Thursday, August 19, 2010

The War of 18-49, CSI


Scheduling history: CSI has aired about 10.5 of its seasons to date as one of the defining shows of Thursday night. Only the first half of season 1 on Friday and the three Wednesday seasons have gone elsewhere. It moved to Sunday, its fourth regular night, in 2014-15.

See (who saw) how it all began: CSI began on 10/6/00 with 17.0 million viewers and a 5.4 demo (preliminary), which don't really look like anything too world-shattering considering it was twelve years ago. But of course, the important thing to note is that this was a Friday number. By Friday standards, even back then, it was a pretty pleasant surprise, and seemed to suggest there was a lot of potential there. Most of its Friday airings during fall 2000 would score in the mid- to upper-4's in the demo.

The best of times: But CSI was not going to achieve its maximum ratings on Friday. It had to be moved, and a post-Survivor slot on Thursday was the ticket. Its demos shot up at least three points in the second half of season 1, and the growth would continue for the next couple seasons until the show settled in with an average between a 9.0 and 10.0 from seasons 3 through 6. The series high was an 11.6 demo, achieved on 10/17/02 and for the 100th episode on 11/18/04. It cracked the double digit demo plateau during 5 different seasons (2 through 6) and was one of the monsters of primetime for at least half a decade, even if sometimes overshadowed on its own night by the ratings of Friends and ER.

The worst of times: The first real challenge to CSI's dominance was ABC's move of Grey's Anatomy to the night in fall 2006, and what a challenge it was! After airing six seasons without a single season-to-season drop larger than 9%, beginning with the Grey's arrival the drops were -24%, -16%, -18%, a whooping -28% in 2009-10, and another -13% in 2010-11. As with ER, the show went from the top of the pedestal to a very middle of the road program in just a few short years. The show held up quite well in the first year of its Wednesday run, but it dropped big again in 2012-13 and 2013-14. That led to a Sunday move for 2014-15, where the show went far below anything it had done in previous seasons. If it gets cancelled, the series low would actually come for the series finale: a pair of 1.1 ratings on 2/15/15.

Then vs. now: Of course, we can't give Grey's Anatomy all the credit for the fall of CSI. After all, that show did plenty of its own ratings plummeting. Especially in the last couple years, more of the credit in the CSI case should go to the cast upheavals. This show has not been able to keep its core cast intact, and especially the loss of William Petersen in season 9 had a tangible effect on the show within that season and especially in the 28% drop in season 10. 2009-10 marked the first season ever that CSI was actually outrated by one of its spinoffs. However, the show managed to reverse its course of bad casting in 2011-12, as the Ted Danson/Elisabeth Shue pair helped the show withstand its first timeslot move in over a decade. CSI's first season on Wednesday amazingly saw its smallest year-to-year decline in six years, and the cancellation of CSI: NY means that CSI has officially outlived both of its very successful spin-offs.

Adults 18-49 info by season:

Seas Year Timeslot Avg y2y Lo Hi Results Grade
12000-01Fri 9:00, Thu 9:006.704.49.3detail
22001-02Thursday 9:008.88+33%6.610.5detail
122011-12Wednesday 10:002.72-8%2.33.4detailB
152014-15Sunday 10:001.35-29%1.11.8detailC-

Historical-adjusted ratings by season:

Seas Year A18-49+ Label Now15 y2y Lo Hi Premiere Finale
22001-02 206 megahit3.47 153 244 181 225
32002-03 226 megahit3.81 +10% 188 262 260 188
42003-04 234 megahit3.93 +3% 160 267 239 217
52004-05 244 megahit4.10 +4% 204 284 280 260
62005-06 224 megahit3.77 -8% 182 261 251 204
72006-07 184 big hit3.09 -18% 138 223 204 165
82007-08 174 big hit2.93 -5% 127 248 248 148
92008-09 158 big hit2.66 -9% 113 236 236 113
102009-10 121 solid2.03 -24% 99 146 146 117
112010-11 116 solid1.96 -4% 90 134 134 102
122011-12 115 solid1.93 -1% 97 144 135 102
132012-13 109 solid1.83 -5% 90 123 119 95
142013-14 101 solid1.70 -7% 85 111 106 101
152014-15 80 marginal1.35 -20% 65 107 83 107
AVERAGE (2001-15):164big hit
CAREER (2001-15):2293

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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