Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The War of 18-49, The Game


Scheduling history: In its first two seasons, The Game followed the other CDub comedies from Sunday to Monday and back again. Season three saw the CW essentially burn it (and Everybody Hates Chris) off on Friday. Then came a Tuesday timeslot on BET, which was where the ratings went through the roof. The last two BET seasons aired on Wednesday.

See (who saw) how it all began: The Game, a spinoff of long-running UPN/CW sitcom Girlfriends, began its run in the post-Girlfriends timeslot with a modest 2.80 million viewers and a 1.2/3 adults 18-49 rating. It'd drop a tenth to a 1.1 (preliminary) in week two but then pick up to a new demo high 1.3 in week three. It then hit that 1.3 plateau five times in season one. Its 18-49 high on the CW was a 1.4 demo, achieved thrice during season two.

The best of times: After three unspectacular years plugging away in the CW's fairly low-rated comedy lineup, The Game got the axe but then fell into a long-term limbo when rumors started that BET (which ran the show in syndication) might pick up The Game in originals. It seems like I remember hearing several different times over the course of a few months that BET was right on the verge of picking up The Game! They finally did, and boy did it pay off. In a result so stunning it made the top half of my Top 10 TV Ratings Moments of 2011, The Game premiered on BET with 7.68 million viewers and a 3.6/10 A18-49 rating on 1/11/11. It also got a whooping 6.4/17 rating in W18-34. Those stats were all more than double the highest result for anything on the CW in the 2010-11 season.

The worst of times: The Game's worst season overall was its third, thrown to Friday in near-burnoff mode along with Everybody Hates Chris. But like Chris, the show's weakest run of episodes came in the back half of season two. Following a fairly decent fall 2007 run, the show returned from the WGA strike hiatus a shell of its former self. Five of its nine post-strike episodes managed just a 0.6 demo, a low point it would hit three more times in its Friday season. It didn't go below the 0.6 on BET until the last month of the series: a 0.5 on 7/15/15 and 7/22/15.

Then vs. now: I wrote a big post after The Game's BET premiere that gave some extended perspective on just how mindblowing the initial BET result was. I correctly predicted the show "doesn't hold the initially amazing ratings, but holds more than enough to officially put its network on the scripted map." Even at the low BET point in season four (1.7 demo) it was a huge-for-cable program and still higher than any of its three years of CW results. Season four was up two hundred and seven percent from season three. Feel free to look through the other War of 18-49 posts thus far, but I guarantee you won't find anything like the story of The Game. Though the ratings crashed in season five, they were still bigger than in any CW season, meaning this show remains the poster child for the idea that my show can work if you'll just move it to a network that treats it better. As mentioned in the post above, it was kind of a perfect storm, but there's really no denying anymore that a network move can be pulled off with flying colors. Will it inspire more moves? Quite possibly, but we may well never see anything like this again.

Adults 18-49 info by season:

Seas Year Timeslot Avg y2y Lo Hi Results Grade
12006-07Sun 8:30, Mon 9:301.151.01.3detail
22007-08Mon 9:30, Sun 9:000.96-17%0.61.4detail
32008-09Friday 8:300.76-21%0.60.9detail
42010-11BET, Tuesday 10:002.311.73.6detail
6Summer 20131.15-18%0.81.9detailB
82014-15Wednesday 10:000.83-36%0.71.1detailD
9Summer 20150.63-24%0.50.7detailC

Historical-adjusted ratings by season:

Seas Year A18-49+ Label Now15 y2y Lo Hi Premiere Finale
12006-07 31 marginal(CW)0.52 27 35 32 29
22007-08 29 marginal(CW)0.48 -6% 18 42 42 24
32008-09 25 hit(CWFri)0.42 -12% 20 30 27 30
42010-11 91 67 142 142 87
52011-12 59 43 119 119 56
6Summer 2013 54 39 89 59 89
72013-14 69 52 87 87 63
82014-15 49 40 67 67 42
9Summer 2015 37 29 44 40 44

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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