Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The War of 18-49, Glee


Scheduling history: Though it was commonly billed as the scripted version of American Idol, Fox courageously began Glee's run in the fall when Idol wasn't on the air, scheduled after a regular season edition of So You Think You Can Dance. It got the post-Idol berth for just the second half of season one before moving into the Tuesday lead-off role for the next two seasons. In season four, it moved to Thursday and returned to leading out of singing programs, The X Factor in the fall and American Idol in the winter/spring. In the second half of season five, it made a not-so-triumphant return to its old Tuesday lead-off slot. The final season moved to Friday.

See (who saw) how it all began: The first episode of Glee actually aired nearly four months before the regular run began, in a post-Idol preview on 5/19/09 designed to help build buzz over the summer. While that preview's ratings weren't particularly impressive (9.62 million viewers and a 3.9 demo, leading out of an Idol with 23.82m and 8.6), the buzz-building move worked. The show brought most of that audience to its fall 2009 premiere, which scored 7.50 million viewers and a 3.5 demo in a much worse situation. (Its So You Think You Can Dance lead-in averaged just a 2.7.) Glee dropped just a bit from there, to a 3.2 in week two and a 3.1 in week three, and then it grew to a very consistent 3.3 to 3.4 for most of the rest of the fall. It put a little momentum together in its last couple fall airings, topping the premiere with a 3.6 and then a 3.7.

The best of times: Following a four-month hiatus, Glee returned behind the lead-in it was always destined to have, and the show skyrocketed to a 5.6 demo in its post-Idol premiere. It eventually trickled down into the upper 4's, but this level and the cultural momentum were enough for Fox to gamble on putting it an anchor role for season two. It paid off in a big way, as the show began season two in the 8:00 slot tying its post-Idol high (5.6), then it built to a series high 5.9 demo in Britney Spears' guest turn the next week. Until the last few weeks of season two, the show stayed consistently north of a 4.0 demo.

The worst of times: Since season two, it's been all downhill, and fast. Though season three started at a 4.0, it was never the same after it took a month off for baseball pre-emptions, and it spent most of the fall 2011 run in the low 3's. By the spring of 2012, it had dropped to the mid-2's, and most of season four was spent in the low 2's. (Even the lead-in upgrade from American Idol's arrival in early 2013 didn't really help.) Other than a spike to 2.9 for the Cory Monteith tribute episode, season five was a debacle of epic proportions; it journeyed from the upper-1's through the mid-1's, then mostly hovered around a mere 1.0 in its return to its old Tuesday 8/7c home. It ended on an unbelievably sour note, tanking to new lows at 0.8 and then zero point six in the last two episodes. It only went below that mark one time in its final 13 episodes on Friday, a 0.5 on 2/6/15.

Then vs. now: In 2010-11, Glee was very nearly the biggest scripted show on TV. But this show clearly couldn't transition into its post-phenom life as gracefully as fellow females 18-34 draw Grey's Anatomy; seasons three through five were all down at least 25%, taking it from big hit all the way to flop in just three seasons. It was still solid in season four, but Fox might have reasonably considered cancelling it at that point if it weren't for their many problems elsewhere. (After all, Fox did away with House (107) and 24 (105) at very similar levels.) Instead, for some reason Glee got two more seasons, and the nightmarish season five ratings trajectory made things very awkward. Despite reports of a full-season order, Fox was able to keep it off the fall sked and negotiated the final season down to 13 episodes.

Adults 18-49 info by season:

Seas Year Timeslot Avg y2y Lo Hi Results Grade
12009-10Wed 9:00, Tue 9:003.982.55.6detail
22010-11Tuesday 8:004.41+11%3.45.9detail
42012-13Thursday 9:002.20-27%1.53.1detail
52013-14Thu 9:00, Tue 8:001.21-45%0.62.9detailF
62014-15Friday 8:000.67-45%0.50.8detailD

Historical-adjusted ratings by season:

Seas Year A18-49+ Label Now15 y2y Lo Hi Premiere Finale
12009-10 141 hit2.38 89 199 139 167
22010-11 173 big hit2.92 +23% 134 232 220 181
32011-12 128 hit2.15 -26% 102 169 169 123
42012-13 105 solid1.76 -18% 71 147 147 95
52013-14 64 flop1.08 -39% 32 154 106 32
62014-15 40 flop0.67 -38% 30 48 48 42

Not included in the averages: the post-Super Bowl episode (26.80m, 11.1 A18-49 on 2/6/11).

For more on The War of 18-49, my look at the history of primetime TV's veteran shows, see the Index.


Spot said...

I'm a bit shocked that Glee was never a megahit, because I remember it being so huge at one point.

Spot said...

I think it was a big mistake to not make a spin off with the older kids. Right now it's just like Degrassi when Paige and Emma left, with the constantly bouncing back and forth between various colleges and the actual middle-high school (well, by then, just high school) that the show was supposedly about.

Spot said...

I remember watched the pilot for Glee and having two distinct and simultaneous thoughts: "This is going to hit the zeitgeist hard and fast," and "I cannot stand this show." When Ryan Murphy's shows hit, they burn bright and seemingly take over pop culture (Nip/Tuck, Glee, American Horror Story). Unfortunately, they also burn out fast: Nip/Tuck was never as compelling after the Carver storyline in season 3, and Glee feels like an afterthought now. AHS at least solves the problem of burning through story by being an anthology series.

I don't see Glee's aging gracefully like Grey's Anatomy, especially if Fox has season 5 bleed into summer 2014 like they announced at the upfronts.

Spot said...

Given that making this start in 2012-13 would have meant not having a four-comedy Tuesday, and given how that went? I'm inclined to agree. (Guessing that this would have meant a Glee/NG/Mindy Tuesday, with Thursday being singing/Glee spinoff, and Raising Hope on the bench. That certainly wouldn't have done *worse* than what Fox actually did.)

Spot said...

It's going to be a tad embarrasing to see this War of 18-49 updated with season five's results. Season five didn't stop dropping to ugly levels. It will be interesting to see this once it's updated.

Spot said...

It was a megahit at the end of 2010 but they just fell from there.

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