Sunday, September 26, 2010

Premiere Week Newbies: The Big Dropper


Just a preview of the many "First Two Weeks" posts to come next week... this is approximately how the "SAMPLING" (aka week one) portion of "the system" will look a week from now. Still going to wait on the CW shows until I get a look at the big 4 premiere week averages to see if I can figure out a way to adjust them, but I hope to get them on the list as well.

SAMPLING
$#*! My Dad Says 4.0
Hawaii Five-0 3.9
Mike & Molly 3.9
The Event 3.6
Outsourced 3.6

Raising Hope 3.1
The Defenders 2.9
Better with You 2.5
Running Wilde 2.4
Chase 2.3

Outlaw 2.3
Detroit 1-8-7 2.3
Undercovers 2.1
My Generation 1.6
The Whole Truth 1.5
Lone Star 1.3

This is how it looked through the fall Thursday shows a year earlier (aside from the coloring to denote renewal/cancellation, lifted directly from the first ever post on "the system" on 10/2/09):

SAMPLING
The Vampire Diaries (6.3)
NCIS: LA 4.4
Cougar Town 4.4
Modern Family 4.2

Flashforward 4.0
Melrose Place (3.9)
Community 3.8
Glee 3.5
Accidentally on Purpose 3.3

The Good Wife 3.1
Eastwick 3.0
The Forgotten 2.6
Mercy 2.3
The Beautiful Life: TBL (1.8)

Now, even if you don't buy some of the stuff I say later on, just on the surface, this year's premieres through four days are weaker than last year's. Even throwing out my rudimentary 3xA18-49 multiplier for the CW shows, four 2009 premieres did at least as well as fall 2010's best. And four of 2010's premieres did worse than Mercy, the lowest big-four premiere last time around. Three of those four did much, much worse. Nine of 11 premieres at this time a year ago broke the 3.0 threshold, and just six of 15 this year. I'm gonna look more at returning show drops in a future post, but my gut right now says that the weaker premieres are not just part of a larger broadcast erosion. I don't think the returning shows are looking this bad.

Even just with the raw numbers, it looks like a weak year for new shows. But then I take it to the next level and gets even more grim: so many of this fall's newbies dropped big from their lead-ins. Here's the above list again with lead-ins added in. The big droppers are in bold.

$#*! My Dad Says 4.0 (from 4.9)
Hawaii Five-0 3.9 (from 3.9)
Mike & Molly 3.9 (from 4.9)
The Event 3.6 (from 2.0)
Outsourced 3.6 (from 4.4)

Raising Hope 3.1 (from 5.6)
The Defenders 2.9 (from 4.0)
Better with You 2.5 (from 2.7)
Running Wilde 2.4 (from 3.1)
Chase 2.3 (from 3.6)

Outlaw 2.3 (from 3.9)
Detroit 1-8-7 2.3 (from 4.4)
Undercovers 2.1 (none)
My Generation 1.6 (none)
The Whole Truth 1.5 (from 3.4)
Lone Star 1.3 (from 4.2)

So 11 of these 16 shows took pretty large drops from the shows airing before them. And even leaving out Better with You is a bit conservative considering the increase in Households Using TV (HUT) at 8:30, but I'll give it the benefit of the doubt. That leaves two shows that had no lead-in and debuted weakly (Undercovers/My Gen) and then two legitimately strong launches relative to the lead-in in Hawaii Five-0 and The Event. And even then, Five-0 merely maintained, it didn't build meaningfully.

Compare this to last year's launches. Yes, there were a few that took similarly large drops, like The Good Wife, Eastwick, and The Forgotten, and one of those (TGW) actually got renewed. But those were still near the bottom of the sampling list at this time last year. Others had good lead-ins but did much better work with them. Accidentally on Purpose and NCIS: LA, in typical CBS fashion, got good lead-ins to start, but both dropped less than 10% from them. Same with Community. Modern Family actually built big out of Dancing with the Stars, and then Cougar Town grew from Modern Family! The Cleveland Show rose seven ticks out of The Simpsons, Glee rose big out of So You Think You Can Dance, and other large premieres of the season like Flashforward and The Vampire Diaries were leading off the evening.

So does this matter? If you've been reading TVByTheNumbers long enough, you may have been convinced that lead-in retention never means anything. I started a project on this issue once, and maybe I'll finish it when things slow down. Until then, I'll offer an alternative way of looking at why dropping from a big lead-in bodes poorly; it often means the shows drop big within the airing. Here's a look at the first 15 minutes vs. last 15 minutes of each newbie.

$#*! My Dad Says 4.1/13 -> 3.8/11
Hawaii Five-0 4.1/11 -> 3.8/11
Mike & Molly 4.1/10 -> 3.8/9
The Event 3.3/8 -> 3.9/10
Outsourced 3.9/10 -> 3.3/9

Raising Hope 3.2/9 -> 2.9/8
The Defenders 3.2/9 -> 2.7/8
Better with You 2.5/7 -> 2.6/7
Running Wilde 2.5/7 -> 2.3/6
Chase 2.6/7 -> 2.2/6

Outlaw NOT AVAILABLE
Detroit 1-8-7 2.7/7 -> 2.0/6
Undercovers 2.0/7 -> 2.2/6
My Generation 1.5/5 -> 1.8/5
The Whole Truth 1.8/5 -> 1.3/4
Lone Star 1.7/4 -> 1.0/2

I included the shares just to offer a HUT-resistant measure of looking at this stuff as well. It's no coincidence that of the 10 shows that dropped big from the lead-in, all of them also dropped both in rating and share across the airing, while just one of the other five shows took a rating drop (H50) and just one took a share drop (Undercovers). I don't think it's all about viewers rejecting those 10 shows and liking the other five, I just think it should illustrate that a show taking a big lead-in drop shouldn't "count" quite as highly, because it's propped up by people leaving on the TV. It's only natural. If you need some evidence of this "propping up" thing, look no further than Outlaw's drop from a 2.3 after Got Talent to a 1.1 prelim last Friday. 50%+ drops do not happen under normal circumstances.

Last year, The Forgotten and Eastwick took big lead-in dives in week 1 and then huge overall dives in week 2, though The Good Wife was actually the only 2009-10 newbie to grow in week 2. So the power of the big lead-in for week 2 retention is still a bit inconclusive. It might seem that the "propping up" would continue going forward and help those numbers a bit. We'll see.

For now, though, I hope at least the raw numbers and maybe some of the other rather bad signs should help to show that this is a pretty dire year for new shows so far. Last season, 7 of 14 newbies at this point (50%) got a second season, two others got a full back-nine, and 12 of the 14 (only Eastwick and The Beautiful Life excepted) got some kind of episode extension. By the time all the new scripted shows were in play, 43% (13 out of 30) got renewed. It's early, of course, but I'm feeling pretty confident all those percentages are gonna be lower this time around. And I'll reiterate, I don't just think this is about the decline of primetime in general. I think even taking that stuff into account, it looks bad. We shall see!

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