Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A18-49+: What's a "Hit For Friday"?

When I introduced the whole A18-49+ project last spring, I came up with basic "labels" to help grasp what these historically adjusted numbers actually mean. Those labels are helpful (to me anyway), but in some cases they have little to no value. Perhaps some would revel in the opportunity to call every single CW show a "flop," and virtually all fall within the "flop" A18-49+ label. But that perspective is detached from the reality of the network's decision-making. Flops get cancelled, and the CDub doesn't cancel everything (whether they should or not). And plenty of Friday shows can survive or thrive even with ratings that the A18-49+ labelling system would call "flop" or maybe "marginal."

These labels are not meant to suggest that a "hit for Friday" or a "hit for CW" would be a real hit if scheduled on a big four weeknight, just that they're top performers in that environment.

Today I'll try to devise new labels to cover Friday shows. I'll do the CW portion sometime soon, probably next week. I'd like to do this for cable shows and maybe summer broadcast shows as well, but those will take more thought. Particularly cable.

There are two ways to go about this. There's the "look at all the shows and see what looks like a hit" approach. And there's a more "objective" approach, in which I apply the labels I already came up with to the lower-expectation environments. (Though the labels I already came up with were via a "look at all the shows" approach, so it's not that objective.) I'll try both and see which I prefer.

What are the shows I would consider "hits for Friday" in the A18-49+ era (since 2006-07)? I feel pretty confident that Ghost Whisperer and Numb3rs were hits for Friday, at least prior to their last seasons (2009-10) when they took large, fatal downturns. Maybe Law & Order when it was first on the night?  Maybe Blue Bloods early in its run? And today's hits for Friday are Shark Tank, Undercover Boss and probably Grimm. If you have any other ideas, I can look 'em up.

Show Year A18-49+
Ghost Whisperer 06-07 80
Numb3rs 06-07 79
Law & Order 06-07 74
Ghost Whisperer 07-08 76
Numb3rs 07-08 75
Ghost Whisperer 08-09 85
Numb3rs 08-09 75
Blue Bloods 10-11 70
Blue Bloods 11-12 73
Shark Tank 12-13 84
Undercover Boss 12-13 79
Grimm 12-13 76

All these candidates fell in roughly the same arena. Based on this list, somewhere in the low 70's seems like an OK benchmark. Only season one of Blue Bloods would be significantly below that, so maybe we can just throw that one out.

The "objective" approach takes the old labels and applies them to the new environment. What's the Friday environment? In the last seven seasons, the "league average" 18-49+ for big four Friday originals has been as high as 59, as low as 52, and a 55 average among the seven season-ending totals.

My previous post placed "hit" at 1.25 times the league average. 55 * 1.25 = roughly a 69. So by that objective method, all of the above table would qualify. (And a "big hit for Friday" would be 55 * 1.5 = roughly an 83. Only the penultimate season of Ghost Whisperer and this season of Shark Tank make that cut, and just barely.)

So I will meet the subjective and semi-objective methods in the middle at the nice round number of 70. A Friday show with a 70 or higher A18-49+ will be considered a "hit for Friday." Season one of Blue Bloods, congrats!

There's probably also some value in a "solid for Friday" number, because there are clearly Friday shows below 70 that aren't treated like "flops." The "solid" benchmark is 100, AKA the league average. By the "objective" method, the "solid" Friday number would be the Friday league average: 55.

20/20 has ranged from 58 to 65 over the last seven years, while the Friday Dateline has ranged from 52 to 60, with only the 52 of 2008-09 going sub-55. Those Friday stalwarts are probably reasonable shows to consider "solid for Friday," so 55 looks about right for "solid for Friday."

I should note that a "solid for Friday" show, even if I increased this benchmark to 60 or higher, is far from a lock for renewal. Many of these shows are expensive veterans that can't survive with "solid for Friday" ad rates. There have been Friday cancellations well into the 60s: Close to Home (68), Las Vegas (65), Ghost Whisperer (67), Numb3rs (64). CSI: NY (65) is definitely a candidate this year. 55 just means it's about an average Friday show. That's not necessarily a compliment.

Not sure there's a need for a "marginal for Friday." I mean, if you're "marginal for Friday," you're probably into flop territory. While some sub-55 Friday shows have been renewed (hello, Dollhouse at 49), I doubt the networks have ever felt all that good about those renewals.

EDIT (8/13/13): With a formula adjustment and some high-rated older seasons, I'm increasing the baseline for Friday programming to 60. Now, 60 = "solid for Friday" and 1.25 * 60 = 75 = "hit for Friday."


Spot said...

Interesting post and pretty appropriate for the current ABC bubble comedies discussion. My opinion is that Malibu's weighted average of 1.3 should be looked at as something close to 1.7 in order to compare to weekdays. That is still not strong for ABC's current state. LMS is different though, as its weighted average of 1.45 would warrant something like 1.9 and that is somehow on the range of The Neighbours and not that far off from MF's lead out Suburgatory. And then you have the very real issue of the alternative. I think that is the the main point of Fridays. Networks still appear to be determined to air something other than repeats there for the most part. So if they cancel a friday show, something else has to go there. Is it really worth the trouble of keep premering new shows there? And as for moving something there... A move is not something like in the first place, so if they ove something like the neighbours there to replace LMS for instance, chances are that the move itself would mean the 1.9 of the neighbours becomes a 1.7. Add in friday factor and the neighbours becomes lower rated than LMS is. One thing I think would be worth looking at, and if you are interested maybe you can do that analysis one of these days, is how much moving a show hurts. Obviously, there are many different types of moves, both positive and negative, but if it is possible to isolate it for competiton, lead-in, etc, one could probably find out how much the act of moving a show costs the network, in true numbers. I would be very interested in that analysis.

Spot said...

Sub-55 renewals are probably about one of two things: the show is so cheap that canceling it would mean being replaced by something more expensive, or the positive PR that's generated by "saving" a show with a fanatical fan base (See: Dollhouse and Fringe).

Spot said...

One historical approach I thought might be interesting with those shows would be to compare them to the last years of the previous TGIF. I got a bunch of 2003-06 numbers recently that I haven't finished entering, and I'm not sure I have enough data to be confident in the league averages from those seasons, but I'm guessing even at their current levels Last Man and Malibu would stack up favorably with the end of the last TGIF. Those shows had gone below 2.0 by the end, and that was seven years ago.

Of course, ABC thought that was bad enough that they blew up the block entirely, so doing better than those shows may not tell us much.

Spot said...

Yes, I forgot Fringe! It was even lower last season at 47 (though of course Dollhouse was inflated by the early weeks of the series)

Spot said...

That is very interesting. I only started following ratings two seasons ago and I never know where to find those old ratings (where do you do it btw?), so I don't have ways to do that, but that is certainly telling. A 2.0 seven years ago was way way worse than a 1.5 today is. I think ultimately marginal shows like this should also typically rely more with unknown factors to us such as costs. It is a hard call to make but that information certainly seems to be a positive one.

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