Friday, December 28, 2012

The Top 10 TV Ratings Moments of 2012, 5 to 1

It's time for my third annual spin on the year-end TV top ten list as I look back at the top ten moments of another year in TV ratings! This is always one of the most fun posts of the year, but it's also pretty nerve-racking, because I'm totally paranoid that I'll miss something. So feel free to note my most glaring omissions. Here's this year's 10 to 6, which went live yesterday.

Here are the two previous years:
2010: 10 to 6 | 5 to 1
2011: 10 to 6 | 5 to 1

5. The Voice Explodes on Super Monday (February 6)
Yesterday I mentioned the signature evening of NBC's fall resurgence. But the most important event behind that upswing may have come seven months earlier. The Voice had a nice first season, and its numbers after the Super Bowl were striking. But it wasn't until Super Monday that we saw just what this show was capable of as a regularly scheduled staple. Much of the 6.7 demo on premiere night bailed over the course of the season, but what was left when things settled down was a megahit program on a network that had previously been on the brink of total hitlessness.

4. The Big Bang Theory Beats American Idol (January 19)
For nearly a decade, there were two virtual certainties about American Idol: 1) It was #1 by a mile; and 2) It was a "Death Star," drastically hurting the ratings of anything other networks threw against it. On Idol's Thursday premiere night, The Big Bang Theory turned both of those tides. First, it actually beat Idol head-to-head in the 8:00 half-hour (5.3 to 5.2), an unprecedented achievement for a scripted show. Second, the "Death Star" had zero effect whatsoever; TBBT was even week-to-week. And Big Bang expanded upon these feats, growing its rating in subsequent weeks and eventually beating Idol's full program rating on a regular basis.

3. Hatfields & McCoys Sets Cable Records (May 28)
It may not have had the same cultural impact, but in terms of ratings? This was the Roots of cable. Hatfields & McCoys posted the biggest total viewership for scripted content in the history of ad-supported cable TV, including a stunning 13.87 million viewers on premiere night. This was a huge breakthrough both for History, a network with no real history (get it?) in the scripted space, and for the miniseries, a form long deemed incapable of pulling these kinds of breakthrough numbers.

2. The Walking Dead Tops the Fall (October 14)
And yet Hatfields still wasn't cable's biggest moment of 2012. For the third straight year, AMC's zombie drama makes the list because it broke through yet another hugely significant ceiling. In 2.5 seasons, The Walking Dead has gone from solid player by broadcast standards to broadcast-sized hit to, on this night, the #1 entertainment program on all of TV. The season premiere's 5.8 demo was the biggest scripted number in basic cable history and, even more amazingly, it's (for now) still the top-rated entertainment episode of the season. And the 5.32 average for the fall season also topped all the broadcast entertainment options' averages.

1. The Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony Grows (July 27)
The great art vs. commerce debate of 2012 TV centered around NBC's Summer Olympics. Social media used the #nbcfail hashtag to eviscerate the supposedly outdated tape-delaying, dumbing-down and heavy editing of the Games. But, at least for one more Games, the strategy still worked. The Opening Ceremony pulled over 40 million viewers and a 12.2 demo rating. The latter was up by 18% on the 2008 opener. And it kicked off a massive-rated two and a half weeks for NBC; 14 of 17 nights grew vs. the corresponding evening in Beijing, and the 17-night average was up 6% vs. 2008.


Spot said...

nice list. i would have the walking dead coming first and the big bang theory beating idol coming second though but its okay

Spot said...

My shift would've been as simple as swapping out the American Idol sticker w/ a Big Bang sticker, but that's mostly down to my preference for scripted shows over reality.

That said, yeah, I would've flipped Walking Dead and the Olympics.

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