Monday, June 10, 2013

A18-49+: 2012-13 Season Recap

In the spring I did season-by-season recaps of the three old years added to the fold: 2003-04, 2004-05 and 2005-06. I liked those so much that I've decided to do them for every single year of the decade across which A18-49+ era is available. I'm starting with the just completed 2012-13, then looping back to 2006-07 beginning in two weeks.

The links below in each category are to the old theme posts (most 2006-12), but I will update these links as the new theme posts come out over the course of the summer.

Defining Shows/Overall Thoughts:

2012-13 was the third TV season in which NBC broadcast The Voice, but it was the first in which they broadcast both a fall season (208/194) and a spring season (202/179 with two weeks to come). Not coincidentally, it was also the first time The Voice's impact was really felt in the network's season averages.

It was a real roller coaster of a season for NBC, which won November sweeps, then dropped behind Univision in February sweeps, then clawed its way back to respectability once The Voice returned. Putting it all together, though, the season was a major step forward for the long-distant fourth place peacock. Its standing in overall averages was a bit inflated by the ever-growing Sunday Night Football (387), but even in the series originals-only average (93) it was easily the network's best season since 2004-05.

Beyond The Voice, it was a very mixed bag at NBC. Their heavy investment in new comedies completely cratered, as not a single one (not even Go On (90), which had the post-Voice slot in the fall) survived. Their returnee-driven comedy Thursday continued its collapse, led by a disappointing final season out of The Office (101). But the drama picture was a little brighter with post-Voice newbie Revolution (122) and some rare Wednesday respectability out of Chicago Fire (87). And returning dramas Parenthood (87), Law and Order: SVU (82) and Grimm (77) all held up better than the league avearage this season.

NBC had a good season, but there's no denying that a big part of their resurgence in the relative standings had to do with the struggles elsewhere. The league average was down almost 11% year-to-year, the worst clip of the last ten years except for the writer's strike year of 2007-08.

CBS unsurprisingly won the season, marking the first time in nearly a decade that someone other than Fox pulled off the feat, but it followed up its historic season of sitcom dominance by premiering just one new comedy, Partners (98), which was gone by mid-November. Comedy returnees like 2 Broke Girls (160) and How I Met Your Mother (152) regressed amid the crowded Monday fray. Their only truly hot sitcom, The Big Bang Theory (249), was wasted by leading into decade-old Two and a Half Men (180). And new dramas Elementary (107) and Vegas (70) also disappointed.

Once-proud Fox took another huge step downward, as American Idol (185/175) was down yet another 25%+ on each night and The X Factor (139/132) also had a sophomore slump. The fall was a nightmare; the network's four-comedy Tuesday played out in the worst-case way with second-year New Girl (109) dipping significantly between weak newbies Ben and Kate (64) and The Mindy Project (74). But Fox did get a little redemption as they launched the season's only new hit The Following (125) at midseason.

ABC continued its slow depreciation, bringing up the rear in overall averages (though it virtually tied NBC in entertainment average). Like Fox, ABC was mostly defined by an underwhelming development class and the continued collapse of their reality tentpole, this time Dancing with the Stars (107/106 fall, 109/101 spring). There were a few random breakthrough seasons across the sked, from The Bachelor (131) to sophomore drama Scandal (119) to Friday king Shark Tank (88), but those were cancelled out by the DWTS problems and the struggling Sunday combo of Once Upon a Time (129) and Revenge (101), which failed to take the widely expected step forward.

New Shows:

Total Flop Renew Solid Hit Big Hit
2012-13 28 15 8 3 1 0

Flop% Renew% Solid% Hit% BigHit%
2012-13 54% 29% 11% 4% 0%

Hits: The Following (125)
Solid: Revolution (122), Elementary (107)
Sub-solid renewals: Nashville (89), The Neighbors (88), Chicago Fire (87), The Mindy Project (74), Hannibal (57 + 2 weeks not counted)

Renews by network: ABC 2, CBS 1, NBC 3, Fox 2

Following the strong class of 2011-12, the big four networks ordered far fewer shows in 2012-13 (28, a huge drop from 40 the previous season), and they handed quite a few plumb timeslots to promising sophomores like Revenge, Suburgatory and Person of Interest. Their lack of interest in the new class was vindicated, I guess, as this was one of the very worst classes of the last decade. Only 2003-04 and 2008-09 had more flops by percentage, and only 2003-04 and 2010-11 saw fewer renewals by percentage. (If not for the miracle Hannibal renewal, this season actually would've had the lowest renewal percentage of the last ten.)

