Thursday, July 8, 2010

The War of 18-49, 30 Rock


Scheduling history: Aside from its first four episodes on Wednesday at 8pm and one Wednesday episode in the final season, critically acclaimed sitcom 30 Rock has aired every original episode on Thursday. It moved to the lead-off role in 2011-12, cementing a pretty interesting piece of trivia: 30 Rock has now been regularly scheduled in five of the six half-hours on Thursday, including a brief run in the 10:00 hour! 8:30 and 9:30 remained its most common haunts.

See (who saw) how it all began: 30 Rock premiered on October 11, 2006 to 8.1 million total viewers and a 2.9 demo.  Its next three weeks on Wednesday made it look like cancellation was coming; a 2.3, 2.2, and 1.7.  But instead of cancellation, it got upgraded to first class as part of NBC's revival of a two-hour comedy block on Thursday. It joined the lineup with a 2.4, then a 2.7, then a 3.2, and it had arrived.

The best of times: The peak of 30 Rock's popularity was in the 2008-09 season, and that ratings upswing was almost certainly connected with Tina Fey's extremely popular portrayal of 2008 Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin. The show broke a 4.0 in the 10/30/08 season premiere for the first and only time ever. But the trend was not over and done with when the election was over; in fact, it remained pretty strong the whole season.  The show broke the 3.0 threshold 17 times in season 3 and just 15 times in its other four seasons combined. (Twice in season 1, four times in season 2, eight times in season 4, once in season 5.)

The worst of times: For almost all of its run, the worst 30 Rock results came in that first month before it joined the Thursday lineup and started to gain some traction alongside similar comedies.  The 1.7 it pulled in its fourth episode ever was long tied for a series low and would've gotten many other shows in many other situations axed. But its midseason 2012 run in the 8:00 hour saw the show consistently drop behind those levels, and it remained at those depths for most of the final season. It got as low as a 1.1 demo twice in the final season, on 12/6/12 and for a special Wednesday Halloween episode on 10/31/12.

Then vs. now: 30 Rock has never been much of a ratings performer, but it was not exactly a complete flop kept around solely for prestige reasons either. Its Office retention was always good-not-great, and despite a weak season five in raw numbers, it did OK in the situations it was given, usually building from Community at 8:30 and then retaining almost all of the Office-fueled Parks & Recreation in the spring. But its days of winning Outstanding Comedy Series Emmys finally came to an end, and season six saw the show become a legitimately weak-rated program for the first time since early season one. That had the show on the bubble, and while it survived, it did so with just 13 episodes and a final season announcement. Another drop in the last season probably leaves NBC with no regrets.

Adults 18-49 info by season:

Seas Year Timeslot Avg y2y Lo Hi Results Grade
12006-07Wed 9, Th 9:30, Th 92.561.73.2detail
22007-08Thursday 8:302.85+11%2.53.4detail
32008-09Thursday 9:303.30+16%2.44.1detail
52010-11Thu 8:30, Thu 10:002.27-18%1.73.1detailC+
62011-12Thu 8:00, Thu 8:301.54-32%1.22.0detailD+
72012-13Thursday 8:001.37-11%1.11.9detailC+

Historical-adjusted ratings by season:

Seas Year A18-49+ Label Now15 y2y Lo Hi Premiere Finale
12006-07 68 flop1.14 45 85 77 64
22007-08 86 marginal1.45 +26% 76 103 103 79
32008-09 110 solid1.85 +28% 80 136 136 93
42009-10 99 marginal1.66 -10% 68 117 107 96
52010-11 89 marginal1.50 -9% 67 122 102 83
62011-12 65 flop1.09 -27% 51 85 76 59
72012-13 65 flop1.09 -0% 52 90 66 90

For more on The War of 18-49, my look at the history of primetime TV's veteran shows, see the Index.

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