Monday, January 28, 2013

The War of 18-49, Parenthood


Scheduling history: The first four seasons of Parenthood aired in the Tuesday 10/9c timeslot. Though the timeslot didn't changed, the premiere and finale dates have been pretty variable. It began as a midseason replacement March 2010 and aired its finale on the last Tuesday of the season in May. The next three seasons, it premiered in the first half of September, but the seasons got progressively shorter, ending in April 2011, February 2012 and January 2013. In 2013-14, Parenthood got a full season and finally moved (to Thursday 10/9c). It was back there for the short sixth and final season.

See (who saw) how it all began: Parenthood was initially slated for the fall 2009 schedule (on Wednesday at 8/7c), but health issues with lead Maura Tierney led to the show being delayed till midseason (and Tierney dropping out). So Parenthood became perhaps the highest-profile of the shows that marked NBC's triumphant return to the 10/9c hour following the five-month strip of The Jay Leno Show. Airing after The Biggest Loser while it was pretty close to its ratings peak, Parenthood began with 8.10 million viewers and a 3.1 demo rating on March 2, 2010, retaining almost all of The Biggest Loser's demo (3.2). It took a couple significant drops in its next two weeks, to 2.6 and then to 2.3, but starting in week four it bounced back up into the mid-2's and stayed there for the rest of season one.

The best of times: The 3.1 demo from the series premiere remains the Parenthood high point, and the mid-2's level Parenthood maintained for the last ten weeks of season one was easily the show's strongest consistent level. It started almost as strongly in 2010-11, premiering to a 2.7 and hitting a 2.5 in its second week, but full-fledged broadcast competition eventually dropped it to a 2.0ish level.

The worst of times: Parenthood was closest to cancel-worthy on Tuesday when it dropped below a 2.0 in the back half of its second season, mostly because The Biggest Loser was still a pretty potent force then. But the show's worst times by far came after its season five move to Thursday. After a 1.6 premiere that matched its Tuesday lows, it never again sniffed at its Tuesday numbers until the series finale, and low-1's quickly became the norm. The series low was a 1.0 demo on 11/13/14.

Then vs. now: One of the recurring themes in the War of 18-49 is the idea of "even is the new up"; in other words, the collective entertainment ratings decline is large enough that maintaining the same Live+SD ratings level can be a valuable thing. Parenthood's four years on Tuesday were a pretty good example of this; it got nearly the same ratings in winter 2013 as in fall 2010, and a 1.8/1.9/2.0 became a significantly better number over those 2.5 years. Another mark in Parenthood's favor is that its lead-ins weakened over time; The Biggest Loser was still a rock-solid program in Parenthood's opening seasons, but it had considerably weakened by 2011-12, and in 2012-13 it got The New Normal, a marginal at best piece of lead-in support. That gradual upgrade in strength earned Parenthood its first full season in three years, but the move to Thursday in 2013-14 finally brought a significant decline. This was its worst situation yet, up against top 10/9c drama Scandal and after the hugely disappointing The Michael J. Fox Show. The drop was significant enough that Parenthood just barely eked out a sixth and final season, but it had a nice trend in the final season despite another horrible lead-in.

Adults 18-49 info by season:
Seas Year Timeslot Avg y2y Lo Hi Results Grade
12009-10Tuesday 10:002.622.33.1detail
52013-14Thursday 10:001.27-31%1.11.6detailD

Historical-adjusted ratings by season:

Seas Year A18-49+ Label Now15 y2y Lo Hi Premiere Finale
12009-10 93 marginal1.56 82 110 110 92
22010-11 82 marginal1.38 -12% 71 106 106 98
32011-12 82 marginal1.37 -1% 68 93 93 80
42012-13 87 marginal1.46 +7% 76 95 90 85
52013-14 67 flop1.13 -23% 58 85 85 69
62014-15 77 marginal1.29 +14% 59 101 83 101

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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