Monday, August 23, 2010

The War of 18-49, 24

24 (FOX)

Why Monday? 24 aired five of its eight seasons on Monday. After the first three seasons, which were aired in a fairly conventional way on Tuesday nights across the entire broadcast regular season, Fox opted to move the show to Monday, launch it in January, and run it free of repeats. This somewhat novel approach at the time has since been adopted by many other serialized programs.

See (who saw) how it all began: 24 debuted on 11/6/01 with 11.64 million viewers and a 5.4/13 in the demo. The article from which I got that info made it pretty clear that this was a modestly disappointing start for the show, which at the time carried a huge amount of hype. If that was bad, then the above-average 19% drop in week 2 to a 4.4 demo must have looked even worse, and then it shaved off another three ticks to sit at a 4.1.  Most of my data from that point on, though, indicated that it stayed in the 4's throughout season 1 and even rallied into the mid-4's much of the time.

The best of times: An extended post-Idol stay in Season 2 produced the show's only period consistently above a 6.0 in the demo, and that season's twelve hours at a 6.0+ demo are pretty comfortably the most of any season. But I'd still maintain the strongest season of the show ratings-wise was the fifth. And I'm not just saying that because it's my favorite creatively! (Spoilers in that previous post of mine, btw.) It only dropped below a 5.0 demo in one hour out of 24, and never did so in the 9:00 hour. The 16.25 million viewers and 7.0/15 demo for the two-hour premiere on 1/15/06 are series highs. And most importantly, when comparing it to season 2 (the only one that's close from a raw numbers standpoint), we have to keep in mind that season 2 was juiced by the enormous American Idol lead-in for about half of the season, while that was the case much less frequently with season 5.

The worst of times: Season 6 was a bit of an off year, but it's still hard to paint it as an absolute downward trajectory at that point. The show really only dipped into series low, danger zone territory after it took a year off due to the WGA strike, when it dropped 24% (heh) in season 7 and then another 20% in season 8, despite having a pretty respectable lead-in in House for those two seasons. Now, the men in charge allegedly didn't even pitch a season 9 because they had no good ideas, but at an average below a 3.0 the financials were probably becoming an issue anyway.  The show actually plummeted as low as a mere 2.3 demo on 4/5/10 for a two-hour episode without the support of House. It returned to the air in 2014 in a very different ratings environment, and after a premiere that was somewhat reminiscent of old-school 24 raw ratings, it quickly settled as a merely solid-for-summer performer. It got as low as a 1.4 for four straight weeks from mid-June to early July.

Then vs. now: Much like with Lost, the network execs were presented with something of a Sophie's choice for 24 circa the year 2007. (If you'll recall, with Lost it was whether to give it an end date and potentially lose a show that's still very hot or let it meander indefinitely and potentially keep bleeding audience due to creative weakness.) In 24's case, it was whether to take a complete year off the air - and the way 24's seasons run, that's more like 18+ months - or run a strike-shortened/half-assed season 7 with what little they'd produced in winter 2008 to try to hold onto the audience. Like Lost, they chose creative integrity and waited a year to get a full season. Was it the right business decision? As with Lost, we can't really know for sure. Yes, the show dropped big time over that hiatus, but it may well have done that across two years in the other scenario. After a major drop in season eight, it was time to go.  Still, eight seasons as a very viable primetime player for something this heavily serialized is quite something. And its return in 2014 rekindled at least some brief ratings heat.

Adults 18-49 info by season:

"Redemption" Movie (11/23/08): 12.12m total viewers, 4.0/9 A18-49

Seas Year Timeslot Avg y2y Lo Hi Results Grade
12001-02Tuesday 9:
42004-05Monday 9:005.07+14%4.56.3detail
9Summer 20141.761.42.6detailC

Historical-adjusted ratings by season:

Seas Year A18-49+ Label Now15 y2y Lo Hi Premiere Finale
12001-02 98 marginal1.65 81 125 125 107
22002-03 129 hit2.16 +31% 97 147 147 145
32003-04 110 solid1.85 -15% 74 141 116 141
42004-05 124 solid2.09 +13% 110 154 154 125
52005-06 140 hit2.35 +12% 118 172 172 135
62006-07 127 hit2.14 -9% 101 162 162 101
72008-09 121 solid2.04 103 143 143 103
82009-10 104 solid1.75 -14% 82 139 139 99
9Summer 2014 93 hit(sum)1.57 74 138 138 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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