Friday, January 21, 2011

Still a Death Star?



You've probably heard by now that the return of American Idol has been fairly steeply down year-to-year: the Wednesday premiere was down 18% in adults 18-49 from last year's Tuesday premiere, and the Thursday debut was down 23% from last year's first Wednesday airing. But the story of Idol ratings is not about just what it's doing, but also about whether the shows it's up against are gaining ground.


I'm looking at all the original airings against Idol premiere week the last three years and comparing them to their previous same-timeslot originals. I may add some more years later, as it would be cool to see just how big a "Death Star" it was at its peak.

2011 pre- post- change
Live to Dance* 1.8 1 -44%
Wipeout 3.7 2.6 -30%
Minute to Win It* 2.1 1.6 -24%
Better with You 2.5 2.1 -16%
Cougar Town 2.8 2.4 -14%
The Middle 3 2.6 -13%
Criminal Minds 3.3 2.9 -12%
Big Bang Theory 4.4 4.2 -5%
Modern Family* 4.8 4.6 -4%
$#*! My Dad Says 2.9 2.8 -3%
Community 1.9 2.2 +16%
AVERAGE

-14%
*- I'm making the Modern, Minute, and Live to Dance comparisons to their originals two weeks ago, as they aired last week in weird timeslots because of the Tucson coverage and had deflated numbers as a result.

2010 pre- post- change
The Biggest Loser 4.6 3.2 -30%
Gary Unmarried 2.5 1.9 -24%
Old Christine 2.3 1.8 -22%
Modern Family 4.1 3.3 -20%
The Middle 2.6 2.1 -19%
NCIS: Los Angeles 3.7 3 -19%
Scrubs 1.4 1.2 -14%
Mercy 1.7 1.5 -12%
Better Off Ted 1.1 1 -9%
NCIS 4.4 4.3 -2%
Criminal Minds* 3.8 3.8 0%
AVERAGE

-16%
*- Only half of Minds aired against Idol, which had a 90-minute Wednesday premiere in 2010.

2009 pre- post- change
13: Fear is Real 1.1 0.6 -45%
Privileged 0.8 0.5 -38%
Scrubs 3.15 2.2 -30%
The Biggest Loser 4.5 3.3 -27%
Homeland Security USA 2.3 1.8 -22%
90210 1.4 1.1 -21%
Criminal Minds 3.9 3.2 -18%
Gary Unmarried 2.3 2.1 -9%
Knight Rider 1.7 1.6 -6%
The Mentalist 4 3.8 -5%
Old Christine 2 1.9 -5%
NCIS 3.8 3.7 -3%
AVERAGE

-19%

Conclusions? Well, yeah, it's still pretty much a Death Star, on average chewing a double digit percentage out of the shows that go up against it. The average drop against Idol premiere week is about the same, and that average has only gotten a little less bad because the CDub stopped throwing originals up against it as of 2010. It tends to wipe out (pun!) reality shows both large and small to a larger extent than scripted, with every single unscripted show taking a 20%+ hit. And Community, admirably, became the first show to increase against the Death Star in the last three years. (Minute to Win It and Modern Family also count if you go with last week's weird start time telecasts.)

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