Thursday, August 26, 2010

The War of 18-49, Smallville


Why post this on Thursday? Smallville's run actually had the extremely rare distinction of airing multiple seasons on four different nights of the week. It continually moved later and later in the week as it went on. While Thursday wasn't its highest-rated night, it was the only night where it aired more than two seasons, taking up shop there for four seasons from fall 2005 through spring 2009. It aired its first two seasons on Tuesday, the next two on Wednesday, then four on Thursday, then its last two on Friday.

See (who saw) how it all began: The 8.35 million viewers and 3.8/9 in adults 18-49 for the Smallville premiere on 10/16/01 were WB records for a series premiere, and it set several other records for any episode in younger demos. And it held up quite well in week two with a 3.4 demo. My very limited season 1 info indicates it spent a lot of the first season in the low 3's and upper 2's in the demo.

The best of times: With WB/CW shows it's always even tougher to find info than with some other shows, so the limited data disclaimer applies big time, but it seems Smallville's best season was the second, which saw it top the 4.0 A18-49 threshold on multiple occasions, which is a pretty stunning number for a mini-net when you consider that the entirety of The CW in 2009-10 only topped the 2.0 threshold on two occasions in 2009-10 (Vampire Diaries premiere on 9/10/09 and another TVD ep on 10/29/09). I don't really know for sure (limited data yadda yadda) but it seems Smallville hit most of its highs in that 2002-03 season, then dropped back into upper 2's, low 3's territory in the next couple seasons.

The worst of times: Smallville has just sort of trickled downward ever since season 2, remaining one of the strongest A18-49 players on whatever net it's on at the time. However, it's never been high on the priority list of the CDub's current W18-34-focused regime, so despite its still competitive A18-49 totals, it got shipped off to Friday for season 9. This was a real blow to the show, a 37% blow to be exact, and if you remember some of my Demos Year-to-Year posts, at times in 2009-10 the show even struggled to beat the year-ago averages of practically burnt-off comedies Everybody Hates Chris and The Game. No episode in all of season 9 got as high as any episode from the first 8 midweek seasons, and it got as low as a 0.7 demo on three occasions. (3/29/10, 4/5/10, 5/3/10)

Then vs. now: Like a couple other notable announced final seasons, Smallville actually did rally a bit in its tenth season. Still, most of the show's Friday episodes were down more than three-quarters from my highest available data in season 2, and even the last couple seasons on Thursday were down more than 60%. It's been another of those shows that has fallen a long way but stuck around because it had a long way to fall. And if the Dawn Ostroff-run CW were more about adults 18-34 as a whole rather than just the female portion of that demo, maybe Smallville could've gone even longer or done even better. Instead, it will have to settle for merely a ten year run, which any show would be glad to have.

Adults 18-49 info by season:

Seas Year Timeslot Avg y2y Lo Hi Results Grade
12001-02Tuesday 9:


32003-04Wednesday 8:002.42-37%1.83.0


52005-06Thursday 8:002.33+0%1.82.9




92009-10Friday 8:001.01-37%0.71.2


Historical-adjusted ratings by season:

Seas Year A18-49+ Label Now15 y2y Lo Hi Premiere Finale
12001-02 70 hit(CW)1.18 60 88 88 63
22002-03 87 hit(CW)1.46 +25% 66 99 97 81
32003-04 60 hit(CW)1.00 -31% 44 74 74 67
42004-05 57 hit(CW)0.96 -4% 44 74 74 61
52005-06 57 hit(CW)0.97 +1% 44 71 64 54
62006-07 51 hit(CW)0.85 -12% 37 61 58 48
72007-08 52 hit(CW)0.87 +2% 42 63 57 51
82008-09 54 hit(CW)0.90 +4% 43 63 60 47
92009-10 36 hit(CWFri)0.61 -33% 25 43 36 36
102010-11 42 hit(CWFri)0.71 +17% 31 51 51 51

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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