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 changed in a big way as it led off the Thursday lineup in fall 2013, but it returned to 8:30 at midseason.

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 for the first time with a 0.9 rating on 4/17/14.

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 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 what will be 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-

Historical-adjusted ratings by season:

Seas Year A18-49+ Label Now y2y Lo Hi Premiere Finale
12008-09 79 marginal1.48 67 101 101 67
22009-10 74 marginal1.40 -6% 64 82 75 79
32010-11 95 marginal1.79 +28% 71 127 127 79
42011-12 78 marginal1.46 -18% 68 89 89 72
52012-13 77 marginal1.45 -1% 62 95 81 76
62013-14 62 flop1.16 -20% 48 80 69 53

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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