Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The War of 18-49, The Good Wife


Scheduling history: After The Good Wife had a couple OK years on Tuesday, CBS tried to inject some ratings juice by making it the Sunday centerpiece. It had five years there before ending in 2016.

See (who saw) how it all began: The Good Wife was one of two new Tuesday dramas in CBS' fall 2009-10 lineup. NCIS: Los Angeles looked great, bowing with a 4.4 demo after NCIS' 4.8, but The Good Wife appeared much weaker out of the gate. It opened with 13.71 million viewers and a 3.1 demo on 9/22/09. But while LA dropped a few ticks (to a 4.1), The Good Wife became one of the very few shows to grow in week two, upticking to 3.2. It dropped from there, but not by much; it pretty much settled in the upper 2's until the spring.

The best of times: The 3.2 in week two on 9/29/09 remains a series high, but The Good Wife was very close to that level for most of season one. On Sunday, The Good Wife got as high as a 2.7 on 1/8/12, a night when its NFL-inflated 60 Minutes lead-in had a 4.8.

The worst of times: Each season until the last (when it was exactly even), The Good Wife has dropped more than the league average. Season six was the weakest yet, with most data points going into the low 1's. It finished the season in rougher than usual fashion, dropping to a new low 0.9 on 5/3/15. It hit a 0.9 five more times during the final season.

Then vs. now: One of the great challenges on this blog over the years has been quantifying the value of The Good Wife, a show that usually graded out as a clear cancel on the strong CBS totem pole, yet it was always pretty clear CBS has little hesitation in renewing it. Is it a case of total viewers mattering? No; it's still behind most of its peer dramas in that, too. Is its affluent audience more valuable than a simple adults 18-49 rating dissection suggests? That could be part of it, but I doubt it is all of it; what ad rates we've seen over the years tend to suggest TGW may get more ad dollars per 18-49 point than other CBS dramas, but its ratings are weak enough that it's still fewer ad dollars total. Syndication? Maybe, but it didn't even have a deal until last season. In the end, my guess is all of this stuff combined gets The Good Wife pretty close to where it needs to be, but not all the way there, and CBS makes up the rest of the gap because they just love the show and the awards buzz it brings. Many want to be able to quantify every single show and will bristle at this, but until I can find some sort of profitability smoking gun, it's the best I can do. Other low-rated shows have these kinds of things going for them, but most of them also have a larger ratings gap to make up. This one just happens to have the perfect recipe.

Adults 18-49 info by season:

12009-10Tuesday 10:002.682.03.2detail
32011-12Sunday 9:002.01-9%1.72.7detail

Historical-adjusted ratings by season:



For more on The War of 18-49, my look at the history of primetime TV's veteran shows, see the Index.


Spot said...

I have never understood how The Good Wife has managed to hand on as long as it has. It's never been a ratings winner, and with all the acclaim it supposedly has, it's only got three Emmys to its name. Only five nominations this time around means a likely shutout.

I just hate the way it takes up valuable space in the line-up. Something, anything could do better Sunday nights.

Spot said...

I agree that it's a combination of factors like syndication and high-income audience that has kept The Good Wife around. In the case of the former especially, I'd wager that having over 100 episodes sweetens the deal enough to take a minimal loss on the show now.

I'd also add that it's benefited from CBS not taking Sunday seriously demo-wise.

Spot said...

Is The Good Wife the new Cold Case? It's seems like it.

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