If you're reading analysis of the Top Model and Hellcats premiere ratings today, you'll notice a lot of people saying that we need to wait to see how they do against full-fledged broadcast competition. And that's true, of course, but does that mean last night's numbers are totally invalid?
Here are how the early-premiering CW shows did last year pre-premiere, during the premiere week, and then in the second traditional week. The premiere week numbers are in bold. All numbers are in the CW's target demo of women 18-34.
90210 - 2.5 -> 2.3 -> 2.1 -> 2.4
Melrose Place 2.6 -> 1.8 -> 1.5 -> 1.5
America's Next Top Model 2.7 -> 2.3 -> 2.3 -> 2.8
Vampire Diaries 3.1 -> 2.6 -> 2.6 -> 2.7
Supernatural 1.7 -> 1.7 -> 1.5 -> 1.6
One Tree Hill 2.4 -> 2.3 -> 2.4
Gossip Girl 3.4 -> 2.4 -> 3.2
So of these seven shows, none of them actually rose during the traditional premiere week, and five of the seven went down. But outside of the odd Gossip Girl behavior (it did face the premiere of W18-34-heavy House, which was tied for the highest-rated scripted episode of the season in 18-49) most of them didn't drop all that much, and then I include the traditional week 2 numbers because I thought it was interesting that almost all of them had rebounded to near pre-premiere week numbers if not above. In other words, yes, it's only natural that all the broadcast premieres are probably going to hurt The CW, but once the rest of broadcast settles down, there seems to be a tendency for the CDub to "settle up."
That, of course, doesn't mean that Hellcats' 2.0 premiere in "The CW Demo" will be maintained. It could drop to a 1.5 next week and a 1.2 during traditional premiere week and I wouldn't be totally floored. I'm just saying that if that happens, don't blame the rest of broadcast. It'd be on the show itself. And I find it very hard to believe that Top Model is going to decline steeply from its already soft premiere number once broadcast gets going. The premiere week stings a bit, but on the whole I wouldn't put too much stock in the notion that the other broadcast nets will come in and slaughter the net's ratings.