Thursday, July 24, 2014

A18-49+: The League Averages Post


The A18-49+ theme posts combine all of the individual season info in one specific category, allowing us to line up the last decade-plus of collective Live+SD ratings declines on a relatively apples-to-apples basis. In future seasons I will update these pages with the new season numbers.

Since the introduction of A18-49+, I've had some requests for a post that simply lists what the "league average" is in each season. So here they are, plus a few rambling thoughts on the evolution of the league average.

To reiterate, "league average" is defined here as the Live+SD adults 18-49 rating for the average moment of original non-sports series programming on the big four networks during the 35- or 36-week TV regular season. All the A18-49+ numbers on this site are calculated by dividing a rating or average rating by its season's league average and multiplying by 100.



Put 'em All Together:


YearLeAvy2y
2001-024.31
2002-034.44+3.2%
2003-044.06-8.7%
2004-054.07+0.3%
2005-064.06-0.3%
2006-073.77-7.2%
2007-083.31-12.2%
2008-093.01-9.1%
2009-102.81-6.4%
2010-112.54-9.7%
2011-122.36-7.1%
2012-132.11-10.9%
2013-141.88-10.6%
2014-151.68-10.7%
2015-161.46-13.4%



2001-06: Mostly Steady


YearLeAvy2y
2001-024.31
2002-034.44+3.2%
2003-044.06-8.7%
2004-054.07+0.3%
2005-064.06-0.3%

As some who have gone back and reverse-engineered these numbers have noticed in the past, the league average was almost exactly the same from 2003-06. The fact that they're all that close (within two hundredths) is surely a big coincidence. But there were some things that make these years different from the subsequent period:
  • Outside factors. The explosion of DVR penetration and basic cable originals hadn't really begun yet. Nielsen began tracking DVRs in 2006, and at that time they estimated they were in only 8% of households. That number approaches 50% today.
  • Broadcast itself overachieved. The outside factors weren't as severe in these three years, but the outside factors should still be a net negative on the whole. Broadcast ratings had been eroding for quite awhile leading into the A18-49+ era, because of cable's increased share of viewership. So the steadiness should probably at least partly be attributed to broadcasters doing a good job. Most of this was due to the class of 2004-05, the best new show class of the era by a very wide margin, and some of those shows got much stronger again in 2005-06. American Idol was still growing across this period, and the CSI brand hit its peak potency for CBS.
  • Fewer Saturday originals. This is a smaller factor than I expected, but it's still worth noting that CBS was running a lot more Saturday originals in 2003-04, and that makes the difference between the average being very slightly up vs. about 1% down in 2004-05.
  • Incomplete data. As I've said many times, the numbers from 2003-04 thru 2005-06 should be taken as approximates due to gaps in the data. There are a couple weeks that I omit completely and a handful of others when I'm using numbers from surrounding weeks as a placeholder. I can't really say what the impact is without knowing what I'm missing from those weeks. Maybe all three years are a bit inflated, since the omitted weeks are the low-rated holiday weeks, but that impact is small because there's so little original programming.



2006-13: The Rise of DVR/Cable

YearLeAvy2y
2006-073.77-7.2%
2007-083.31-12.2%
2008-093.01-9.1%
2009-102.81-6.4%
2010-112.54-9.7%
2011-122.36-7.1%
2012-132.11-10.9%

Nielsen began tracking DVR households in 2006, so it may not be a coincidence that 2006-07 was the first season to take what looked like a "modern"-sized drop. Then came the brutal 2007-08 writers' strike season. In the other A18-49+ theme posts, you can see much of the weirdness that was this season, but the most important stat contributing to the -12% was the depression in scripted volume. Under 50% of the original series programming was scripted, down from the usual 60%ish.



2013-16: Modern Rate of Decline (Rise of Streaming)

YearLeAvy2y
2013-141.88-10.6%
2014-151.68-10.7%
2015-161.46-13.4%

In the last three years, we've seen double-digit league average declines even in very good seasons for new shows, and 2015-16 set a new record for steepest league average decline. So it seems that the "true" rate of league average decline has sped up in the last few years.



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