Thursday, July 18, 2013

The War of 18-49, Shark Tank


Scheduling history: Season one of Shark Tank was scheduled rather crazily; it got six weeks on Sunday in the late summer, four weeks on Tuesday at the beginning of the fall, then another four weeks on Friday in the winter. Since then, it's always been on Friday, though it didn't show up till midseason in seasons two and three. Season four was its first full season, and it moved from 8:00 to 9:00 late in the fall to make way for an 8:00 comedy hour. After seven years on Friday, it finally made the move to Sunday in fall 2017.

See (who saw) how it all began: ABC initially gave Shark Tank was seemed like it might be a good timeslot: after a revival of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? in the summer of 2009. But Millionaire garnered only minimal interest, premiering to 7.00 million viewers and a 1.5 demo on 8/9/09. Shark Tank followed with 4.15 million viewers and a 1.3, numbers that made it look like just another low-rated summer reality series that would probably officially fade away the next week. Instead came one of the most surprising week two results in recent memory. While Millionaire ticked down to 1.4 in its second Sunday ep, Shark Tank rocketed all the way up to a 1.8. It sustained that number for the next couple weeks before dropping big in its two early September episodes, but the numbers were good enough for ABC to follow through with Shark Tank's planned fall Tuesday timeslot.

The show scored a 1.5 in its Tuesday debut on 9/29/09 and got as high as 1.8 for its last Tuesday ep three weeks later, then it returned in the winter for a four-episode Friday run that premiered at a 1.4 and grew from that number a bit in the subsequent weeks. Though it had grown in the weeks after each of its three timeslot premieres, the numbers were still low, and Shark Tank was not exactly a cinch for season two. It eventually scored that renewal, but it didn't return to the airwaves until the last two months of the 2010-11 season, over a year after season one had ended.

The best of times: Shark Tank had another fairly rocky run in the spring of 2011, once again scraping out another shot at midseason. But things really started to turn in its midseason 2012 return. The show turned its usual low-1's Friday level of the first two seasons into a mid-1's level, and by the fall of 2012 it was a high-1's level. It cracked the 2.0 barrier for the first time on 10/19/12 and went above the mark in its first episode at 9:00 on 11/2/12, buoyed by huge-for-Friday lead-in from the Malibu Country premiere. Shark Tank's 2.3 demo from that night remains the series high, though it hung another 2.3 on 5/2/14 and had 17 ratings of 2.0 or above during its even stronger fifth season.

The worst of times: Shark Tank was definitely at its consistent weakest in the Friday episodes during seasons one and two, when it usually pulled around a 1.4 but dipped as low as 1.2 on a few occasions in spring 2011. It was far from a slam dunk for renewal in those seasons, only kept around because it was able to make minor improvement on low-rated contemporary occupants like Supernanny and Ugly Betty. For seven seasons, the raw series low remains a 1.1 demo from the tail end of that initial Sunday run on 9/6/09, but it finally tied it for a special Sunday airing on 2/21/16. And it fell below that 1.1 for the first time on several occasions in season eight, including a 0.9 for the finale on 5/12/17. It hit its first 0.6 for the season ten premiere on 10/7/18 (then never got back there the rest of the season).

Then vs. now: In many ways, Shark Tank fits that great ideal trajectory often thrown about in TV discussion circles: the low-rated show whose network shrewdly shows patience, and over time it develops into something substantial. An uncertain renewal in seasons one and two, Shark Tank eventually became the biggest Friday show in A18-49+ since Law and Order: SVU was there in the early aughts, regularly cracking the weekly top 25 even on a low-viewed night. Though ABC may have been tempted to use the show in one of its holes on a bigger night, there's real incentive to sit on their Friday dominance. The boost it gives to newsmagazine lead-out 20/20 (which surged to its best A18-49+ in the Plus era in 2013-14) may be worth more than anything it can do on other nights. But with American Idol slated to return to ABC for 2017-18, the network has finally made a Shark Tank move; it was one of the players to fill the Sunday schedule in anticipation of that show's March 2018 premiere.

Adults 18-49 info by season:

12009-10Tuesday 8:001.541.11.8detail
2Spring 2011Friday 8:001.36-12%1.21.9detail
42012-13Fri 8:00, Fri 9:001.85+15%1.32.3detail
52013-14Friday 9:001.94+5%1.72.3detailA
62014-15Fri 9:00, Fri 8:001.82-6%1.52.2detailB+
72015-16Friday 9:001.42-22%1.11.7detailC
92017-18Sun 9:00, Sun 10:001.00-15%0.71.4detailB-
112019-20Sun 9:00, Fri 8:000.69-15%0.51.1detailB+
122020-21Friday 8:000.67-4%0.40.8detailA-

Historical-adjusted ratings by season:

2Spring 201153flop0.23-2%47757551

The War of 18-49 chronicles the ratings history of veteran primetime series. For more, see the Index.

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