Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A18-49+: The Networks Post


The A18-49+ theme posts combine all of the individual season info in one specific category, allowing us to line up the last eleven seasons of collective Live+SD ratings declines on a relatively apples-to-apples basis. In future seasons I will update these pages with the new season numbers. Today we'll look at the last 15 years of the network race, comparing only the nets' original non-sports series averages. of this post from back in Spring 2012.



Put 'em All Together:

YearABCCBSNBCFoxWB/CWUPN
2001-028293128914252
2002-0387911141094841
2003-0482961171054341
2004-0596106981014038
2005-06101105841133935
2006-071061008212141
2007-0898938812936
2008-091001038212039
2009-10981067812339
2010-11981067712839
2011-12961157711931
2012-13931099310630
2013-14961061039434
2014-151031001009441
2015-16961021039941



Using only original, non-sports series, NBC barely eked out the season title, 102.59 to 102.14 over CBS. It's NBC's first season win since the final season of Friends in 2003-04. It also means that all four members of the big four have won the season within the last five years.

I feel like I say this every year, and it's getting kinda tiresome, but it's worth a reminder that all these networks are historically close together. I feel like there's a tendency (especially with journalists at the press tour) to treat the first-place network like geniuses and the fourth-place one like utter morons, but we're talking about a 7% difference from top to bottom here, which is like a tenth of a point. This was even more of a convergence than the last couple years, as NBC was the weakest first-place network in the era and ABC the strongest fourth-place. Clearly, nobody is even remotely on the dominance level of NBC during the Must See TV years, or Fox during the peak American Idol years. On the other hand, even if you think the league average is declining more than it should be, it'd be hard to argue any of these networks are in as bad a condition as NBC circa 2011.



2001-04: The Tail End of NBC Dominance

YearABCCBSNBCFoxWBUPN
2001-028293128914252
2002-0387911141094841
2003-0482961171054341

The first years of A18-49+ are the last look at NBC's Friends-driven supremacy. 2003-04 was the last season of Friends, and that show appeared to lift all NBC boats to a large extent; shows like ER, Law and Order and especially Will and Grace were never again as strong after these years. And NBC also had a pretty effective new show pipeline, greenlighting sensational unscripted newbie The Apprentice and solid Monday drama Las Vegas.



2004-05: The Convergence

YearABCCBSNBCFoxWBUPN
2004-0596106981014038

Without Friends, NBC fell from a comfortable first all the way into third place, and below the league average. And while NBC was having one of the worst year-to-year seasons in the A18-49+ era, ABC was having one of the best, fueled by its new drama trio of Lost, Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy. CBS had its own strong year as the CSI brand peaked (and added a third show), but much of their upward movement had to do with the net largely abandoning Saturday night originals.



2005-06: Fox Makes Its Move

YearABCCBSNBCFoxWBUPN
2005-06101105841133935

Fox became the third #1 network in as many years as American Idol hit its prime and the network finally began to fill in some of the many holes around it with red-hot sophomore House and newbies Prison Break and Bones. NBC took another massive step downward, approaching the A18-49+ level at which it'd stay for the next five years, while ABC kept gaining steam as Grey's Anatomy emerged as its hottest drama.



2006-11: Fox's Unchecked Prime

YearABCCBSNBCFoxCW
2006-071061008212141
2007-0898938812936
2008-091001038212039
2009-10981067812339
2010-11981067712839

When I only had six years of A18-49+ data (2006-12), it seemed to me at the time that the network race was extremely stagnant and boring. Fox had five straight overwhelming years with a whooping 120 or more, including two seasons (the writer's strike in 2007-08 and Glee's peak in 2010-11) when the average Fox original actually crossed the 125 "hit" threshold. After peaking in 2006-07, ABC was somewhat derailed by the 2007-08 writer's strike, while CBS recovered from that shutdown much better thanks to the continued rise of a new generation of hits: How I Met Your Mother, Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory, NCIS, Criminal Minds. NBC took advantage of the strike year pretty well, but in the subsequent years they were ultimately no stronger (in fact, a bit weaker) than in the last couple pre-strike years.



2011-12: The Brief Rise of CBS

YearABCCBSNBCFoxCW
2011-12961157711931

Early in 2011, Charlie Sheen's departure from Two and a Half Men looked like it could tear apart CBS' whole comedy department. Instead, Ashton Kutcher replaced him and Men's ratings (at least initially) went through the roof. That helped launch one of the decade's strongest new shows, 2 Broke Girls. Add in The Big Bang Theory's syndication-fueled surge on Thursday, and CBS put together one of the strongest modern sitcom frameworks. Meanwhile, Fox had one of its best autumns ever with new shows The X Factor and New Girl, but New Girl fell way back to earth in the second half of the season, and American Idol took its first huge step downward. It all added up to Fox finally stepping down (though not by much) from its five-year "prime" level.



2012-16: The Convergence II

YearABCCBSNBCFoxCW
2012-13931099310630
2013-14961061039434
2014-151031001009441
2015-16961021039941

Fox's woes late in 2011-12 continued into 2012-13 and 2013-14, which were pretty much a disaster on all fronts except for new dramas The Following (which regressed in season two) and Sleepy Hollow. But they were rescued from continued erosion in 2014-15 by the midseason megahit Empire. The other key part of this convergence was the rise from the ashes of long-forgotten NBC, armed with a double-shot of the one talent competition (The Voice) that was still holding up well.

CBS couldn't capitalize on its 2011-12 comedy strength, as most of the series had unfortunate regressions moving forward. ABC fell to its lowest rating in nearly a decade as Dancing with the Stars collapsed in 2012-13, but the network really turned it around the next two years as DWTS steadied and the network's scripted development improved. 2014-15 marked its first #1 finish in the era. A disappointing ABC season in 2015-16 helped usher NBC to the top, meaning all four big networks had won the season in a five-year span.



A18-49+ Recaps
By Season:
By Theme:

4 comments:

Spot said...

If you strip out CBS's Saturdays from 2003-2004, what would their A18-49+ score be? I'm curious how much the night drags down their average.

Spot said...

If I just remove Saturday from the CBS average it changes to 103. Though the answer is more complicated than that because 1) they would go out of the league average too, making it higher (and the CBS # lower), plus 2) CBS still programs one original hour on Saturday even today. So I would guess the truly apples-to-apples answer would be roughly a 100.

Spot said...

What all of these charts tell me is how quickly it can change for a network. I mentioned FOX's reversal of fortune the past couple of years in the last post. I had no idea that ABC changed so much just from a handful of shows. Just guessing at most of the NOW numbers, but based on a 4.07 league average (compared to 2.1 now) that I got from the DH page, ABC's NOW scores for new shows were:

Desperate Housewives: 5.52
Grey's Anatomy: 4.18
Lost: 3.57
Dancing with the Stars: 2.63
Boston Legal: 2.54
Supernanny: 2.00

That's pretty solid.

Spot said...

Who ended up winning third place this past year: ABC or NBC? I remember it was down to a fee decimal places, but I can't for the life of me remeber who nudged who out.
___

Next year, I think will be much more clean-cut. CBS will easily win with a great development season and a solid schedule. It'll be at about 117. Fox will continue to fall, but will still claim second place at 99. NBC will be boosted by The Olympics, The Voice & its solid-leadouts, but poor development will stop that for a bit (98). ABC will have its worst season since post-Millionaire, thanks to a not-great schedule, specifically poor use of SHEILD and Modern Family. The relative success of CBS & NBC will bring up the league average, further depressing ABC's last-place score of 86. And this is coming from someone who watches a lot of ABC shows.

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