Friday, August 2, 2013

The War of 18-49, Undercover Boss


Scheduling history: Undercover Boss premiered after the Super Bowl in 2010 and stayed on Sunday through the rest of that season and all of the 2010-11 season. The show was then kept off of the next two fall schedules and eventually showed up in the Friday 8:00 hour. It briefly returned to the fall schedule in 2013, but has been back in midseason mode every year since.

See (who saw) how it all began: The last series to air its very first episode after the Super Bowl was Undercover Boss, and the results were sensational; its 2/7/10 premiere (not pictured in averages below) had 38.65 million viewers and a 16.2 demo rating, easily the best demo rating/retention for a lead-out in four years (and easily the second-best since Survivor in 2001). And it turned that into a really big 5.2 demo for its timeslot premiere the next Sunday. And it held that initial audience quite well; it dropped to a 4.8 in week two and rebounded to 5.1 in week three.

The best of times: Though the Boss was still quite strong early in season two, it never again got anywhere close to the 5's it achieved a few times in season one. But another thing I'll highlight in this section is the show's first few weeks on Friday. The 2.4 demo in its first Friday episode on 2/17/12 was one of the more impressive recent episodes of a Friday series in recent years, and it settled in as Friday's biggest program (in the upper 1's) for most of the rest of that spring 2012 run.

The worst of times: For whatever reason, the Boss has usually really limped to the finish within its seasons. The usually 3.0ish second season suddenly dropped to 2.0 in each of its last two weeks; season three sputtered from upper 1's all the way down to 1.1; and the similarly consistent season four posted a 1.2 and 1.0 down the stretch run. Its first time below 1.0 came for the penultimate season six episode, a special Sunday airing on 2/15/15 against NBC's enormous SNL40 special. It had another rocky return to Sunday late in the spring of 2016, and fell as low as a 0.7 for a one-off Friday episode on 5/20/16.

Then vs. now: In two years, Undercover Boss went from one of TV's most impressive post-Super Bowl performers to a Friday show. CBS is light on real estate, so it's felt like they really want this show to just be a utility player, but the ratings have gotten in the way of this downgrade trajectory. It's one of Friday's top shows and usually outrates the surely much more expensive dramas. So after using Undercover Boss to back up weak Friday newbies like A Gifted Man and Made in Jersey, CBS shifted gears and launched the show in the fall for season five. It worked quite well, but outside circumstances (The Amazing Race's move) necessitated a return to midseason for Undercover Boss. The ratings say this was a bad move, but CBS is probably OK with it since Boss usually struggles to produce a full season of episodes.

Adults 18-49 info by season:

1Winter Spring 2010Sunday 9:004.593.95.2detail
32012Sun 8:00, Fri 8:002.01-34%1.13.0detail
42012-13Friday 8:001.61-20%1.01.9detail
6Winter 2014-15Sun 8:00, Fri 8:001.39-8%0.91.8detailB-
72015-16Sunday 9:001.15-17%0.71.6detailC+
82016-17Wednesday 8:000.97-16%0.71.2detailB-
9Winter 2020Wed 8:00, Mon 9:000.650.60.7detail
10Fall 2020Friday 9:000.38-42%0.30.5detail
11Winter 2022Friday 8:000.39+5%0.30.5detailB+

Historical-adjusted ratings by season:

1Winter Spring 2010163big hit0.83139185185149
6Winter 2014-1583hit(Fri)0.42+4%5410710177
9Winter 202080marginal0.4168878168
10Fall 202058flop0.30-27%48787848
11Winter 202277hit(Fri)0.39+32%571069661

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


Spot said...

How much longer can this show go on? I would think that we would be at a point where it would be hard to fool the employees. Maybe, they can transform it to a hidden-camera show.

Spot said...

I dunno. I hated it when I watched it after the Super Bowl, so I figured it would fizzle pretty quickly. I'm shocked it's still this solid.

Spot said...

I've said this before, Mr. Spot, and I'll say it again - never underestimate the public's tolerance for/enjoyment of pure dreck.

Spot said...

I've felt the same for the last couple of seasons, and wondered if they might look for another Friday night unscripted hit, perhaps a high-concept game show like Drew Carey vehicle/writers' strike filler Power of 10 a few years ago.

I gather the employees did catch on at least once (either in the US or in the UK original), but as I'm not a viewer, I don't know how that episode played out after that.

Spot said...

I don't think it should be a huge surprise. It celebrates the lower-level workers that usually get ignored whenever we talk about business, while greatly humanizing the highest-level executives that received so much scorn during the recession. In short, it makes people feel better about other people, rich or poor. I have no doubt that if it took the Sunday at 9:00 time slot back from The Good Wife, it would improve on its ratings. It basically matched it this year (1.61 to 1.66) with a much worse time slot.

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