Monday, May 28, 2012

The War of 18-49, Parks and Recreation


Scheduling history: Through four seasons, Parks and Recreation has almost always been a bottom-of-the hour show. It did get a handful of tries leading off the 10:00 hour during the 2010-11 season, but the vast majority of its eps have come at either 8:30 or 9:30. That will change in a big way as it leads off the Thursday lineup in fall 2013.

See (who saw) how it all began: Parks and Rec premiered on April 9, 2009 as part of a big evening of late-spring launches the week after ER came to an end. Where better to premiere a so-called Office sister show than in between two episodes of The Office? The 8/7c edition of The Office scored a 3.4 demo, the 9/8c edition got a 3.9, and in the middle was the Parks and Rec series premiere with a nothing-special 6.88 million viewers and 3.0 demo. The show dropped into the low 2's in subsequent weeks but was usually able to build on its My Name is Earl lead-in, which was (despite Earl being on its last legs) good enough for a renewal.

The best of times: Even though it didn't premiere till midseason, season #3 was the strongest for Parks and Rec, as NBC finally tried the seemingly inevitable pairing and threw it after The Office for that season. The season three premiere hit a series high 3.2 demo on January 20, 2011. But even that represented a significant loss from its The Office lead-in (a 4.5 on that night), and the gap between the shows didn't really narrow as the spring wore on.

The worst of times: The most recent season was the lowest for Parks, as it once again shuffled between the 8:30 and 9:30 slots, and it didn't get much lead-in help at 9:30 as The Office had a disappointing final season. It got as low as a 1.3 demo for the penultimate episode of the season on 4/25/13.

Then vs. now: If there was a hope that Parks would emerge as an heir apparent to The Office from a ratings standpoint, it's never really happened. But despite the lows in season four, Parks and Rec arguably felt as healthy as ever. Its numbers at 8:30 were very close to what it'd been pulling there two years prior, despite other NBC comedies like Community and The Office taking major tumbles. And a league average-ish decline in season five saw the show get even safer, mostly due to an epic collapse of NBC's comedy department. But season six will present the show's toughest task yet, as it's asked to lead off an important night with three new comedies and duel with The Big Bang Theory, the hottest sitcom since Friends left the air.

Adults 18-49 info by season:

Seas Year Timeslot AvgNow Lo HiResults Grade
12008-09Thursday 8:302.351.662.03.0detail
32010-11Thursday 9:302.402.001.83.2detail
42011-12Thu 8:30, Thu 9:301.841.641.62.1detail
52012-13Thu 9:30, Thu 8:301.621.621.32.0detailB-

Year A18-49+ Label Year-to-Year In-Season
Premiere Average Finale P -> F

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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