THE BACHELOR/BACHELORETTE (ABC)
Scheduling history: 20 of the 27 seasons of the Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise have aired on Monday, but the franchise was by far at its strongest for the seven seasons on Wednesday. 6 of the 7 Wednesday seasons averaged a 5.0+ demo, while nothing on Monday has.
See (who saw) how it all began: The series premiere of The Bachelor on 3/25/02 managed 9.9 viewers and a 4.0/9 in adults 18-49, which was a fine start for an ABC show during the tough early 2000's, but a relatively modest number considering the heights the show would soon achieve. It built to a 4.4 demo in week two, a 4.6 in week three, and continued upward until the season 1 finale managed 18.19 million viewers and a 7.3/17 demo.
The best of times: The 2002-03 season was clearly the peak of the Bachelor phenomenon, with three of the series' four highest-rated cycles, as well as the highest-rated cycle for each different time of the year (fall, winter, spring). No other airing has even come within 20% of the season 2 finale on 11/19/02, which scored a huge 11.9/28 demo, but the first season of the Bachelorette was probably the most consistently strong season in franchise history, including a premiere (8.4/20 demo on 1/8/03) that was 40% stronger than any other season premiere for the franchise. 2002-03 was the first of three straight years in which The Bachelor/ette ran three cycles per regular season, with The Bachelor in the fall/spring and The Bachelorette in the winter.
The worst of times: By the end of those three years of three cycles, the ratings erosion was considerable, especially in the 2004-05 season which was otherwise brilliant for ABC. Though plenty of people have listed the shows that failed to capitalize on the Lost lead-in, one that often gets left out is the very first: The Bachelor, whose season 6 after the first season of Lost was much weaker than any previous cycle. The show moved to Monday after that weak season, and for the 2005-06 season there was just one cycle for the franchise, a winter run for The Bachelor. The show got back onto a fall/spring schedule for the next two seasons, but ratings continued to sputter, bottoming out with season 12 in spring 2008. The 2.2 demo on 1/9/12 is the lowest regular season performance yet (though it matched it with a 2.2 vs. the Winter Olympics on 2/17/14). The weakest overall seasons were the last few Bachelorettes, which got as low as a 1.7 on 7/31/11 and again on 6/3/13 and 6/17/13.
Then vs. now: After that weak season 12, a couple adjustments to the formula created a pretty remarkable turnaround for The Bachelor/ette. First, The Bachelorette returned (it had been dormant for about 3.5 years) as a summer show, and the franchise was skedded as a summer/winter program, filling in the first couple hours of Monday between Dancing with the Stars cycles. Second, and perhaps most importantly, was the adoption of a "continuing storyline" concept in which the star of each season was someone scorned by the star of a previous season. The show had done this in the past with The Bachelorette, but not The Bachelor. They began it again with the Bachelorette revival in summer 2008 and have used it for each cycle since, peaking with single dad Jason Mesnick's season in 2009. That was the highest-rated cycle in a whooping five years, something you just don't see too often in primetime these days. The momentum continued from there, with the 2010 Bachelor season only barely down and The Bachelorette growing in 2009 and 2010. It appeared to be back on the downturn after two Bachelor seasons each dropping more than 20% year-to-year, but yet another turnaround came with the winter 2013 season, which didn't have to face The Voice.
Adults 18-49 info by season:
|1||Spring 2002||Monday 9:00||4.95||3.7||7.3||detail|
|2||Fall 2002||Wednesday 9:00||7.87||4.9||11.9||detail|
|7||Spring 2005||Monday 9:00||3.52||1.82||2.9||3.9||detail|
|8||Winter 2006||Monday 10:00||3.99||2.06||2.7||5.1||detail|
|13||Winter 2009||Monday 8:00||4.11||2.90||3.1||6.7||detail|
|Premiere||Average||Finale||P -> F|
|Fall 2003||159||big hit||+22%||-18%||-26%||+47%|
|1||Winter 2003||Wednesday 9:00||7.85||6.0||9.3||detail|
|3||Winter 2005||Monday 9:00||3.95||2.05||3.3||5.0||detail|
|4||Summer 2008||Monday 8:00||2.55||1.64||1.8||3.7||detail|
|Premiere||Average||Finale||P -> F|
Note on Bachelor/ette averages: This is another of my convoluted averaging quirks, but I ain't Nielsen, so deal with it; I'm only including After the Final Rose specials if they are on the show's regular night. Some of the ATFR specials early in the run were much, much lower than any of the other airings that season, and I didn't want them distorting the averages too much, since they just don't look like ratings that would be a part of those seasons.
For more on The War of 18-49, my look at the history of primetime TV's veteran shows, see the Index.