Monday, May 28, 2012

The War of 18-49, Parks and Recreation


Scheduling history: Through five seasons, Parks and Recreation was 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 changed in a big way as it led off the Thursday lineup in fall 2013, but it returned to 8:30 at midseason. The final season was the first that didn't air on Thursday, with back-to-back episodes in the Tuesday 8:00 hour.

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: Season six saw Parks finally take a major drop from its relatively consistent adjusted level across the first five seasons. It moved to the lead-off role for the first time and had to face The Big Bang Theory head-to-head. Its return to 8:30 at midseason provided a brief boost, but ultimately it returned to its low-1's level from the fall. It dipped below 1.0 with a 0.9 rating on 4/17/14, but it never again went below that threshold in the final season.

Then vs. now: If there was a hope that Parks would emerge as an heir apparent to The Office from a ratings standpoint, it 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 was the show's toughest task yet; it led off a night with incompatible (and ultimately very weak) new comedies and dueled with The Big Bang Theory, the hottest sitcom since Friends left the air. That was all a decent excuse for its major ratings collapse, but the drop was still enough for NBC to take it off the fall schedule in its final season.

Adults 18-49 info by season:

Seas Year Timeslot Avg y2y Lo Hi Results Grade
12008-09Thursday 8:302.352.03.0detail
32010-11Thursday 9:302.40+16%1.83.2detail
42011-12Thu 8:30, Thu 9:301.84-23%1.62.1detail
52012-13Thu 9:30, Thu 8:301.62-12%1.32.0detailB-
62013-14Thu 8:00, Thu 8:301.16-28%0.91.5detailC-
72014-15Tuesday 8:00/8:301.33+15%1.01.6detailA-

Historical-adjusted ratings by season:

Seas Year A18-49+ Label Now15 y2y Lo Hi Premiere Finale
12008-09 78 marginal1.31 66 100 100 66
22009-10 74 marginal1.24 -6% 64 82 75 78
32010-11 94 marginal1.59 +28% 71 126 126 79
42011-12 78 marginal1.31 -18% 68 89 89 72
52012-13 77 marginal1.29 -1% 62 95 81 76
62013-14 62 flop1.03 -20% 48 80 69 53
72014-15 79 marginal1.33 +29% 59 95 89 95

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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