Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The War of 18-49, The Unit


Why post this on Tuesday? Military drama The Unit aired its first three seasons on the night, then moved to Sunday for its final season.

See (who saw) how it all began: The Unit was a midseason replacement for CBS during the 2005-06 season, but its premiere was pretty strong: 18.50 million viewers and a 5.1/12 demo on March 3, 2006. It dropped just 4% to a 4.9 demo in week two, but from there most of its spring 2006 episodes would rate in the upper 3's and low 4's.

The best of times: Season 1 was the best of times for The Unit, with the 5.1 and 4.9 demos of the first two weeks finishing up as the show's two best ratings ever and the 4.6 demo of week four finishing as the third best rating ever. Eight of 13 season 1 episodes broke the 4.0 demo threshold, but only one episode in the subsequent three seasons would do that.

The worst of times: The Unit's worst of times came in its fourth and final season, after CBS moved it to that Sunday 10:00 timeslot where so many recent CBS dramas have gone to die thanks to long football overruns. The show didn't take that huge of a hit in the move and has held up in that last 10:00 season better than, say, Cold Case did, but it didn't do enough to change CBS' mind; after all, when you get moved to that Sunday 10:00 hour, you're usually on the way out anyway. Its series low was a 1.8 demo on 12/21/08.

Then vs. now: It obviously had a shorter run than CSI: NY, but The Unit's trajectory reminds me of that show. It premiered to very solid numbers and usually outshone its NCIS lead-in early on. But as The Unit dropped in seasons 2 and 3, NCIS would stay fairly steady, and The Unit eventually fell behind and then way behind lead-in NCIS. That led to (like CSI:NY in the 2010-11 season) the show getting dumped in a lower priority timeslot and eventually axed. Meanwhile, CBS has manufactured two solid performers (The Mentalist and NCIS: LA) in that post-NCIS timeslot, so it's hard to say they made the wrong decision by deprioritizing this one.

Adults 18-49 info by season:

Seas Year Timeslot Avg y2y Lo Hi Results Grade
12005-06Tuesday 9:



42008-09Sunday 10:002.42-19%1.82.7

Historical-adjusted ratings by season:

Seas Year A18-49+ Label Now15 y2y Lo Hi Premiere Finale
12005-06 104 solid1.75 91 126 126 106
22006-07 89 marginal1.50 -14% 74 109 90 82
32007-08 90 marginal1.52 +1% 82 106 85 85
42008-09 80 marginal1.35 -11% 60 90 86 80

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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