Thursday, February 14, 2013

The War of 18-49, Royal Pains


Scheduling history: The first two summer runs of Royal Pains were paired with USA's then-biggest hit Burn Notice. For many years after that, it led off original nights for USA, including a Wednesday slot leading into Necessary Roughness for three summers and a Tuesday slot in 2014. It was back to the 10:00 hour in season seven, leading out of Chrisley Knows Best on Tuesday.

See (who saw) how it all began: I would label the summer of 2009 as the peak of USA Network's basic cable dominance, and new show Royal Pains was a huge part of it. It debuted on June 4, 2009 to 5.57 million viewers and a 1.7 demo rating, holding onto nearly all of its Burn Notice lead-in (5.99m, 1.9). Then Royal Pains actually grew in its second and third weeks, to a 1.8 on June 11 and then a 2.1 on June 18 that remains the series high.

The best of times: Royal Pains was at its strongest in its first nine episodes airing after Burn Notice. After getting as high as the aforementioned 2.1 on 6/18/09, the show settled in the general 1.9 vicinity for the next six episodes. Then Royal Pains actually didn't drop that much in its last three eps of that season, after Burn Notice had gone (going 1.5 -> 1.7 -> 1.7). And the show was down only a bit from those peak days in the summer half of season two, also after Burn Notice; it started and ended that run at a 1.8 and usually hit about a 1.6 in between.

The worst of times: Even when Royal Pains was at or near its prime, it was still not much of a performer in the regular season. Every single episode of the early 2011 run rated below every single episode from both the preceding and the following summer. And it got even worse in 2012, when it looked like the show had passed its prime. Then the show had real struggles the last couple summers, when it was barely able to rebound even from its weak winter numbers, then fell below them. The show tanked all the way to a new low 0.23 demo on 5/18/16.

Then vs. now: USA had another successful new show in 2009 called White Collar. Contrasting those two is interesting education about the whole 'split-season' technique used by many cable networks. In seasons two and three, Royal Pains had a higher ceiling and a lower floor than White Collar; in other words, Royal Pains had better ratings than White Collar in the summer when cable nets really take over the TV landscape, but it also had worse ratings in the winter when it had to deal with full-fledged competition. While there are advertising/scheduling incentives behind the split season, even if the ratings are lower in the winter, there should also be a point at which you use some discernment when deciding what to split. Some shows are just built for the summer. After two years of massive drops in the winter and armed with an increased inventory of shows, USA wisely opted to make this one of their summer-only shows. They were not exactly rewarded, because Pains took further hits in each of the last four seasons, but it probably would've gotten even uglier if they'd tried dragging it back into the winter landscape.

Adults 18-49 info by season:

1Summer 2009Thursday 10:001.801.502.10detail
2Summer 20101.641.501.80detail
Winter 2011Thursday 9:
3Summer 2011Wednesday 9:001.46-11%1.301.70detail
Winter 2012Wednesday 10:000.89-19%0.761.06
4Summer 2012Wednesday 9:000.98-33%0.801.15detail
5Summer 20130.79-19%0.680.91detailC-
6Summer 2014Tuesday 9:000.52-34%0.430.62detailD-
7Summer 2015Tuesday 10:000.35-33%0.280.41detailD+
8Summer 2016Wednesday 10:000.28-19%0.230.34detailB-

Historical-adjusted ratings by season:

1Summer 20096050705757
2Summer 20105853646464
Winter 20114339474343
3Summer 20115751675551
Winter 20123832453833
4Summer 20124134494134
5Summer 20133732433438
6Summer 20142823333329
7Summer 20152117242422
8Summer 20161916231621

The War of 18-49 chronicles the ratings history of veteran primetime series. For more, see the Index.

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