Monday, July 22, 2013

A18-49+: 2008-09 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. The summer began with 2012-13, we've looped back to 2006-07 and 2007-08, and today... it's 2008-09.

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:

The year after the writers' strike was a return to scheduling normalcy (well, aside from that election thing), and much of the primetime ratings landscape went back into the patterns that had been coming into focus in the last year before the strike. But there were clearly some sea changes percolating.

The two networks most hurt within the writer's strike year were ABC and CBS, because their schedules were most reliant on scripted programming. But the year after the strike set these networks on very different paths, and one could argue the two nets haven't really gone off those paths ever since. We'll start with CBS, for whom almost all the news was good in the post-strike world. After a couple rough "in-between" years, CBS launched the multi-pronged surge toward the strong schedule they have now. It was a really good year across the board for their most important anchors of today: How I Met Your Mother (107 -> 134), sophomore The Big Bang Theory (99 -> 127), Two and a Half Men (151 -> 171), NCIS (102 -> 122) and Criminal Minds (111 -> 121). They also had one of the season's biggest new shows, The Mentalist (126), though that ended up being a smaller part of CBS' story than it seemed at the time. The only real misstep was their return to a third comedy hour with The New Adventures of Old Christine (69) and Gary Unmarried (74), but even that helped the network support a growing comedy inventory while they were building a truly worthy third anchor.

Meanwhile, ABC's previous generation of hits was also aging; it was clear at this point that Grey's Anatomy (192) and Desperate Housewives (177) were past their primes. But unlike CBS, ABC didn't seem to have much of anything trending in the right direction (aside from The Bachelor (138), which had its first major come-back-from-the-dead season). Though ABC did salvage Private Practice (110) by moving it after Grey's at midseason, the other freshman drama renewals of the strike year totally collapsed, from Dirty Sexy Money (88 -> 64) to Pushing Daisies (98 -> 60) to Eli Stone (75 -> 57). And while the new class did include the ultimately long-running Castle, it made little impact out of the gate (81), and the rest of the newbies pretty much bombed.

There were two networks that "benefited" from the strike year, Fox and NBC, because they were less reliant on scripted programming. Those two networks pretty much went right back into their pre-strike patterns; Fox returned to the low-120's network average that characterized most of its prime years, while NBC returned to the 80ish average of its bottoming-out period. Fox rearranged some of its signature shows, putting House (175) on Monday for good and Bones (97) into a Thursday anchor role. Meanwhile, NBC was in the Ben Silverman age, attempting to come up with ways to massively cut costs. Most notable this year was their attempt to circumvent the traditional (and expensive) pilot process with a bunch of straight-to-series orders. It was mostly a spectacular failure; only late-season The Office sister show Parks and Recreation survived to season two.

New Shows:

Total Flop Renew Solid Hit Big Hit
2008-09 25 13 8 4 2 0

Flop% Renew% Solid% Hit% BigHit%
2008-09 52% 32% 16% 8% 0%

Hits: Fringe (135), The Mentalist (126)
Solid: Lie to Me (112), Worst Week (104)
Sub-solid renewals: Castle (81), Parks and Recreation (79), Gary Unmarried (76), Better off Ted (59), Dollhouse (49)

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

Only three of the eight renewals (the bottom three) were axed after season two, which is good. But only The Mentalist and Castle were really able to emerge as long-term solid players, and neither was a long-term hit. Overall, a very weak season.


2006-07 106 99 81 123 41
2007-08 98 93 88 131 36
2008-09 100 103 82 121 39

The year after the strike saw NBC and Fox roughly return to their 2006-07 levels. But the new directions for ABC and CBS were clear, as ABC returned six points behind 2006-07 (and just two points ahead of the strike year!) while CBS went four points ahead of that year.

Days of the Week:

Year Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Sunday
2006-07 109 120 105 122 112
2007-08 104 120 106 115 116
2008-09 112 126 108 117 110

Tuesday had sorta backed into the day-of-the-week lead in 2007-08 because it was least affected by the strike. But it earned the lead this time. Fox had Idol and House leading into decent-rated newbie Fringe. NBC had the last year of the pairing between The Biggest Loser and Law and Order: SVU, and the spring season was one of TBL's strongest. But perhaps most significant was the rise of CBS, long-troubled on this night, thanks to NCIS' pairing with hot newbie The Mentalist.

Time of Day

Year 8:00 8:30 9:00 9:30 10:00 10:30
2006-07* 96 114 95
2007-08* 101 114 87
2008-09* 100 115 89

The 10:00 hour had a bit of a post-strike rally, but it didn't get anywhere near all the way back to where it was in the years before the strike, and it had nowhere to go but down from this point.

*- I don't have the half-hour breakdowns entered for 2006-07 thru 2009-10, so for now I will break these seasons down by hour rather than by half-hour. They'll probably be a bit off, since two-hour telecasts won't be broken out exactly right, but they're close enough to get a good general idea by hour.

Repeats & Sports/Specials

Year Reruns Movies Sports Specials
2006-07 59 51 132 92
2007-08 56 54 149 84
2008-09 53 52 162 91

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


Spot said...

I think The Mentalist would have been a bigger deal to CBS' future had they not developed NCIS: LA during this season for 2009-2010. While it successfully plugged the Thursday at 10:00 slot in '09-'10 that had become a problem after Without a Trace was booted the first time (Shark, Without a Trace part deux, Eleventh Hour), The Mentalist seemed primed to be a bigger deal. Ultimately, because it exceeded the "good-not-great" standards for holding a timeslot and because there was a lack of 9:00 slots, its ratings development was arrested.

Spot said...


I used Two and a Half Men's A18-49 averages and A18-49+ figures to sort out the league averages for the following three seasons:

2003-04: 4.051
2004-05: 4.069
2005-06: 4.056

Am I calculating wrong, or was there really three consecutive seasons when the league average was virtually flat and even grew a bit during 2004-05?

Spot said...

It's really sad to see how The Mentalist cooled off so fast.

I'm afraid that the same pattern is destined for Person of Interest, and I hope I'm wrong.

Spot said...

I agree about Person of Interest. I don't think its transition to Tuesday is going to go as smoothly as some are expecting.

Spot said...

They have fluctuated a bit as I've made some additions/corrections during War of 18-49 update season, but those are basically right. The "modern" rate of decline seems to have started in 2006-07, which is also right around the time DVR numbers started becoming important.

It was declining prior to the DVR, but I think it just happened to be pretty steady for those three years due to other factors, including abandonment of Saturday shows and the breakthrough 2004-05 class.

Spot said...

Do you think that the -6-10% rate will continue forever, or do you think that we will level off at some point? I think that last year's steeper than usual declines (combined with the bad spring of 2012) may be the last big decline. 2013-14 will surprise people by being only barely down. I expect the league average to stay north of 2.00.

Spot said...

One would think that the major contributing factors to the declines (DVR/cable) would reach a leveling-off point eventually, but then again they may also be replaced by something else like streaming on a large scale.

Overall, I agree that 2013-14 is likely to be better than 2012-13, but if there's actually going to be a long-term slowing down, it will probably be even more gradual than you predict. The DVR/cable penetration is not going to just rise at the exact same rate and then stop all of a sudden.

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