Wednesday, June 1, 2011

War of 18-49 Update Rubric

Starting today, we're getting back into "War of 18-49 Update" mode. These are short posts in which I take a look at how an individual show rated this season. At the end, I give the season of ratings a letter grade. You don't have to lurk at a site that grades individual TV episodes very long to notice that a lot of people get really obsessive about grades. Just in case that ever happens here, I thought I'd give a look at how I come up with the grades, although there is still going to be some subjectivity/"gut feel." These are just my general guidelines.

1. Year-to-year. This is by far the most important part of these grades, and the raw year-to-year percentage rise or drop is always going to be the starting point for a grade. This is roughly how these break down:

A: significantly up year-to-year, and/or a series high season for a veteran show (these will be very rare)
A-: up year-to-year
B+: even or slightly up year-to-year
B: slightly down year-to-year (0 to 5 percent)
B-: slightly down year-to-year (5 to 10 percent)
C+: down year-to-year (10 to 15 percent)
C: down year-to-year (12 to 18 percent)
C-: down year-to-year (15 to 20 percent)
D+: down year-to-year (18 to 23 percent)
D: down year-to-year (20 to 25 percent)
D-: down year-to-year (25 to 30+ percent)
F: down year-to-year (30+ percent)

2. Year-to-year-to-year-to... Beyond just the year-to-year drop, it's also important to look at how the year-to-year drop fits in with the show's historical trajectory. If the show's been even for five years and then suddenly drops 20%, that's probably a drop I should look at more harshly. If the show's been dropping 20% each of the last five years and then is suddenly down just 5%, I'll be more kind to that season.

3. Other expectations changers. Obviously a show that moves to Friday is going to be expected to drop quite a bit, so in that move it will get a bit of a pass. If a show has some big casting overhaul, I'll probably be more likely to go easy on the season. And on the flip side, a show whose timeslot is "upgraded" will be judged more harshly.

4. Raw numbers. I don't factor in raw adults 18-49 ratings too much. If that were all this was about, you could just look at a ranking of all the shows in primetime and just put descending grades down the list. I think it's more interesting to grade the shows within the realm of the show historically. But for shows that are still particularly strong, I might bump the grade up a notch or two to recognize their still-dominant place in primetime. If a longtime ratings dud has an even season, I don't think it should get a great grade just because it stayed flat at nothing, so I'll be a little more harsh on that. But I want to reiterate that the raw numbers are only a small consideration. These grades are more about how the show did relative to the previous history of the show.

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