Thursday, July 29, 2010

The War of 18-49, The Office


Scheduling history: The series premiered on Thursday after The Apprentice, then moved to Tuesday for the rest of its very short first season and the first half of its second season, then went back to Thursday where it aired for the last 7.5 seasons. It was the 9/8c anchor from the beginning of season four through the end of the run.

See (who saw) how it all began: The Office had a good post-Apprentice premiere, pulling 11.23 million viewers and a 5.0/13 in the demo, but from there it moved to Tuesday and had the much lower-rated Scrubs as a lead-in. It struggled, dropping immediately below a 3.0 and bottoming out at a 2.3 for the season finale on 4/26/05.

The best of times: But between seasons 1 and 2, the turnaround was instantaneous, thanks in part to Steve Carell's ascension in the wake of The 40-Year-Old Virgin and thanks in part to the breakout performance of lead-in My Name is Earl. The show remained consistent from there, peaking in season 4 with an average above a 4.5. The Office broke the 5.0 barrier seven different times in five different seasons, and outside of the post-Super Bowl airing (not included in the average below, but it had 22.91 million viewers, 11.0/28 demo on 2/1/09) none of those were higher than a 5.1.

The worst of times: This is one of those shows like NCIS or House that took many years to finally approach the depths of the first season before it'd really found its audience. Even throwing in the big out-of-timeslot post-Apprentice premiere, that season averaged a 2.95, and no episode in the subsequent six seasons fell below that mark. But the loss of Steve Carell brought the show's first significant decline in 2011-12, with 17 of 24 episodes going sub-3.0 in that season. The show finally went below its 2004-05 low in April 2012, and it spent almost all of the final season below that mark. It got as bad as a 1.7 demo on 4/25/13, three weeks before the series finale.

Then vs. now: As of 2010-11, The Office was down just 17% from its peak season, and that made it another show that, like The Biggest Loser, looked really, really good by comparison as NBC primetime crumbled around it. But everything changed with Steve Carell's departure in 2011, as the show dropped over 20% in each of the next two seasons. Though NBC as a network showed some minor signs of life in 2012-13, The Office's depressed ratings still looked abundantly renew-worthy. But the powers that be opted to get out before things got truly embarrassing.

Adults 18-49 info by season:

Seas Year Timeslot Avg y2y Lo Hi Results Grade
12004-05Thu 9:30, Tue 9:302.952.35.0detail
22005-06Tue 9:30, Thu 9:304.15+41%3.55.1detail
32006-07Thursday 8:304.13-0%3.25.0detail
42007-08Thursday 9:004.53+10%3.65.1detail

Historical-adjusted ratings by season:

Seas Year A18-49+ Label Now15 y2y Lo Hi Premiere Finale
12004-05 72 marginal1.22 56 123 123 56
22005-06 102 solid1.72 +41% 86 126 106 96
32006-07 110 solid1.84 +7% 85 133 114 104
42007-08 137 hit2.30 +25% 109 154 154 127
52008-09 142 hit2.39 +4% 113 163 163 116
62009-10 141 hit2.37 -1% 114 171 146 121
72010-11 147 hit2.47 +4% 126 177 173 153
82011-12 117 solid1.97 -20% 89 165 165 97
92012-13 100 solid1.68 -15% 81 142 100 142

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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