Monday, April 21, 2014

A18-49+: Ratings Races to Watch in the Last Month

We're exactly one month from the end of the broadcast regular season, which means we're one month away from this blog largely transforming into a very long-winded season review. While the networks have enough ratings data in most cases to make their renewal/scheduling decisions, the next month will be pivotal in many of the popularity contests we use to evaluate things on a bigger-picture level. So I thought I'd take a quick look at how some of the closest races stand with another month to go. This will be heavy on the A18-49+ stat and the labels used to classify shows. All the league average calculations are through Sunday, April 13, though for the individual show averages I usually included whatever was available from last week.


Week Ending ABC CBS NBC Fox CW
1 9/29/2013 98 96 117 88 12
5 10/27/2013 95 99 112 93 33
9 11/24/2013 95 102 110 90 33
13 12/22/2013 93 103 112 88 34
17 1/19/2014 92 105 107 95 34
21 2/16/2014 91 106 103 101 34
25 3/16/2014 93 105 104 99 34
29 4/13/2014 94 106 103 95 34
2012-13 Week 29 94 110 91 106 30
2012-13 Final 93 109 93 106 30

As mentioned before, the Winter Olympics helped NBC cover up much of the between-Voice hell they endured in 2012-13. Another loser appeared to emerge during that time of season: ABC, which was sitting out most of its biggest dramas. Meanwhile, Fox recovered from a bad fall to sit at a 101 A18-49+ for a three-week span in February.

But the spring has seen a major shift, making it abundantly clear which network had the worst season. Over the last couple months, even with American Idol on the air, Fox is leaking oil at nearly a point per week, while things have quietly broken rather well for ABC in the spring. This creates the very real possibility that ABC could actually pass Fox for third place in original series average, leaving the network that has thoroughly dominated most of the A18-49+ era in the big four cellar. But there will be some shifts that could make this closer than Fox's current free-fall trend suggests; for example, ABC loses Scandal after week 30, and Fox may get some help from three regular season weeks of 24.

It's not quite a mortal lock, but it seems like CBS is going to win a second straight season in original series average. If NBC were three points behind with The Voice positioned as it was last year (a late March premiere that meant huge numbers deep into April), it might get interesting. But NBC just isn't picking up any real steam right now, and I think How I Met Your Mother finale week gave CBS enough of a bump that they can hold them off.

New Scripted Shows:

Total Flop Renew Solid Hit Big Hit
2003-04 32 22 9 4 2 1
2004-05 31 12 13 8 6 3
2005-06 38 17 11 4 1 0
2006-07 34 18 12 6 2 1
2007-08 27 11 10 4 1 0
2008-09 25 14 8 4 2 0
2009-10 26 12 11 6 3 0
2010-11 34 16 9 3 1 0
2011-12 40 14 15 10 4 1
2012-13 28 15 8 3 1 0

Last year, though we didn't know it at the time, it took an upward finals adjustment on finale night just for the 2012-13 regular season to produce one new hit (The Following).

This year, the drama will not concern how the new class stacks up among the worst classes, but how it stacks up among the best. There will be at least four new hits: The Blacklist (153), which will probably (but not quite definitely) hold onto its big hit label, The Millers (142), Resurrection (140) and Sleepy Hollow (137). Resurrection's average likely drops behind Hollow's, but it would need a massive meltdown in the last two weeks (as in, sub-1.5) to lose the hit label. And there's a relatively good chance Agents of SHIELD (130) will make this the first five-hit season since 2004-05; it probably would need to average below 1.8 in the last few weeks to drop out of the hit club.

The "solid" group will not be quite as crowded, relatively speaking; still too early to say on Friends with Better Lives (115 thru two episodes), but otherwise only The Crazy Ones (112) and Mom (109) are there right now without being hits. The league average should drop enough to fit two-and-through We Are Men (99) into the mix, and Almost Human (98) may well get there as well. There will be seven at the very least, likely at least eight or nine, maybe 10 to tie the A18-49+ record.

These things seem great, but two things to keep in mind. 1) The total number of big four newbies swung way back up to nearly 2011-12 levels. So while the volume stats are pretty strong, like with 2011-12, the rate stats will not be quite as overwhelming. (To come at it from the other direction, we'll probably also have 18-20 flops, possibly the most in ten years.) And 2) The "limited series" phenomenon may end up inflating these numbers a bit both this year and in the future. Sleepy Hollow and Resurrection both likely drop below the "hit" threshold if they had a full 22 episodes. Resurrection was a spring series, so it would've gotten this kind of credit in any year, but generally a show like Sleepy Hollow would've gotten 22.

