Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Climate, Week 16: How Dire Is This Year's New Class?


One of my favorite uses of the A18-49+ number was comparing the classes of new scripted shows each year. It doesn't take a lot of numbers to know that this has been one brutal season in that department. But just how brutal? We're only about halfway through the season, but here's a preview.

The New Class as a Whole

The simplest way to wrap it up into one number is to just average every episode of a big-four scripted newbie and compare with the league average for everything entertainment original. By that standard, the newbie class is averaging a 78 A18-49+. That would be the lowest in seven years of A18-49+, but not by much; 2010-11 finished at 78, 2007-08 at 80 and 2008-09 at 82.

The problem is that the new shows always get weaker relative to the league average in the second half of the season. Only a part of this is about the ratings for the full-season newbies declining (since the ratings for everything declines late in the season). It's largely about all the low-priority, weakly-scheduled stuff that gets unloaded at the end of the season.

Newbies Thru 16 Wks Final
2006-07 89 88
2007-08 85 80
2008-09 90 82
2009-10 95 87
2010-11 87 78
2011-12 94 89
2012-13 78 ???

Based on these numbers, it seems likeliest that the class of 2012-13 will end up somewhere in the low 70's, well below any of the six previous seasons.

The Successes

However, any individual "new show league average" includes a lot of failed shows, and the degree to which the flops flopped isn't really all that important. What really matters out of a new show crop is the degree of success of the best shows, since they're the ones that will inhabit future schedules.

With 20 big-four shows premiered just far, there are just three above the league average: Revolution (140), Go On (109) and Elementary (108). It's become clear in recent weeks that one of those (Go On) is not a league average show when given a normal situation, and how strong Revolution "truly" is is a matter of debate. (But if the season ended today, Revolution would be the fifth-biggest new scripted show of the last seven years, trailing only 2 Broke Girls (180), Heroes (164), Glee (143) and last year's one-and-done Rob (140).)

By that standard, you could argue there have been years just as bad.There were other years when the only "solid" (AKA league average) shows were getting assists from bigger lead-ins. 2008-09 had just four league average shows, two of which got an American Idol boost (Fringe and Lie to Me) and another of which got a Two and a Half Men boost (Worst Week). The only three league average shows in 2010-11 were all CBS shows that dropped from their lead-ins (Mike and Molly, Hawaii Five-0, $#*! My Dad Says).

There's also the "stay on the schedule" standard of success. By season's end, Ben and Kate (61) could be in a dead heat with NBC's fall 2009 drama Mercy (58) for lowest-rated fall show to get an episode extension. And I'm pretty sure The Mob Doctor (41) is the lowest-rated show to air a full order without like 80% of it being a burn-off.

So the "success" standard suggests it may not be way way worse than other years, but that may just be because it's practically impossible to be way way worse than years that didn't have any big successes. I would still argue it's at least as bad as 2008-09 and 2010-11, unless things brighten in a huge way at midseason. Perhaps that started with The Following last night.

Is This the End for Broadcast TV?

Is TV as a whole struggling because the new shows flopped, or did the new shows flop because TV as a whole is struggling? It seems most media opt for the latter; a bad year of new shows is all about people bailing on the medium in favor of other screens and DVRing on longer timetables. This sense has largely developed because those alternative methods are what networks use to spin their underperformance at upfronts and press tours.

I'm more on the "it's the shows" side of the coin. Those articles could've been written (and were written) two years ago and four years ago, and then broadcast had strong development again the next season. It's going to take a lot more than one bad season to convince me that there's some kind of new show epidemic. Maybe the shows were just really bad. Maybe the broadcasters just failed, and we shouldn't let them off the hook because of far-off DVR/online numbers. Yeah, it's harder to draw a huge audience to the TV nowadays. But you don't need a huge audience. I'm supposed to believe broadcast TV is dead because the two networks best-equipped to follow up on the sitcom boom did so with Partners and The Neighbors?! Sorry. Not there yet.

(Incidentally, I rarely read about it being a good development season during seasons like 2009-10 and 2011-12. It's like the broadcasters are just supposed to come up with a bunch of hits every year, so those kinds of seasons are the norm. I try to be much more open about how the broadcasters did a good job, if only because I know a year like this is likely right around the corner.)