In thrilling fashion, The Following barely managed to keep this from becoming the only year without a single new hit. (In fact, if it hadn't adjusted up in finals on finale night, it'd have pulled a 124!)

A big part of why this season was bad for broadcast was the new comedy problem. CBS and ABC had incredible returnee strength and used it to produce just one renewal, The Neighbors (88), and it could've very well been cancelled. NBC axed its entire class, and only very marginal Mindy came out of Fox.


2010-11 98 106 77 128 37
2011-12 96 115 77 119 29
2012-13 93 109 93 106 30

The rise of NBC meant this season had the greatest parity among the four networks since 2004-05, when it was 96 / 104 / 98 / 102. It was most evident in the final May sweeps results, when all four networks were separated by just a single tenth of a point. But I'll note this convergence is very different from the 2004-05 one; that season evened out because two networks were strongly trending up and only one (NBC) strongly trending down, whereas this season had three trending down and one (NBC) trending up.

The CW's 2011-12 might have been one of the worst broadcast network seasons in TV history. They followed it up by rallying to a tiny degree in 2012-13, mostly on the heels of their Wednesday of Arrow (50) and Supernatural (44) and a great year-to-year hold from The Vampire Diaries (59).

Days of the Week:

Year Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Sunday
2010-11 108 112 118 121 109
2011-12 120 107 121 111 104
2012-13 122 100 116 114 100

Looking at 2012-13 by day of the week, there were really two problematic fronts. The Tuesday problem was clear from the outset, as "attacks" of the evening like Vegas and The Mindy Project stumbled early, and it got even worse when Go On and The New Normal crumbled during The Voice's hiatus. And Sunday fell apart in the second half as Once Upon a Time and Revenge collapsed during event season and CBS and NBC aired weak lineups.

Time of Day:

Year 8:00 8:30 9:00 9:30 10:00 10:30
2010-11 103 109 113 105 85 83
2011-12 105 108 114 105 86 82
2012-13 108 108 113 105 84 79

Broadcast networks continued to see their ratings strength gradually shift from the second half of the evening to the first. The 8:00 and 8:30 half-hours were at or very near their strongest levels in the A18-49+ era, while the 10:00 hour as a whole was weakest.

Repeats & Sports/Specials

Year Reruns Movies Sports Specials
2010-11 52 48 218 95
2011-12 50 45 222 101
2012-13 49 47 227 100

2012-13 saw the rerun average drop below half of the original average for the first time, while sports continued to gain value even in a somewhat modest year, relatively speaking. Sunday Night Football was down in raw numbers for the first time in four years, and other big events like the Super Bowl and World Series dropped.

For additional yearly/theme recaps and more on A18-49+, check out the A18-49+ Index.


Spot said...

At this point, I think we can pretty much call Sunday to be the weakest day for the 2013-2014 season; three of the four networks are going status quo (minus scheduling gymnastics to account for event season and the Winter Olympics), while NBC's history of etch-a-sketching a post-SNF schedule hasn't historically inspired confidence.

Tuesday is at least getting attention on different fronts: high-profile dramas both old (Person of Interest) and new (SHIELD, The Originals), splashier sitcoms (Dads & Brooklyn Nine-Nine), a returning reality staple (The Biggest Loser), and a sophomore procedural trying to take a major step up the Nielsen charts (Chicago Fire).

Spot said...

Excellent recap of the season! The only thing I would add in there is how cable continued to skyrocket in the face of broadcasters' woes, especially with the walking dead. Other than that, I think we are in for a far better year than the previous one. I think networks were too risk-adverse this past year. This year, they are apparently much more willing to tolerate risk. By definition, it implies that we are likely to have a higher expected number of casualties and big bombs but the payoff for stuff that works out is also higher. So I expect to see some good big hits and some good big bombs. Another thing is that apparently networks really are starting to get serious about yearly round programming, with FOX on the frontline greenlighting the high profile 24 remake and gang related for the summer, and with ABC also covering a lot of ground by giving their shows much needed breaks so as to avoid repeats all together. Good stuff.

