Monday, July 18, 2011

The War of 18-49, Hell's Kitchen


Scheduling history: Utility player Hell's Kitchen is the rare entertainment show to air on four different nights of the week and in all twelve months of the year. After two summers as a Monday/Tuesday show, Fox brought it back into the regular season in spring 2013, then aired the second half of the season on Thursday in the early summer.

See (who saw) how it all began: Hell's Kitchen kicked off in the opening days of summer 2005, pulling a decent 6.80 million viewers and a 3.2/8 adults 18-49 rating on 5/30/05. But that'd actually end up being one of the lower-rated episodes of season one. It rose to a 3.5 demo in week two, then a 3.8 in week three. It came back down to into the low 3's for most of the rest of season one but spike big to a 4.4 in the season one finale.

The best of times: Time to sing the old refrain for Fox shows: Hell's Kitchen was at its best when it got to air after American Idol! It only got that honor in its fourth season, when it got moved to the regular season for the first time in part due to the dearth of programming because of the WGA strike. The show opened season four with 11.85 million viewers and a series-high 5.5/13 in the demo and usually broke a 5.0 in its post-Idol eps. In the back half of that season after Idol wrapped up, the show typically pulled around a 4.0 demo or a little over.

The worst of times: Since peaking with the partly post-Idol fourth season, each season of Hell's Kitchen has dropped from the previous one. After taking the 2009-10 season off from regular season action, it returned in fall 2010 to its worst numbers yet. On Thanksgiving Eve 2010, the show hit its lowest numbers yet, pulling then-series lows with 5.09 million viewers and a 2.2 demo. It finally went below a 2.0 for the first time in summer 2013 against regular season competition, going as low as a 1.7 for the second half of a two-hour episode on 5/13/13.

Then vs. now: For its first three years, it looked like Fox was successfully developing Hell's Kitchen into the #1 powerhouse of the summer. Since then, it's developed into something entirely different: a true utility player. Unlike certain other summer franchises we've looked at, this one hasn't completely imploded when put in the regular season. Its ten seasons to date have premiered in six different months and aired at least once in all twelve months of the year. Though the ratings have been declining over the last few years, it remains clear Fox can put this show just about anywhere at just about any time of year and do good business. Fox had to put it to that test again in the 2012-13 season, using it to plug a tough Tuesday slot where their comedies had failed. Fox ordered considerably more new shows for 2013-14, so they may be able to hold off on Hell's till summer 2014, but you can't count out almost anything with this show.

Adults 18-49 info by season:

Seas Year Timeslot AvgNow Lo HiResults Grade
1Summer 2005Monday 9:003.411.772.84.4detail
2Summer 20063.551.842.74.5detail
3Summer 20073.982.243.64.5detail
4Spr/Sum 2008Tuesday 9:004.652.993.65.5detail
5Win/Spr 2009Thursday 9:003.552.502.74.8detail
6Summer 2009Tuesday 8:003.392.392.83.8detail
7Summer 2010Tuesday 8:00/9:002.972.242.53.3detail
8Fall 2010Wednesday 8:00/9:002.772.312.23.4detail
9Summer 2011Mon 8:00, Mon 9:002.642.202.42.9detail
Tuesday 8:002.652.212.52.8
10Summer 2012Mon 8:00, Mon 9:002.582.302.42.9detailB
Tuesday 8:002.312.062.02.6
11Spr/Sum 2013Tue 8:00, Thu 8:

Year A18-49+ Label Year-to-Year In-Season
Premiere Average Finale P -> F
Summer 200584marginal+38%
Summer 200687marginal-16%+4%+2%+67%
Summer 2007106solid+37%+12%+0%+22%
Spring/Summer 2008142hit+49%+17%-7%-24%
Winter/Spring 2009119solid-33%
Summer 2009114solid-49%-27%-10%+36%
Summer 2010106solid+4%-12%-13%+14%
Fall 2010109solid+0%
Summer 2011104solid-14%-11%-21%+4%
Summer 2012109solid-4%-2%-4%+4%
Spring/Summer 201397marginal-13%-17%-8%+10%

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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