Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The War of 18-49, American Idol


Scheduling history: The first nine American Idol seasons aired on Tuesday and Wednesday. For the 2010-11 season, Fox moved the show to Wednesday/Thursday, forming a reality competition 'wheel' that would run year-round with Idol and (at least for a couple years) The X Factor and So You Think You Can Dance. Revived on ABC in 2018, the show aired on Sunday and Monday.

See (who saw) how it all began: Would you believe me if I told you the show that has been the single most dominant force in primetime TV for the second half of the aughts premiered with less than 10 million viewers watching?  It's the truth; Idol snagged 9.85 million viewers and a 4.8/14 demo on June 11, 2002. Yes, June. This show didn't start off as a regular season megahit. It rose to a 5.2 demo for its second airing the next day, then hovered around the 5.0 mark for most of the first half of the debut season.  Pretty darn good for a summer show, but it was hard to tell just how big a revolution this show would be until the second half of the season.

The best of times: Seasons 4-6 are the clear best raw numbers run for the show, with nearly every airing from those seasons breaking double digit demos. Season 5 was the consistently strongest, with all but two airings finishing above a 10.0 and posting the second-strongest premiere (15.3, behind only season 6's 15.8) and second-strongest finale (14.2, behind only season 2's 14.9) in the history of the show. It was that whooping 15.8/36 demo to kick off season 6 on 1/16/07 that still stands as the series high. But the show maintained about the same lead over the rest of the entertainment field for several seasons after that raw numbers peak. 2011 was the show's last really impressive season, as it dropped only around 5%.

The worst of times: For the first decade of the show's existence, season 1 remained easily the weakest, particularly the ~5.0 demo from the first half of the season. It's amazing in this day and age that it took till season 11 for the show to return to and finally plunge beneath those early season one numbers. The last four seasons have seen declines much faster than league average, taking the show from the anomaly of a decade to very much a mere mortal. Season 14 brought another slew of new lows, including a mere 1.3 demo for a special Tuesday show on 5/12/15. But the final season on Fox brought some real redemption, never going below a 1.7. For at least one ABC season, it did not get any lower than the 1.3 nadir on Fox, and it held off going fractional in the second ABC season.

Then vs. now: For five straight years after Idol's peak raw numbers season in 2006, the show saw ratings declines. And yet none of those declines were alarming in the least, because none of them were significantly speedier than the declines of primetime series ratings in general. The show in 2011 was not in a very different place from the show in 2006; it pulled about three times the rating of the average big four series original. That all changed in 2012, as a show that had never dropped 20% on any night suddenly dropped by more than 30% on both nights. But even with that, and even with several returning comedy hits having extreme breakout seasons, Idol was still the top entertainment program on TV. That really says all you need to know about how far ahead of the pack Idol sat for so long. The 2013 season finally saw Idol become just another part of the pack of elite shows, as both nights were handily outrated by several scripted shows. And it fell out of even the elite group in 2014. It may have been a brutal four years for Idol, but it took only one season after its end on Fox to get revived at ABC. And while it didn't get anywhere close to peak Idol, it was still a stronger show than in the worst years of the Fox collapse.

Adults 18-49 info by season:

1Summer 2002Tuesday 9:
Wednesday 9:306.453.410.7
22003Tuesday 8:009.78+61%6.212.4detail
Wednesday 8:3010.33+60%7.316.8
32004Tuesday 8:0010.86+11%8.513.1detail
Wednesday 8:0010.35+0%6.213.2
42005Tuesday 8:0011.10+2%9.014.0detail
Wednesday 9:0011.14+8%8.612.5
52006Tuesday 8:0012.83+16%11.015.3detail
Wed 8:00, Wed 9:0011.69+5%9.214.2
62007Tuesday 8:0011.74-8%9.315.8detail
Wed 8:00, Wed 9:0011.72+0%9.115.5
72008Tuesday 8:0010.43-11%6.813.8detail
Wed 8:00, Wed 9:009.80-16%7.012.6
82009Tuesday 8:009.11-13%7.811.7detail
Wed 8:00, Wed 9:009.02-8%7.111.8
92010Tuesday 8:008.35-8%6.211.8detail
Wed 8:00, Wed 9:007.40-18%5.910.1
102011Wednesday 8:007.82-6%6.49.7detailA-
Thursday 8:007.10-4%5.79.2
112012Wednesday 8:005.33-32%4.47.9detailD
Thursday 8:004.89-31%3.96.4
122013Wednesday 8:003.90-27%2.96.0detailD
Thursday 8:003.68-25%2.65.6
132014Wednesday 8:002.67-32%1.74.7detailD-
Thu 8:00, Thu 9:002.57-30%1.53.9
142015Wednesday 8:002.05-23%1.33.4detailD+
Thursday 8:002.25-13%1.73.1
15Winter 2016Wednesday 8:002.41+18%2.03.0detailA-
Thursday 8:002.16-4%1.73.0
16Spring 2018Sunday 8:001.671.32.3detailB+
Monday 8:001.561.41.9
17Spring 2019Sunday 8:001.32-21%1.01.7detailC+
Monday 8:001.14-27%1.11.2
18Spring 2020Sunday 8:001.22-8%0.91.5detailB+
2020Monday 8:001.28+13%1.21.4
19Spring 2021Sunday 8:000.87-28%0.81.2detailC
Monday 8:000.69-46%0.60.8
20Spring 2022Sunday 8:000.79-9%0.61.1detailA-
Monday 8:000.69-1%0.60.7
21Spring 2023Sunday 8:000.70-12%0.50.9detailB+
Monday 8:000.56-18%0.50.6

Historical-adjusted ratings by season:

1Summer 2002141mega(sum)0.60105216112216
122013185big hit0.79-18%138285285142
175big hit0.75-15%123266266171
15Winter 2016166big hit0.71+36%138204204151
16Spring 2018153big hit0.65117210210117
17Spring 2019139hit0.59-9%107176176153
18Spring 2020148hit0.63+7%109179179121
2020157big hit0.67+31%143171143171
19Spring 2021135hit0.58-9%118181181136
20Spring 2022155big hit0.66+15%127208182149
21Spring 2023164big hit0.70+6%120216143195

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

1 comment:

Spot said...

I assume the numbers have yet to be calculated for this season (2014); but based the ratings (2.67 and 2.57), I gather that we'll its ratings index drop to around 130 for both days. I have little doubt that this show will be demoted once again, down from "big hit" to "hit". At less than 130, though, it runs the risk of being demoted straight down to "solid". We could see this show demoted yet again next year, down to "marginal". Anything less than 1.5 on the average for either day (small chance, though it may be, even though it lost more than a full point from the 2013 season), and this show could fall into "flop" territory.

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