Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The War of 18-49, The Bachelor/Bachelorette


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:

The Bachelor

Seas Year Timeslot AvgNow Lo HiResults Grade
1Spring 2002Monday 9:004.953.77.3detail
2Fall 2002Wednesday 9:007.874.911.9detail
3Spring 2003 5.994.77.2detail
4Fall 20036.443.344.88.8detail
5Spring 20045.222.714.26.0detail
6Fall 20043.681.913.33.9detail
7Spring 2005Monday 9:003.521.822.93.9detail
8Winter 2006Monday 10:003.992.062.75.1detail
9Fall 20063.271.842.73.9detail
10Spring 20073.822.153.44.8detail
11Fall 20073.532.273.24.2detail
12Spring 20082.711.742.33.2detail
13Winter 2009Monday 8:004.112.903.16.7detail
14Winter 20104.
15Winter 20113.262.722.74.7detailC
16Winter 20122.572.292.23.3detailC-
17Winter 20132.752.752.33.8detailB+
18Winter 20142.562.782.23.8detailB+

Year A18-49+ Label Year-to-Year In-Season
Premiere Average Finale P -> F
Spring 2002+83%
Fall 2002+143%
Spring 2003+25%+21%-1%+44%
Fall 2003159big hit+22%-18%-26%+47%
Spring 2004129hit+4%-13%-17%+15%
Fall 200491marginal-38%-43%-57%+3%
Spring 200587marginal-29%-33%-35%+5%
Winter 200698marginal-27%+13%+31%+89%
Fall 200687marginal+26%
Spring 2007102solid+37%-4%-6%+30%
Fall 2007108solid+13%+8%+8%+20%
Spring 200882marginal-14%-29%-33%+0%
Winter 2009138hit-3%+52%+69%+74%
Winter 2010146hit+6%-1%-2%+61%
Winter 2011129hit-12%-20%-15%+55%
Winter 2012109solid-17%-21%-36%+38%
Winter 2013131hit-4%+7%+31%+65%
Winter 2014134hit+17%-7%-6%+22%

The Bachelorette

Seas Year Timeslot AvgNow Lo HiResults Grade
1Winter 2003Wednesday 9:007.856.09.3detail
2Winter 20045.112.654.16.2detail
3Winter 2005Monday 9:003.952.053.35.0detail
4Summer 2008Monday 8:002.551.641.83.7detail
5Summer 20092.631.852.13.5detail
6Summer 20102.982.252.53.8detail
7Summer 20112.442.041.72.8detailD+
8Summer 20122.422.161.93.1detailB+
9Summer 20131.981.981.72.6detailC

Year A18-49+ Label Year-to-Year In-Season
Premiere Average Finale P -> F
Winter 2003+11%
Winter 2004126hit-33%-35%-33%+11%
Winter 200597marginal-23%-23%-45%-21%
Summer 200878marginal+17%
Summer 200988marginal+3%+3%+3%+17%
Summer 2010107solid-7%+14%+9%+36%
Summer 201197marginal+0%-18%-26%+0%
Summer 2012102solid-7%-1%+11%+19%
Summer 201394marginal-27%-18%-16%+37%

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.

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