Thursday, December 15, 2011

The War of 18-49, Jersey Shore


Scheduling history: All but three of Jersey Shore's episodes have aired on Thursday.

See (who saw) how it all began: Only about three years ago, some little show called Jersey Shore quietly premiered on MTV to just 1.38 million viewers and a 0.8 demo rating on 12/3/09. I guess those numbers weren't that bad at the time, but it seems almost unfathomable that the show could've been below a 1.0 demo so recently. The rise to phenomenon began with episode two, as the show went up to a 1.1, then to a 1.4 in week three. Seven weeks after that 0.8 premiere, the season one finale was over three times as big - a 2.6 demo (and 4.83 million viewers) on 1/21/10.

The best of times: Jersey Shore's peak was  in the first half of season three. The second episode of that season kicked off a five-episode run across which the show broke a 4.4 demo four times. (The only exception was the 3.9 demo for its special Monday airing, which MTV used to help launch Skins.) In the middle of that run came what remains the series high point, the 8.87 million viewers and 4.7 demo on 1/20/11.

The worst of times: Jersey Shore's "worst of times" ratings-wise came right at the beginning and right at the end. The series low came when MTV aired an episode on New Year's Eve 2009, always one of the year's lowest-viewing evenings. The show posted just 1.30 million viewers and a 0.6 demo on that night. Easily the show's weakest performance under "normal" circumstances was the aforementioned series premiere on 12/3/09. But the show nearly came full circle in season six, stabilizing with merely mid-1's demos for much of the season but getting as low as a 1.2 for the penultimate episode on 12/6/12.

Then vs. now: Most of these buzz-driven cultural phenomena simply don't last as ratings monsters for years on end, and this show had that "flash-in-the-pan" quality as much as anything in recent memory. It's hard to believe that the entire run of arguably the first show to truly shatter the broadcast vs. cable mold took place over almost exactly three calendar years: December 3, 2009 thru December 13, 2012. And MTV did a remarkable job of seeing it coming, axing the show at the end of August 2012 - over a month before the final season premiered. By the time the Shore ended, something else on basic cable (The Walking Dead) had surpassed even its peak ratings, but this will still go down as one of the first truly unqualified broadcast-sized hits on basic cable.

Season adults 18-49 lows/averages/highs:

Seas Year Timeslot Avg y2y Lo Hi Results Grade
1Fall 2009Thursday 10:001.510.62.6

2Summer 20102.942.53.4

3Winter 20114.13+174%3.44.7

4Summer 20113.93+34%3.54.5

5Winter 20123.22-22%2.74.0
6Summer 20121.57-60%1.22.5

Historical-adjusted ratings by season:

Seas Year A18-49+ Label Now15 y2y Lo Hi Premiere Finale
1Fall 2009 54 21 92 28 92
2Summer 20101048912192110
3Winter 2011 162 134 185 165 161
4Summer 2011154138177169146
5Winter 2012 136 115 169 169 115
6Summer 2012675110410474

For more on The War of 18-49, my look at the history of primetime TV's veteran shows, see the Index.


Spot said...

Why do you have the summer 2011 average as being up 34% year-to-year? According to your averages, it was down two points (5%) versus winter 2011.

Spot said...

The two-seasons-a-year shows compare against the season from exactly a year ago (or two seasons ago). I think this works well for reality shows and split-season scripted shows, but it is a little strange in this instance. Just decided to be consistent.

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