Thursday, June 16, 2011

The War of 18-49, The Big Bang Theory


Scheduling history: The Big Bang Theory aired in three different Monday half-hours during its first three seasons, including in the plum slot after Two and a Half Men for season three. That prepared the show to lead off a new CBS comedy night on Thursday. It's continued in that role... but starting in season eight, it made some brief Monday returns at the beginning of the fall while CBS was airing Thursday Night Football.

See (who saw) how it all began: Big Bang didn't premiere as the megahit it would eventually become. In the first half of its first season, it could be best described as an 'expectations exceeder,' building on its How I Met Your Mother lead-in when several previous shows had failed to do so. It premiered to 9.52 million viewers and a 3.7 demo on 9/24/07, dropped to a 3.3 in week two, and would linger in the low-to-mid 3's for the next several weeks. It seemed to be on the upswing in late November, posting a 3.7 and then a 3.8 demo, but then came the WGA strike, and Big Bang was temporarily out of episodes.

The best of times: Though its season three berth in the post-Two and a Half Men slot remains (very narrowly) Big Bang's strongest raw numbers season, it's become even more valuable since its move to Thursday. 2012-13 and 2013-14 both became the largest sitcom season in A18-49+ since Friends ended. It hit a series high 6.4 demo on 1/10/13, and the 6.1 demo on 9/26/13 was the biggest historical-adjusted episode.

The worst of times: The immediate aftermath of the WGA strike was when HIMYM finally turned into something more than a perennial bubble show and picked up some serious momentum. Interestingly, it was the opposite for Big Bang. Mother moved to 8:30 after the strike and prospered, but it came at the expense of the other CBS 8:00 hour comedy. For nearly a decade, spring 2008 remained the only time Big Bang ever dropped below a 3.0 demo, and it actually did it five times in its final six episodes that season. Season ten finally brought new raw lows, but the show still nearly made it through a 12-season run without falling below 2.0. It happened just a few times late in the final season, bottoming out with a 1.8 on 4/25/19.

Then vs. now: During season four, you could at least question the logic behind CBS moving Big Bang to Thursday. After all, it took a sizable hit from that move in season four. But it still ended up with a better average than in either of its first two seasons, and that was a nice achievement considering it was opening up a whole new night of comedy for its network. But the best was still to come. Syndication exposure on TBS helped Big Bang's fifth season nearly get back to the heights of its post-Two and a Half Men days, and it did this despite its difficult timeslot; it became the first scripted show to regularly beat American Idol head-to-head. It followed up on its hot finish to 2011-12 by becoming the top broadcast entertainment program of 2012-13, and nothing came close to knocking it off its perch in 2013-14. The streak ended in 2014-15, which saw Big Bang's first historical-adjusted decline plus the emergence of a drama megahit with a higher average (Empire). But it's for the most part remained the top comedy by a wide margin (excepting a brief Roseanne explosion in 2018), and the closest thing broadcast has seen to another Friends.

Adults 18-49 info by season:

12007-08Mon 8:30, Mon 8:
22008-09Monday 8:003.79+16%3.34.5detail
32009-10Monday 9:305.26+39%4.66.0detail
42010-11Thursday 8:004.00-24%3.24.9detail
82014-15Mon 8:00, Thu 8:004.32-15%3.45.5detailC+
122018-19Thursday 8:002.28-17%1.83.2detailC+

Historical-adjusted ratings by season:

32009-10187big hit1.78+48%163213167188
42010-11157big hit1.50-16%126193193142


The War of 18-49 chronicles the ratings history of veteran primetime series. For more, see the Index.


Spot said...

I did not follow TV ratings back in 2007-08. Was TBBT considered a bubble show? If so, CBS must be happy it made the decision to keep it!

Spot said...

It may not have been a stone cold lock but I don't think it was all that close a call. It didn't have nearly as good a situation as other CBS comedies that have been cancelled with similar ratings.

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