Friday, May 31, 2013

The War of 18-49, NCIS: Los Angeles


Scheduling history: Nearly every episode of NCIS: Los Angeles has aired in the Tuesday 9:00 hour directly after an original episode of the NCIS mothership. Only the season two premiere and the season three finale branched into another hour. (Both of those were two-hour episodes starting at 9:00.) And only a November 2013 episode after Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer hasn't had an original NCIS lead-in. But that changed as the show headed to Monday 10/9c in season five. After two years there, it's moved to Sunday: at 8/7c in season eight and 9/8c since then.

See (who saw) how it all began: CBS' spin-off of NCIS premiered after pretty much the best possible lead-in: the highest-rated episode of NCIS in series history. The mothership had 20.60 million viewers and a 4.8 demo, and LA followed with 18.73 million viewers and a 4.4 on 9/22/09. LA didn't drop much in week two, to a 4.1, but it took a bigger hit to a 3.6 in week three. It hung in the mid-3's area for most of the rest of the fall, then dropped along with NCIS when American Idol arrived in early 2010.

The best of times: LA's biggest raw number remains the 4.4 on premiere night, and it broke the 4.0 barrier three other times throughout season one, then never again. But on average, the show has actually been more valuable in seasons two to four, mostly because it and its NCIS lead-in haven't dropped as much in the winter/spring months. It's a safe bet that has a lot to do with not having to face American Idol on Tuesday anymore.

The worst of times: Though LA was fairly consistent after the mothership, it became a much weaker player went sent to its own night in 2014-15. Its 1.9 premiere was below any of its points on Tuesday. The show held in the upper-1's for most of the rest of the season and thus became a massive improvement on CBS' huge bombs in the Monday 10/9c hour last season. It didn't go south of 1.5 till a stinker 1.4 after a strong Scorpion finale, and it couldn't recover when Stalker became its lead-in for the last three episodes, which led to a rough start in season seven. It hit a new low 1.1 on 10/12/15, and matched it on 4/18/16, then hit several 1.0's in season eight. A move to Sunday 9/8c in season nine brought a slew of fractional results, including a 0.7 on 4/29/18.

Then vs. now: I remarked once that it's tough for a show to make it this long with as little clarity about its ratings potential as there is for NCIS: LA. It didn't take long to say what we knew: 'It gets pretty good retention out of NCIS.' It never aired a single original episode separate from a mothership original until season five (when its holiday special lead-in had a very NCIS-esque rating), and its year-to-year trajectory suggests its audience is pretty much attached-at-the-hip with its lead-in; it's gone -4% -> -6% -> -12% -> -16% while NCIS has gone a basically identical -2% -> -6% -> -11% -> -13%. But CBS pushed an NCIS spin-off to series for 2014-15 (after a failed attempt the year before), so we finally hit the end of this five-year pairing. It shed a third of its audience in the move but was still one of CBS' best 10/9c players, and it had some redemption when it benefited a lot from a move to Sunday at 8/7c in season eight.

Adults 18-49 info by season:

12009-10Tuesday 9:003.502.74.4detail
62014-15Monday 10:001.60-34%1.32.0detailC
82016-17Sunday 8:001.30-1%1.01.7detailA-
92017-18Sunday 9:000.91-30%0.71.3detailC+
102018-19Sun 9:00, Sun 10:000.83-9%0.51.1detailB+
112019-20Sun 9:30, Sun 9:000.68-18%0.50.8detailB-
122020-21Sunday 9:000.61-10%0.40.8detailB-
142022-23Sunday 10:000.35-30%0.20.5detailC

Historical-adjusted ratings by season:



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

1 comment:

Spot said...

The difference between the measured average and the 18-49+ and Now is telling. One is showing modest decline, but the others are showing a strong show tracking the general network decline. I think that after four seasons of a good lead-in from the mothership, it could have benefitted a new show somewhere else.

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