Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The War of 18-49, Pretty Little Liars


Scheduling history: Most episodes of Pretty Little Liars have aired on Tuesday at 8/7c, but the network tried its first couple winter runs on what was historically its premier original night (Monday).

See (who saw) how it all began: Pretty Little Liars had a pretty respectable start on ABC Family, opening with 2.47 million viewers and a 0.9 demo on 6/8/10. This put it a bit below the network's flagship show at the time: The Secret Life of the American Teenager, which usually hit low-1's that summer. Liars held its 0.9 in week two, inched up to 1.0 in week three, bounced down to 0.7 and back up to 1.0, and then steadied at 0.9 for the most of the rest of the summer 2010 run. That summer closed on a new series high 1.1 on 8/10/10.

The best of times: Since the midpoint of season one, Pretty Little Liars has had remarkably consistent raw numbers. It's mostly been in the low-1's for the last three and a half seasons. A show built on teases and big reveals, PLL has occasionally spiked big-time for premieres and finales. The series high remains a 1.6 for the season two finale on 3/19/12, and that was massively up from a 1.0 the previous week. The last couple winter runs have also had huge spikes to 1.3, way up from the previous week.

The worst of times: The weakest run of episodes remains the series' opening weeks in summer 2010. The show pulled just a 0.7 in week four of the series on 6/29/10 and took over four years to go that low again (it happened on 1/20/15). The winter 2015 run finally saw raw numbers below the first half of season one, and season five also had the series' biggest year-to-year declines. However, the declines still weren't much more than the average decline for broadcast originals, and the 1.3 to end season five was one of the show's most impressive points ever.

Then vs. now: The raw numbers story with Pretty Little Liars has long been pretty boring, but that kind of consistency has made PLL increasingly valuable over the years. It was an impressive player from day one, but it was outdrawn by Secret Life in its first season and a half. Only starting in 2012 did Pretty Little Liars emerge as ABC Family's top series, and it's now gone several years with no real challengers for that title. Like the CW's flagship The Vampire Diaries, much of its value comes from its great resiliency, even though it skews toward a historically fickle demographic. But the trend in season 4B suggested a trend, and the declines slightly accelerated again in season five.

Adults 18-49 info by season:

Seas Year Timeslot Avg y2y Lo Hi Results Grade
1ASummer 2010Tuesday 8:000.920.71.1detail
1BWinter 2011Monday 8:
2ASummer 2011Tuesday 8:000.97+6%0.81.3detail
2BWinter 2012Monday 8:001.11-3%0.81.6
3ASummer 2012Tuesday 8:001.02+5%0.91.3detail
3BWinter 20131.17+6%1.01.4
4ASummer 20131.12+10%0.91.4detail
4BWinter 20141.02-13%0.81.3
5ASummer 20140.94-16%0.81.1detail
5BWinter 20150.88-14%0.71.3

Historical-adjusted ratings by season:

Seas Year A18-49+ Label Now y2y Lo Hi Premiere Finale
1ASummer 2010 33 25 39 32 39
1BWinter 20114536595951
2ASummer 2011 39 32 51 51 40
2BWinter 20124733685568
3ASummer 2012 43 37 54 47 51
3BWinter 20135649686856
4ASummer 2013 53 41 68 61 68
4BWinter 20145443686468
5ASummer 2014 50 40 59 59 48
5BWinter 20155240765676

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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