Monday, August 5, 2013

The War of 18-49, The OC


Scheduling history: Fox premiered The OC in the middle of the summer on Tuesday nights, then moved it to Wednesday for its regular season run. After season one, Fox moved it to Thursday nights, where it lasted for three more seasons.

See (who saw) how it all began: In the summer of 2003, Fox took a stab at launching a young-skewing drama in the summer, something they had done well just over a decade earlier with Melrose Place. The OC started OK at best, premiering to 7.46 million viewers and a 2.9 demo on 8/5/03. But it caught on instantly; in week two, it grew to 3.5, and then it hit or tied a series high again in each of the next four weeks, getting as high as a 4.3 for its penultimate summer ep on 9/9/03. After its next episode on September 16, it went off the air until late October, and it averaged right around a 4.0 in its fall run.

The best of times: Like most Fox shows of this era, The OC hit its best raw numbers when it got to air after American Idol. When Idol made its Wednesday season premiere on 1/21/04, The OC skyrocketed to a 5.6 demo that would forever remain the series high. In the end, the post-Idol bounce for The OC was not nearly as significant as for future beneficiaries like House and Glee; it ended up settling at around a 4.7, less than a point higher than what it had done in the first half of season one.

The worst of times: Starting in season two, Fox used The OC to attempt to fix its long-troubled Thursday schedule. That move instantly took a chunk out of the show's ratings, but it was still pretty strong by Fox Thursday standards initially, hanging in the low 3's for most of season two. But the hits kept coming; by the end of fall 2005, it was consistently below 3.0, and it was completely dead on arrival when it showed up for season four late in the fall of 2006. That season began at a puny 1.5 demo and hit that series low mark a couple other times later in season four. It ultimately got a little stronger, but not much. The series finale on 2/22/07 got the benefit of an American Idol lead-in, which boosted it all the way up to 2.8, but that was still less than a third of that night's Idol rating (9.1).

Then vs. now: The premiere of The OC was ten years to the day before this post goes live (8/5/13), and it took the broadcast networks just about that long to produce another summer scripted show this successful (2013's Under the Dome). The OC made a solid transition to the regular season, but it ended up a fairly textbook example of a four-year flameout, and one that (in the vein of Prison Break and Ugly Betty) was never really that big to begin with. (Though the 18-49 numbers don't tell this show's whole story, as it was much more impressive in younger demos.) Does Fox deserve some of the blame for The OC's fast fade, since they moved it to their dead Thursday night? Maybe a bit. But viewers tend to be very fickle with this kind of show, so it may have happened (if a bit slower) in any timeslot.

Adults 18-49 info by season:

Seas Year Timeslot Avg y2y Lo Hi Results Grade
12003-04Tuesday 9:

22004-05Thursday 8:003.29-23%2.73.8


42006-07Thursday 9:001.74-36%1.52.8

Historical-adjusted ratings by season:

Seas Year A18-49+ Label Now15 y2y Lo Hi Premiere Finale
12003-04 105 solid1.76 69 138 72 116
22004-05 81 marginal1.36 -23% 66 93 93 86
32005-06 66 flop1.12 -18% 47 86 81 74
42006-07 46 flop0.78 -31% 40 74 40 74

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


Spot said...

Oh The OC! I adored this show so much. I did not follow ratings back then, so I am glad for this post. I think you are probably right that FOX's scheduling didn't help but killing the major character at the end of season 3 after an already pretty bad arc for her was certainly the last blow on the show. Although it was falling, already, the season 4 decline was ridiculously higher than the previous one and that is to blame. But wow, the "Now" feature really makes the show seem like a huge flop... a 0.98 on fox, really? Interesting

Spot said...

I loved the show when it was on but only had the vaguest awareness of its ratings at the time.

Still, I'm convinced poor creative decisions killed it rather than any scheduling. The first season was great, but the show went seriously downhill in its second season and became almost unwatchable in the third. The show suddenly refound its creative mojo in its fourth season but it was too late for it to make a difference.

Spot said...

I'm quite impressed while looking at the now ratings. I imagined the oc as a Big Hit at least. Seeing that it was only average to flop surprised me.

Spot said...

I'm surprised with these ratings, I thought that The OC was huge at some point. Looking at this, I'm surprised that it's quite equal to Raising Hope's career.

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