  • The quietly graceful aging of Grey's Anatomy has continued this season; it will wrap up its tenth "hit" or better season, and there's actually a chance it could extend its streak of dropping less than the year before. Right now the show is at -13.0% year-to-year, in a virtual tie with last year. If it can just maintain the 2.6 posted in its last episode across the rest of the season, the gap will close to -12.7%, marking a sixth straight year that the Grey's Anatomy year-to-year decline slowed. One would think a finale spike and the departure of Sandra Oh would help it clear this bar, but will the late spring and the absence of its lead-out Scandal drive more viewers away?
  • Speaking of Scandal, it should finish with an A18-49+ somewhere in the low-160's, which I believe would make it the biggest full-time scripted show in the 10:00 hour since... Grey's Anatomy, when it aired in the Sunday 10/9c hour in 2005-06. Coupled with The Blacklist's success on Monday, they have helped mark a rare positive season year-to-year for the 10:00 hour.
  • The Grey's Anatomy streak of slowed declines is pretty amazing, especially for that kind of show, but the NCIS streak is arguably more impressive: in a ten-season run, NCIS has never lost ground in A18-49+ from year-to-year. But it looks like that streak is coming to an end, as the show was down in the low-teens for most of the season and has weakened more than usual since DST. It finished last season so well (3.1 -> 3.1 -> 3.4) that it's almost impossible for the show to make up the ground required to be flat in Plus. Its two-year reign as top broadcast drama is also kaput, thanks to Scandal (and quite possibly The Blacklist too). The real drama for NCIS is whether it can hold onto its "big hit" label for a fourth straight season. It's certainly not performed at a "big hit" level since Daylight Saving. It would be there if the season ended now, but it probably needs to average about a 2.6 or higher down the stretch to eke out another 150 Plus.
  • It's been a good season for many of what have long been considered the crumbling frontiers in primetime, like the aforementioned 10:00 hour and the CW network. But those two things are just recovering a fraction of their massive losses over the last decade. More dramatic is the Friday night situation. It will be the big four's strongest season on Friday (relative to the weeknights) in the A18-49+ era. Though there are many success stories, the real star is ABC's Shark Tank. For this show, the drama is not whether it will be the A18-49+ era's biggest Friday show; it should clear that bar (a 90 A18-49+) rather easily. The real question is whether it can actually break the 100 league average. It's probably favored to do so, but a run of 1.6 ratings like it preliminarily got last Friday would make it close.
  • Will The Big Bang Theory be able to grow in raw numbers for a third straight year? Unless it can average a 5.5+ the rest of the way, that's not happening. But in A18-49+ it's gonna be up into the 270 vicinity. That makes it the biggest sitcom since Friends ended, crushing its own record from last year.
  • Where will much-maligned American Idol end up in A18-49+? Assuming it averages 2.0 or a bit below over the last month, the Wednesday edition will probably be somewhere in the low 140's. Though it shouldn't quite be lumped in with The X Factor (low-to-mid 90's), that means that Idol is no longer even a "big hit" by Plus standards. 310 -> 226 -> 185 -> low 140's is not what I would call a favorable three-year trajectory. And there aren't any signs of the product improving; it's dropped more over the course of the season than even last season. I thought it was bad when it went from a 6.0 premiere as low as 2.9 on the main night in 2013 (-52%). This time, it's already gone down 60%: from 4.7 to 1.9.


Spot said...

I'll just say it, Grey's Anatomy drop it actually worse this year than last to me. This is the first time since the brief time LOST was its lead out that it actually had a megahit show to pair with and it will still down year to year. As Scandal has been posting multiple +20% gains for two seasons it has continued the -13% streak. It should be doing better

Spot said...

While I have your attention here, I'll ask another question. Are you going to do a best case/worst case for Black Box and 24: Live Another Day?
I know we'd all love to see one

Spot said...

Yep, and Bad Teacher.

Spot said...

That sounds great. Even though I'm thinking 24 is the only one that has a chance of another season

Spot said...

Spot, do you have A18-49+ scripted averages for each network? (only originals)

Spot said...

How much is the league average down from last year?

Spot said...

-10%. Updated here every week:

Spot said...

Assuming I didn't screw up the formula, I came up with CBS 111, ABC 97, Fox 86, NBC 82.

Spot said...

Which is about where I thought it would be. It's hilarious that the league average is under 2.0. It's probably why it doesn't feel like the hits are that big this year. I mean, SH was already starting to trail off by December. Resurrection's doing that now. SHIELD fell off pretty quickly. I'll bet none of them would be hits without their sizable premieres. The Millers still feels like a fraud to me. Meanwhile, AH is likely getting cancelled at league average, which sucks. Eh. It had a decent premiere, though, too.

Spot said...

This is great. I didn't know there's such a list. Thanks.

Is there a list of league averages for each season? I mean, final number for the season, not week by week.

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