Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Some War of 18-49 Fun Facts


Today, I continue my week of cleaning out the old Blogger by finishing up some posts I started in the recent or distant past. Anyway... the War of 18-49 has produced a ton of season-long demo averages, and those averages have in turn led to mountains of year-to-year information, most of which I have on a spreadsheet. I'm still trying to think of some way in the future to unload the gigantic quantities I have of that stuff, but for now just a few things I thought were interesting.
  • Of 48 War of 18-49 shows that aired during the 2009-10 season, only five saw an adults 18-49 increase from 2008-09: The Biggest Loser, The Bachelorette, The Amazing Race, and two scripted shows: NCIS (+12%) and Lost (+1%). 
    • Only 18 of 48 dropped by less than 10%.
    • For War of 18-49 shows, the average 2009-10 year-to-year drop was 15%. That number is up from the 13% average drop in 2008-09 and 10% in 2006-07 and 2007-08. Now you might think the increasing declines are indicative of the erosion of primetime TV in general, and on some level that may be true. But also keep in mind that these are all veteran shows, so it also has a lot to do with those shows aging. All those averages would probably look a bit better if we included younger shows that are earlier in their life cycle.
    • The three largest percentage drops year-to-year in 2009-10 involved a move to Friday: 'Til Death (-53%), Ugly Betty (-42%), and Smallville (-37%).  CSI's 28% drop was the largest for a show that returned to the same timeslot. Two of the three largest drops in 2008-09 involved a move to Friday, Supernanny (-36%) and Wife Swap (-32%), while the largest drop was for Old Christine's move from its plum timeslot (-41%). 
    For another way of determining how well shows have done over the years, I harked back to the good old days of standardized testing and calculated a percentile for each show's average within each year. (Percentile, btw, is the % of the field that finishes below you.) I only did this for the last five seasons because, beyond that, the number of shows covered starts to decline dramatically, so comparing everything becomes less useful. Still, the percentiles don't cover everything on TV, just the War of 18-49 subset which includes mostly successful shows, but I still think it works as a decent perspective on the "totem pole" as I like to call it. Not sure if I'll do a larger post with greater quantities of that info, but here are some of the more interesting tidbits:
    • Some of the biggest shows on TV have such substantial ratings that, despite their large drops each year, they remain really high on the totem pole. American Idol's performance and results still have the top two spots. Grey's Anatomy has come down a long way in five years (especially the last three), but it's still in the 90s percentile-wise. Same to a lesser extent for Desperate Housewives, which was still in the 84th percentile last season. Have their ratings gotten low enough now that they may start falling behind a lot more shows starting next year? We shall see.
    • Big droppers: 
      • Heroes was huge in its first two seasons, starting with the 87th percentile in season 1, but by season 3 it had dropped to the 66th and by season 4 all the way to the 34th.
      • Ugly Betty was never a huge hit, but its decline from the 52nd percentile in its rookie season to the 16th in its final season is quite noticeable.
      • Law & Order: SVU remains NBC's biggest drama, but in the larger picture it's fallen a long way, from the 71st percentile five years ago to the 36th last year. And the mothership L&O has been a relatively weak primetime player for quite some time now; its best season on the five-year percentile chart was its 37th percentile for its mini-resurgence in 2007-08. ER was never that weak, bottoming out with a 46th percentile showing for its penultimate season.
    • Even is the new up; people say that a lot about broadcast primetime, and when you compare everything on the broadcast totem pole, you can see what they're talking about.
      • The two best examples were the two shows that I called out at the time for having very consistent raw numbers in recent years: Two and a Half Men and Criminal Minds. In the last five years (all five of its years without the Raymond lead-in), 2.5 Men has gone from the 67th percentile all the way up to the 94th last season, which is a huge deal because you're talking about moving past some of the very biggest shows on all of TV. Criminal Minds has gone from the 47th percentile in its rookie season to the 72nd in 2009-10.
    • If even is the new up, then up is the new wayyy up:
      • NCIS has passed nearly half of its fellow War of 18-49 shows since 2005-06, going from the 40th percentile to the 80th. (And those numbers would probably be even more amazing if I went all the way back to the show's even weaker "Navy NCIS" beginnings!) All this while increasing only 0.20 in the raw A18-49.
      • The Bachelor seemed to be fading into obscurity, finishing in just the 31st percentile for its 2007-08 seasons. But because of the major uptick documented in the War of 18-49 post, it soared past about half of the field, finishing in the 79th percentile in 2009 and the 82nd in 2010.
    Like every post where I start going number-crazy, this wound up a lot longer than I intended. Hope it was interesting, and if I think of some other avenues I may do another similar one in the future!

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