Friday, July 26, 2013

War of 18-49 Flashback, Swingtown (CBS, 2008)


Scheduling history: Before Under the Dome came along in 2013, CBS' last truly serious push into summer scripted programming was in 2008 with co-production Flashpoint and summer holdover Swingtown. Initially, Swingtown was the higher-priority show, as CBS scheduled it on Thursday. But after seven weeks, CBS flipped the two shows, and the last six eps of Swingtown aired on Friday.

When there was hope: Even in a very busy timeslot that included Game 1 of the NBA Finals and NBC's own scripted premiere (of horror anthology Fear Itself), Swingtown was able to find some initial interest. It averaged 8.57 million viewers and a 2.8 demo rating on 6/5/08, building on its lead-in from CSI (2.4), and it handily outrated Fear Itself (2.0) which had a pretty similar-sized lead-in. It dropped almost 20% (to 2.3) in week two, but it remained a stronger option than the lead-in CSI repeat (and stayed ahead of said repeat for even a couple weeks more).

When hope was lost: After the promising start, Swingtown just never stopped dropping. If we throw out the holiday weekend episode on July 3rd (1.3), then every single Thursday episode was down from the previous one (2.8 -> 2.3 -> 2.1 -> 1.9 -> 1.7 -> 1.6). By the end of that stretch, and coupled with Flashpoint's relatively promising 1.9 start on Friday, CBS opted to flip the shows. Swingtown didn't actually drop that much in its first Friday ep, pulling a 1.4, but by two weeks later it had hit its series low 0.9. It rallied to 1.1 by the end of the run, but that wasn't enough for serious season two consideration.

Swingtown still has its fans even today, evidenced by CBS highlighting the show's streaming run on this summer, but its trajectory did not exactly encourage CBS to keep trying in the summer. What finally got them back there, five years later, was the continued deterioration of the repeat programming CBS has usually relied on in the summer months.

Adults 18-49 info by season:

Seas Year Timeslot Avg y2y Lo Hi Results Grade
1Summer 2008Thursday 10:001.560.92.8

Historical-adjusted ratings by season:

Seas Year A18-49+ Label Now15 y2y Lo Hi Premiere Finale
1Summer 2008 47 flop0.79 27 85 85 33

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

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