Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The War of 18-49, 90210

90210 (CW)

Scheduling history: 90210 has never stayed put in a timeslot for more than one season at a time. In season one, the CW shuffled the show up to 9:00 to avoid the then-dominant force of Tuesday, American Idol. Then the show got a Monday try in season three, went back to Tuesday for season four, and returned to Monday for season five, airing about half the season in both hours. Got all that?

See (who saw) how it all began: Almost certainly the most memorable thing about 90210's ratings history was how it began. It was that rare moment when it looked like there was a glimmer of hope that the CW could become a legitimate-sized broadcast network. The remake of Fox's iconic Beverly Hills, 90210 opened to 4.65 million viewers and a whooping 2.6 adults 18-49 rating for its two-hour premiere on 9/02/08. (Side note: I still maintain it was a major missed opportunity that they didn't air an episode on 9/02/10). But as is so often the case with premiere ratings for a remake, that number was too good to be true, as the show dropped a large 35% to a 1.7 in week two.

The best of times: Though the 2.6 may have proven unsustainable, 90210 appeared for the first half of season one to have stabilized at a pretty strong level. It hit that 1.7 demo four times in five episodes after the premiere, then settled in a mid-1's range during November sweeps 2008.

The worst of times: 90210 took a severe drop in season two, to some degree evening out after the early-season inflation. It held on pretty decently for the next two seasons, but things completely fell apart starting at the end of season four. That season's finale hit the show's first 0.5, then the fall 2012 premiere hit another new low 0.4. Though it hung in the 0.4 to 0.6 range for the fall, a midseason move to 9:00 somehow derailed things even further, first to a 0.3 and then to a 0.2 on four occasions in the spring. To cap off the embarrassment, even the series finale on 5/13/13 could only manage a 0.2.

Then vs. now: As it became clear that potential breakthrough premiere number wasn't going to lead to a breakthrough program, there was a period of expectations adjustment with 90210. After that, though, it managed to become a somewhat decent player for a few years. It was arguably as safe in season four as it had been in years. Why did things go so, so wrong all of a sudden in season five? You'll have to ask a regular viewer. While the CW may have been expecting to line this show up as their annual announced final season in 2013-14, the numbers were too weak even for that. So another of the so-called "rich kid soaps" comes to an end, and the CW continues its sharp turn in a more genre-oriented direction.

Adults 18-49 info by season:

Seas Year Timeslot Avg y2y Lo Hi Results Grade
12008-09Tue 8:00, Tue 9:001.420.92.6detail
22009-10Tuesday 8:000.95-33%0.71.2detail
32010-11Monday 8:000.87-8%0.71.1detail
42011-12Tuesday 8:000.70-20%0.50.9detail
52012-13Monday 8:000.37-47%0.20.6detailF

Historical-adjusted ratings by season:

Seas Year A18-49+ Label Now15 y2y Lo Hi Premiere Finale
12008-09 47 hit(CW)0.79 30 86 86 37
22009-10 34 marginal(CW)0.56 -29% 25 43 43 28
32010-11 34 marginal(CW)0.58 +2% 28 43 35 31
42011-12 30 marginal(CW)0.50 -14% 21 38 38 21
52012-13 18 flop0.30 -40% 9 28 19 9

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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