Monday, May 27, 2013

The War of 18-49, Modern Family


Scheduling history: Until season eight, every single episode of Modern Family aired somewhere in the 9:00 hour on Wednesday. It's aired a few special 9:30 episodes to lead into drama premieres at 10:00 (Revenge in 2011 and Nashville in 2012 and 2013). It aired a special 8:30 episode for the first time in season eight, leading into the miniseries When We Rise.

See (who saw) how it all began: Modern Family began its run as the centerpiece of an ABC Wednesday night of all new shows, but ABC still managed to give it a nice known quantity lead-in on premiere night. A special Wednesday Dancing with the Stars averaged a 3.3 demo rating, then Modern Family built to a very impressive 4.2 rating. The show dropped just 9% in week two to a 3.8, then to a 3.4 in week three. The show hung in the mid 3's for the rest of the fall before picking up some momentum in the second half of season one. In the penultimate episode of the season, it hit a 4.3, the first time it topped its premiere rating.

The best of times: For most of the next two seasons, Modern Family was on a steady growth trajectory. Aside from in season one, the show has always flexed the most muscle in the fall, likely riding its overwhelming success at the Emmy Awards. It hit a series high 5.1 demo for the season two premiere on 9/22/10, then crushed that mark again with a 6.1 in the season three premiere on 9/21/11.

The worst of times: For three-plus seasons, Modern Family's weakest ratings remained that mid-3's level in the first half of season one, with the series low being a 2.5 on Thanksgiving Eve in 2009. But in the back half of season four, Modern Family returned to that mid-3's level on a few occasions, and then it was pretty much the norm in seasons five and six. The season six finale hit the show's first new low in over five years, a 2.3 demo on a night when half of the comedy block was off. And it got as low as 1.0 in the last two episodes of season ten. For nine years, the show's weakest season on a historical-adjusted basis came in season one, but the streak finally ended with season ten.

Then vs. now: ABC's breakthrough with Modern Family was a key step in the sitcom's return to prominence on broadcast TV. In fact, it may have been the single most key step, because it came on a network that had almost entirely fallen out of that game during the heydays of Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy and Lost. ABC has since built a nice framework of stable second-tier family sitcoms around the show, and acclaimed series like Cougar Town, Happy Endings and Apartment 23 likely produced more episodes thanks to Modern Family than they would have if thrown into ABC's sitcom dead times in the late aughts. But after some slightly underwhelming trends in seasons four and five, it looks like the Modern Family phenomenon has peaked. The show's trend didn't improve with syndication exposure in season five, but it trended better in the second half of the season and improved a bit as it got more compatible companions in season six. But the declines returned again, especially in seasons seven and nine.

Adults 18-49 info by season:

12009-10Wednesday 9:003.762.54.3detail

Historical-adjusted ratings by season:

22010-11174big hit1.43+30%146201201165
52013-14188big hit1.54-6%149223223196
62014-15190big hit1.55+1%137226226137
72015-16175big hit1.43-8%142216216142
82016-17171big hit1.40-2%127212212137

AVERAGE:168big hit

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


Spot said...

Is there any chance of a War of 18-49 post for Futurama. Its got a pretty interesting history, with preemptions, timeslot changes, and cancellations. I know its hard to find ratings info for the era when it first aired, but if there's any way you could put it together I'd love to see it.

Spot said...

I will consider it if I ever get a lot more info from 1999-2003. As it is, I would have pretty close to nothing from that period, as with the original Family Guy, and the revival's ratings were not as noteworthy.

Spot said...

I had a quick search after writing the comment, and TVTango appear to have demo stats for every episode and have total viewership and share stats for May 2000 onwards.

I don't know if you need two sources (or just a more reliable source) to confirm the numbers you post, but the figures seem like the sort of numbers it would have posted, and if you click on the date of each episode you can see the demo stats of the rest of the shows that aired on that date. Apologies if you are already aware of this.

Spot said...

I'm pretty sure those are household ratings, not 18-49. (That's clearer if you check the ratings for older skewing shows:

Spot said...

Ah okay. My mistake.

Spot said...

Will we be seeing a "theme or a yearly post (or some other A18-49+ spotlight)" today as mentioned in Spotted Summer 2013?

Great read, as usual! So relatively speaking, Modern Family's 5.5 2012 premiere was slightly stronger than its 6.1 2011 premiere? According to my calculations, the 6.1 comes out to a 259 A18-49+, trailing the 5.5's 261 A18-49+.

Spot said...

What is your Career HOF level going to be. I am somewhat surprised that Modern Family eeked out megahit status this year.

Spot said...

Spot, Question about War of 18-49 posts:

Is The Voice considered 18-49 eligible after this season or does it have to air in 4 TV seasons?

Spot said...

The Voice is this summer. Haven't decided between next summer and end of this summer for the last two.

Spot said...

I think your "Now" feature is probably my favorite addition to the site ever.

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