Thursday, July 15, 2010

The War of 18-49, Supernatural


Scheduling history: Supernatural began on Tuesday, aired for 4.5 seasons on Thursday, then got two more on Friday. Fall 2012 brought its fourth different night as the CW gave it a shot on Wednesday, and in fall 2013 it headed back to Tuesday. Late in season ten it returned to Wednesday, where it paired with Arrow again for 2015-16. In 2016-17, it's heading back to Thursday, which it's easy to forget is actually its most frequent night. Season 12 brought the show's first regular timeslot in the 8:00 hour.

See (who saw) how it all began: Supernatural premiered on 9/13/05 with 5.69 million viewers and a 2.5 demo.  Both of those were the second best numbers in series history. It stayed solid in week two, dropping just 12% to a 2.2 demo, and spent most of its post-Gilmore Girls run over a 2.0 demo.

The best of times: Although Supernatural has become known as part of a compatible and solid pairing with Smallville or The Vampire Diaries since 2006, the show never had ratings as high as in its first 16 episodes airing on Tuesday out of Gilmore Girls, when it frequently broke the 4 million viewers and 2.0 demo thresholds.  The series highs were in that timeslot, when it snagged 5.82 million viewers and a 2.6/6 on 1/31/06. But after making a historical adjustment, its return to Tuesday 9/8c in season nine was even more impressive. The season average easily exceeded season one's A18-49+, and the 1.2 demo with which Supernatural kicked off that season (and then hit again on 1/28/14) is roughly the adjusted equivalent of that 2.6 from eight years previous.

The worst of times: Following four fairly similarly rated seasons on Thursday, the CW moved Supernatural to Friday, where it dropped 19% year-to-year, then plummeted another 26% in 2011-12 after losing the Smallville lead-in. That brought the show to easily its lowest levels to date. It had never dropped below the 1.0 demo threshold before that Friday season, but it got as low as a 0.6 demo on 3/23/12. It took a few more years to hit 0.6 again, but it got there several times in seasons 10 and 11 before hitting its first 0.5's in season 12. It hit an unfortunate 0.3 for a Thanksgiving airing during season 13, as well as a couple 0.4's late in the season, and returned to 0.3 a few more times in season 14. Season 15 brought the first 0.2's.

Then vs. now: Supernatural has been a decent performer for several years, but it doesn't bring loads of The CW's long-coveted W18-34 demographic. So despite not taking big drops across its Thursday run, the CW deprioritized it by moving it to Friday and giving Nikita its longtime slot. Even after its Smallville lead-in ended the next season, its demos (at least in 18-49) still outshone many CW offerings on more important days. Combined with new CDub head Mark Pedowitz's focus on the whole 18-34 demo, not just women, that means Supernatural got a surprising timeslot upgrade at this late stage of the game. It worked out beautifully in season eight as the show pretty much surged back to where it'd been in A18-49+ before the Friday move. But even greater things were ahead in the season nine move, where it shockingly grew to its biggest historical-adjusted levels ever and paired with strong newbie The Originals to form the network's strongest night. CW execs always seemed hesitant to talk about an end date for the network's last pre-CW scripted series, and it was easy to see why, but that talk finally ramped up alongside a major ratings drop in season 14. Season 15 (plus a brief return to production to wrap things up) will be the end of an incredible story of longevity.

Adults 18-49 info by season:

12005-06Tuesday 9:001.941.32.6detail
22006-07Thursday 9:001.38-29%1.21.7detail
62010-11Friday 9:000.99-19%0.81.3detailB
82012-13Wednesday 9:000.92+25%0.71.0detailA-
92013-14Tuesday 9:001.00+8%0.71.2detailA
102014-15Tue 9:00, Wed 9:000.80-20%0.61.1detailC-
112015-16Wednesday 9:000.72-10%0.60.9detailB+
122016-17Thu 9:00, Thu 8:000.60-17%0.50.8detailB
132017-18Thursday 8:000.55-8%0.30.7detailB+

Historical-adjusted ratings by season:

15Fall 2019-2035solid(CW)0.23-17%28464441


The War of 18-49 chronicles the ratings history of veteran primetime series. For more, see the Index.

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