The other theme posts pretty much just use various different ways to break apart the realm of original non-sports series: by network, by genre, by day of the week, etc. But this post will leave the original series altogether and examine some of the trends among the other 35-40% of programming that fills out primetime schedules. I break them into four categories: series repeats, sports, specials and movies.
*- I mentioned many times when introducing the 2001-02 numbers that those two seasons had a small amount of missing data. While these probably slightly throw off some of the big-picture numbers in the original realm, for the most part they should be fairly accurate because most of the missing stuff falls in parts of the year with very few series originals. That's probably not the case in this post, since those missing weeks are almost entirely the non-originals explored here. So I will put an asterisk next to all the big-picture numbers in those seasons.
Anatomy of the Big Four Ratings
Unlike with most of the theme posts, I'm not breaking this down into "eras" because the narrative is pretty much the same from start to finish.
The 2003-04 number is unreliable, as explained above, but it's probably safe to say that ten years ago the average repeat did over two thirds of the number of the average original; and by 2012-13, it's gotten to less than half. Ten years ago, movie encores were still viable to plug relatively high-priority timeslots for most to all of a season, and now they're just not. They've dropped by nearly the same amount as the series reruns.
People usually look at big declines by originals when coming up with their "death of broadcast" narratives, but it's very possible the repeat/movie declines are the larger immediate issue. That programming is pretty much pure profit, and the size of that profit is shrinking quickly. Networks are increasingly hesitant to use repeats/movies as "filler," because it's much tougher for a new show to be weaker than the average repeat replacement, and so they have to be more and more "patient" with clear failure programs and spend more money on filler originals.
Despite the large repeat/movie declines, the overall big four ratings are declining by less than the original rate, because of the huge relative rise of sports. (But because of the also surging rights fees, it seems unlikely the profit is going up as fast as the ratings indicate, or as fast as it's going down with repeats.) 2013-14 with the Winter Olympics was a milestone season: the average for "everything else" actually went higher than the original series average.
Anatomy of the Big Four Real Estate
This is just a look at how much of each of these things the networks program. As I've noted in the past, it surprises me how steady these numbers have been over the years. Essentially the only thing that happened was the fall of movies. As of 2003-04, CBS had regular Sunday movie nights, and ABC almost always ran movies on Mondays after Monday Night Football ended. And that 9% of real estate lost has almost equally gone into originals, series repeats and sports. Even though repeat ratings have fallen by about as much as movie ratings, there's been no real drop in repeat real estate; they've had to stay in place to help cover for the death of movies.
Here are a few more specific examples to help convey the varying rates of decline among these categories:
First, here are the two regular in-season sports franchises, ABC's college football and ABC/NBC's NFL:
|Year||Sunday / Monday Night NFL||Saturday Night College|
And here are the championship games/series. While these are much more variable from year-to-year due to matchups and series lengths, there's still a pretty clear trend:
|Year||Super Bowl||NBA Finals||World Series||BCS Championship||NCAA Championship|
Most of these trends are pretty sharply up. All of the above seven other than the World Series are in the general vicinity of twice as strong (relative to original series) as ten years ago. Being twice as strong means that the raw numbers are pretty close to the same as at the beginning of the era. So it should be pretty clear that sports are operating on a different playing field from regular series.
Much of the reason why the entire sports rating (169 in 2003-04 -> 251 today) hasn't grown on that same scale is baseball. (In-season baseball includes not just the World Series but also previous postseason rounds which are much lower-rated.) Baseball gets consistently savaged in the sports media for its declines and its aging audience. And yet even baseball, trending by far the worst of the major sports, is still pretty much declining at the same rate as (maybe even a bit slower than) the collective entertainment series.
Sports-esque Specials (Awards Shows):
|Year||Oscars||Grammys||CMA Awards||Golden Globes||People's Choice|
As I acknowledged in last year's sports/specials post, my "special" designation is probably too broad. There are really two different brands of special: the live, sports-esque special (most of these are awards shows) and the rerun, series-esque special (most of these are holiday specials). Maybe by next year I will have actually separated the two in terms of designation! But for now, I can only re-provide these examples. The awards shows have almost all gotten stronger relative to original series because they have some of that "DVR-proof" quality that has benefited sports. However, the rates of growth are generally slower here than in sports.
Series-esque Specials (Holiday Specials):
|Year||It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown||A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving||A Charlie Brown Christmas||Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer||Grinch|
This selection of holiday specials is a little harder to decipher than most of the other examples, perhaps because of scheduling differences. (A few quick examples: the Grinch aired on Friday in 2004 and 2005; in 2007 the Grinch had a huge lead-in from the premiere of Shrek the Halls; and ABC sometimes aired the Peanuts Thanksgiving special on low-HUT Thanksgiving Night, sometimes the week before.) But overall, the general trends are about even with the original series trends, or maybe even a little better, even though these specials have been around for years or decades.
2001-02 | 2002-03 | 2003-04 | 2004-05 | 2005-06 | 2006-07 | 2007-08 | 2008-09 | 2009-10 | 2010-11 | 2011-12 | 2012-13 | 2013-14 | 2014-15