Monday, July 25, 2011

The War of 18-49, Gossip Girl


Scheduling history: Gossip Girl premiered on Wednesday, but after the first half of its first season, the show has been a Monday fixture for the CW. It's bounced between the 8:00 and 9:00 hours and went back to 9:00 for its sixth and final season.

See (who saw) how it all began: Gossip Girl's run on the CW began pretty decently, as it premiered on 9/19/07 with 3.50 million viewers and a 1.6 demo. That did drop 36% from the 2.5 its lead-in America's Next Top Model pulled, but that retention's not half bad compared to most things that aired there when Top Model was still a force. Gossip Girl plummeted 31% in week two to a 1.1 demo, but then it picked back up a tenth in week three and another tenth in week four.

The best of times: For all the disparaging that has been done of Gossip Girl's ratings, there was certainly a time when it looked like this show was on its way to becoming a bonafide CW hit. Its pairing with One Tree Hill in the first half of the 2008-09 season lifted both shows to some of their most prosperous times. For Gossip Girl, that meant quite a few airings north of a 1.5 demo, including its one and only time breaking through the 2.0 plateau with 3.73 million viewers and a 2.0 demo on 9/15/08.

The worst of times: Since those fall 2008 glory days, though, it's been pretty rough sledding for Gossip Girl. The show dropped 22% in season 3, another 21% in season 4, a whooping 32% in its move back to 8/7c in 2011-12, and then another 25% in the final season. In the last couple years, it was one of the weakest shows on the entire network. For much of the final season, it stabilized at a pretty horrifying 0.4 demo, and it got as low as a 0.3 on 11/5/12 and 12/3/12.

Then vs. now: Although it did have a brief run with pretty decent ratings, Gossip Girl became (fairly or unfairly) the poster child for everything that was wrong with how the CW was run in the Dawn Ostroff era. It was the epitome of the "rich kid soap," accused of being shallow and drumming up scandal for scandal's sake. Many felt this brand of program chased a narrowly targeted demographic that wasn't ever really there. The fondly-remembered family and genre dramas of the old-school WB were abandoned, at least for a couple years, and Gossip Girl and the other "rich kid soaps" that followed signaled a pretty drastically different direction. That direction has since shifted back toward the WB image (thanks mostly to the success of The Vampire Diaries), but Gossip Girl limped along for awhile still able to brag at least about a nice concentration of those women 18-34 within its admittedly small audience. By the last couple seasons, it was abundantly clear the ratings were not where the CW needed them to be, but the show still scored one shortened final season.

Adults 18-49 info by season:

Seas Year Timeslot Avg y2y Lo Hi Results Grade
12007-08Wed 9:00, Mon 8:
22008-09Monday 8:001.40+15%1.02.0detail
32009-10Monday 9:001.09-22%0.91.4detail
52011-12Monday 8:000.59-32%0.40.7detailD-
62012-13Monday 9:000.44-25%0.30.8detailD

Historical-adjusted ratings by season:

Seas Year A18-49+ Label Now15 y2y Lo Hi Premiere Finale
12007-08 37 solid(CW)0.62 24 48 48 42
22008-09 46 hit(CW)0.78 +26% 33 66 57 37
32009-10 39 solid(CW)0.65 -17% 32 50 50 39
42010-11 34 marginal(CW)0.57 -12% 24 43 39 28
52011-12 25 marginal(CW)0.42 -27% 17 30 30 25
62012-13 21 flop0.35 -16% 14 38 19 38

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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