Spot said...

The huge step forward for NBC was adding an extra cycle of The Voice?

Spot said...

Clearly. They only had three completely unacceptable months, vs. five in 2011-12.

Spot said...

You really need something w/ a 100% confidence threshold if you're going to mount an attack on Sundays. I think the reason why all the female-skewing dreck that ABC mounts in the Sunday @ 10 slot is failing because of America's ongoing stupefication at the sight of the Kardashians and their behinds. As for any attempts to go genre or otherwise male-skewing, that's being supressed by The Walking Dead in fall and winter, and Game of Thrones in the spring. There's also the sports issue to consider in that realm.

Spot said...

My theory on why this past season seemed lackluster is two-fold: the 2012-2013 development season probably stunk while there were a surprising amount of high-flying/high-rated freshmen from 2011-2012 that the broadcast network felt they could lean more heavily on. I think the networks are almost settling into a two-year scripted boom/bust cycle:

2009-2010: Boom (Modern Family, NCIS: LA, The Middle, Glee, Cougar Town)
2010-2011: Bust (Mike & Molly, Hawaii Five-O)
2011-2012: Boom (2 Broke Girls, Once Upon a Time, Revenge, Suburgatory, Scandal)
2012-2013: Bust (The Forgotten, Elementary, Revolution)

Spot said...

Yeah I agree with you. Although I think you meant the following there, not the forgotten which was from the 2009-2010 season

Spot said...

I think the issue with Sundays is not as bad as networks are making us believe by simply giving up on them. I mean, last fall, less than a year ago Revenge and Once Upon a Time were some of the highest rated shows on TV airing on Sunday... Awards season (and the general notion that they had lackluster first halves of seasons) killed them. Bottom line? I think sundays are a different kind of beast that has to be dealt with in a different kind of way and that is what networks have failed to do so far. I think next year they are taking a step towards the right direction somehow but with the wrong guns. I think they should have put new or hot shows there at least. Ideally, I would go almost all with reality in there though...

Spot said...

Thanks for the catch.

Spot said...

Because I think there are two networks that have the capability to seize the opportunity. ABC and CBS are best situated to tackle Sundays (pun intended) even though they have very different circumstances. CBS could leverage its football overruns and better funnel that demo-attractive audience into its lineup, but 60 Minutes and the CBS News division have an incredible amount of power. The Eye can't fix its Sundays until it deals with that.

(Side note: this is why I am pleasantly baffled by The Amazing Race. Surrounded by a sea of shows that skew only 20% of its audience in the demo, TAR pushes itself into the 30s on par with Survivor. I would love to see a season where it got the direct football lead-in; I don't think it'd be a Go On-like fraud of artificial audience growth but it would help the show get an elusive third ratings renaissance.)

Meanwhile, ABC should do what it does best and just remodel the entire night. When the network has its metaphorical back against the wall, its best quality has been a willingness to take the risk and swing for the fences. And when it works it really takes off: Lost, Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy, Modern Family. SHIELD has that feel to it, and I think it's great for Tuesdays (the night that I would have prioritized over Sundays for 2013-2014), but in '14-'15 I hope to see that sky-high aiming.

The other networks are more locked into their circumstances: Animation Domination so defines Fox's Sundays that they'd have to wipe that slate clean before trying something, and I don't even think they should so long as the cartoons skew like they do. And NBC has inherited ABC's former Monday Night Football problem: a bi-polar night where it rates very high in the Fall but cannot get even a third of that audience to show up January-May.

Spot said...

I think that's a very good point. Looking at the 60 Minutes Vault page, I see a couple standout results. A 4.9 after a 10.5 lead-in. Some 3s with an 8-10 lead-in. Basically, if the game goes past 7:30, the results are much better. The landscape is too competitive to have any sacred cows, so I would not be surprised to see something else slide into that spot.

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