Week-by-week:

Week Ending TPUT y2y bc y2y LeAv y2y
1212/16/201233.2 -1% 7.9 +5% 2.18 -13%
1312/23/201231.5 +2% 6.5 +7% 2.26 +16%
1412/30/201230.9 -4% 5.3 -6% 0.73 -42%
151/6/201334.2 -4% 7.1 -18% 1.90 -18%
161/13/201334.6 -4% 8.7 -10% 2.01 -8%

Season-to-date:

Week Ending TPUTy2d y2dy2y bcy2d y2dy2y LAy2d y2dy2y
19/30/201232.4 -6% 9.2 -16% 2.50 -15%
510/28/201233.3 -3% 8.8 -10% 2.31 -13%
911/25/201233.5 -3% 8.8 -9% 2.26 -12%
1312/23/201233.4 -2% 8.5 -6% 2.24 -10%
1412/30/201233.2 -2% 8.3 -6% 2.23 -10%
151/6/201333.3 -2% 8.2 -7% 2.21 -10%
161/13/201333.4 -3% 8.2 -7% 2.20 -10%

To make these tables a little less ridiculously huge, I'm including just the last five weeks in the week-by-week and skipping ahead four weeks at a time until the last few weeks in the season-to-dates. I will probably put up a "Weekly Climate" post soon that updates every week and includes every single week, along the lines of the weekly power rankings linked on the right.

Anyway, the broadcasters did a little better in the last pre-Idol week than they did in week 15, getting pretty close to on par with the season-to-date declines.



Click to expand for more on the "climate" numbers used herein.

TPUT - This is an ESTIMATED average of how many people are watching TV from 8:00 to 11:00.
  • I derive these numbers by adding up all the ratings and dividing by all the shares in each of the 42 half-hours each week. That means there is some error relative to the numbers Nielsen actually releases. Sadly we don't regularly have access to those. I always advise not to rely heavily on these numbers for any one show in any one week, but the hope is that the error is minimized across a 42-timeslot sample every week.
  • I include the Old Methodology adjustment, which makes the number more like a measurement of how many people watch primetime programming Live + SD, rather than a measurement of how many people watch any TV (including old DVR stuff) from 8:00 to 11:00. This makes the number perhaps less intuitive in a vacuum, but it's pretty much a wash when making week-to-week and year-to-year comparisons, which is what we're really interested in.
bc - This is an average of how many people are watching national broadcast TV from 8:00 to 11:00.
  • This does NOT include the 10:00 adjustment used in the True2 calculation which attempts to account for Fox/CW programming and stronger cable. Again, that perhaps hurts the number in a vacuum, because the 10:00 numbers being used only include three networks, so I'm averaging timeslots that are somewhat apples-to-oranges. But again, it's a wash when making comparisons because I treat it that way all the time. It would not really change week-to-week or year-to-year comparisons, and that's what I mostly care about.
  • Another important note here is that these numbers include the preliminary averages for "sustaining" programming like presidential debates and commercial-free benefit concerts whose numbers are typically omitted from traditional Nielsen averages. I might eventually omit these from this particular calculation, but they're needed on my spreadsheets to 1) make PUT calculations in those timeslots and 2) create a competition number for the entertainment shows that air against them.
LeAv - This is a measurement of how many people watch the average moment of original entertainment series programming on the big four networks. Meaning, no sports, no reruns, no specials, no movies, no sustaining programming included.

Note: Beginning with week 9, all numbers compare against the next numbered week in the 2011-12 season. So week 9 compares against week 10 of 2011-12, etc. This was done to make the comparisons more calendar-friendly. See here for more on that.

2 comments:

Spot said...

Do veteran shows fare better (or decline at a slower rate) during bad development years?

Spot said...

I might look into this more formally down the line, but my educated guess is the veteran declines as a whole are almost exactly the same every year. The league average drops almost the same amount every year (6-10%) and what it does within that range correlates pretty well with the new show performance. The two best recent years for the league average drop were also the two best development years (2009-10 and 2011-12).

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