Friday, August 12, 2011

The War of 18-49, Flashpoint


Why post this on Friday? Except from most of season one, Flashpoint has aired on Friday.

See (who saw) how it all began: Flashpoint was one of CBS' two new scripted efforts during the summer of 2008. (They've had just one in the three summers since, the uber-short lived The Bridge in 2010.) It kicked off on Friday night with a relatively decent 8.13 million viewers and a 1.9 A18-49 rating on 7/11/08. Week two wasn't good, as the show dropped 21% to a 1.5 demo, but the show's first two weeks still averaged higher than the corresponding two weeks of CBS' other scripted effort Swingtown. Considering Flashpoint was on a Friday and Swingtown on a Thursday, that seemed to clearly indicate to CBS that Flashpoint was the stronger show. Starting with the next week, CBS flipped the two dramas.

The best of times: Flashpoint's best of times came in the back half of its season one run, the only time it's ever aired on a night not called Friday. It posted upper 1's in its first month on Thursday, then rose to a 2.2 demo for its penultimate episode and a still series high 2.6 demo for its season one finale on 9/18/08. That built slightly on the repeat of CSI (2.5), still a force in encores back then, which was pretty impressive. The show's best overall season was its second, which was also its only regular season run. Sandwiched between tentpoles Ghost Whisperer and Numb3rs, the show put up four of its six 2.0+ ratings from January through mid-March of 2009.

The worst of times: For its 2.0+ average in season two, Flashpoint was rewarded with... more than a year off the air. It returned to the airwaves in June of 2010 with just a 1.3 demo and, after a couple steady weeks, dropped into the very low 1's for most of the rest of season 3. The season four run this summer has been fairly similarly rated so far, with the demo series low 0.8 coming on 6/17/11.

Then vs. now: When looking to explain CBS' success in the last few years, many point to the consistent scheduling. Most of their shows stay on the air just about twelve months a year. There are rarely big shakeups at midseason. That means there isn't a lot of room for "utility players." But Flashpoint has been the perfect kind of show to fill that role; because it's a Canadian co-production, it's not as expensive as most dramas, and ratings have been just good enough to keep around but not quite good enough to lock down a spot on the schedule. Three of its four seasons have been scheduled following the failure of another show in the same timeslot: Swingtown (summer 2008), The Ex-List (fall 2008) and Chaos (spring 2011). While the show marches on in Canada, the big drops in the last couple seasons mean CBS is finally cutting its ties with Flashpoint. It will continue in the US next season due to a deal with ION, but the original ratings will probably be a fraction of what they were on CBS, and I'm not 100% sure I'll even see all the original ratings after that move.

Adults 18-49 info by season:

Seas Year Timeslot Avg y2y Lo Hi Results Grade
1Summer 2008Fri 10:00, Thu 10:001.881.52.6

22008-09Friday 9:001.94+3%1.62.4

3Summer 20101.16-40%0.91.4

4Summer 2011Friday 8:001.09-6%0.81.3

Historical-adjusted ratings by season:

Seas Year A18-49+ Label Now15 y2y Lo Hi Premiere Finale
1Summer 2008 57 marginal(sum)0.95 45 78 57 78
22008-09 64 solid(Fri)1.08 +14% 53 80 70 60
3Summer 2010 41 flop0.69 -36% 32 50 46 39
4Summer 2011 43 flop0.72 +5% 31 51 43 39

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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