average. (For example, a 90-minute episode of a normally 60-minute show will get counted 1.5 times.) But since this has been such a vast undertaking, I've gotten kind of lazy about noting lengths on some of this stuff just in the name of getting it done in some kind of reasonable amount of time, so in those cases I'll just average episodes equally. This mostly applies to competition reality shows like Dancing with the Stars and American Idol which often have varying lengths. So while I'm not sure any of my numbers should be treated as gospel (human error is quite possible), I feel better about the two-number ones than the one-number. Perhaps some day in the future I'll go back through and note lengths on everything so I can get better averages.

Finally, thanks to TV-aholic for the little icons that accompany each show.

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