Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Hawaii Five-0 and Other "Mini-Super Bowl" Lead-outs

CBS announced yesterday that Hawaii Five-0 would become the latest show to get the "mini-Super Bowl" lead-in by airing after the AFC Championship game. The show to get some high-profile exposure after the Super Bowl is always the subject of a great deal of discussion in TV industry circles, and lots has been written about all those shows' performances historically. (I may do one of my own as we near Super Bowl time.) Less covered is the fact that other post-playoff game special airings have become a bit of a tradition in their own right. Which championship game ends during primetime alternates from year to year, and since it typically doesn't end till after 10:00 on the East Coast (already out of Fox's shortened primetime), Fox has been using the earlier-ending division round games on Sunday as the high-profile lead-in instead. I'm not exactly sure when the networks started doing this, but the first year I can see that they definitely did it was 2005, so I'll start there and look at a history of "Mini-Super Bowl" lead-outs.

1/23/05 - Leading out of an AFC Championship game that pulls 44.33 million viewers and a 17.6/39 demo, the series premiere of Numb3rs pulls a rather huge 24.92 million viewers and a 9.2/21 demo. It would not take anything nearing that audience with it to its Friday premiere five days later, but it still got a whooping 5.0 demo on Friday and would eventually run for six seasons, so it seems well-used.

1/15/06 - The fifth and best season of 24 premieres after an NFC Divisional game to 16.25 million viewers and a 7.0/15 demo, the highest numbers in series history.

1/21/07 - The AFC Championship Game gets 46.70 million viewers and a 17.6/39 demo, then Without a Trace drops huge to 13.71 million viewers and a 4.7/13 demo. In fairness to Trace, the Sunday 10:00 hour was actually its regular timeslot, so this particular airing may not have had the "special-ness" of some of the others. But it wasn't even the high point of that one Trace season on Sunday!

1/13/08 - Fox follows an NFC Divisional game (40.01m, 15.1/43 A18-49) with the premiere of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which gets a tremendous 18.36 million viewers and 7.7 demo, numbers that haven't since been duplicated for any scripted series premiere. The show fizzled after two seasons, but that certainly wasn't because it was unsampled.

1/18/09 - After the AFC Championship (40.64m, 14.7/36 A18-49), CBS goes with freshman drama The Mentalist, which posts 16.39 million viewers and a 4.6/12 demo. The exposure certainly made the audience younger than usual, as that remains a series high in the demo but was actually a below-average season one Mentalist episode in viewers.

1/17/10 - Fox was planning to premiere new drama Human Target in the post-NFC Division timeslot, but a late switcheroo by the NFL put the Fox game earlier in the afternoon and left Target out in the cold. It'd premiere to 10.12 million viewers and a 2.9 demo in the 8:00 hour, its first of four original airings in four different timeslots to begin its run.

So what can be gleaned from this brief history?  Well, unlike the post-Super Bowl slot (or at least the post-Super Bowl slot before Undercover Boss broke out), the two best performances by far were the two series premieres. Based on what we've seen from Five-0 this year, I'd expect it to rate below the Trace and Mentalist numbers, but still significantly higher than recent eps.

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