Monday, December 29, 2014

The Top 10 TV Ratings Moments of 2014, 10 to 6

It's time for my fifth annual look back at the year's top 10 moments in TV ratings! As always, the criteria are pretty subjective, but I go for a blend of 1) relatively isolated incidents that are impressive for their sheer enormity/cultural impact and 2) moments that exemplify much larger trends in TV this year. The headlines link back to writings on these moments at the time they happened. Enjoy, please let me know about my most egregious rankings/omissions, and check out the now live top five. Happy New Year!

Here are the previous years:
2010: 10 to 6 | 5 to 1
2011: 10 to 6 | 5 to 1
2012: 10 to 6 | 5 to 1
2013: 10 to 6 | 5 to 1

10. The Nielsen Glitch (October 10)
I didn't really like any of my last few choices (but I'm sure someone will come up with an omission that I will really wish I'd gone with). So I'm going with something a little off-color: Nielsen's early October announcement that they had been screwing up ratings since March, assigning certain pockets of viewership to the wrong programs. It didn't exactly change the face of ratings as we knew them; most early-season ABC ratings came down by about a tenth of a point, and a small selection of non-ABC shows went up a tenth or two. But it was another unfortunate PR hit for a company that the media and TV fans rarely hesitate to slam.

9. Gotham and Scorpion Impress on Opening Monday (September 22)
Every year, at least one moment makes the list simply for the sheer glut of stuff going on, and the first day of the new TV season gets that honor this year. CBS' new football package briefly bumped The Big Bang Theory to Monday, while Fox refused to premiere its own lineup before premiere week. Throw in a The Voice premiere and Monday Night Football and there was quite the epic convergence. New dramas Gotham (3.3) and Scorpion (3.2) were not exactly huge surprises, but the strong numbers against all this competition set them up as two of the biggest newbie successes of the fall.

8. Resurrection Brings Broadcast Sunday Back to Life (March 9)
If this were a sheer "wow factor" list, the premiere of Resurrection (3.8) likely cracks the top three. The concept of loved ones returning from the dead attracted one of the season's top premiere audiences despite airing in a struggling ABC Sunday lineup with only decent lead-in support. And it came against another respectable premiere on Fox, the science documentary Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (2.1). However, I find myself rather biased against this moment because of how spectacularly Resurrection has flamed out this fall, and Cosmos was a one-and-done deal anyway. It's funny that people were calling Resurrection the last hope for ABC head Paul Lee, and he's gone on to reverse many of the network's misfortunes without its help.

7. Record Super Bowl Viewership Despite Blowout (February 2)
We all know it will be enormous, so there's usually not a ton of storyline intrigue with Super Bowl ratings. But I can never bring myself to exclude the Most-Watched Event in American Television History (112.19 million viewers). This one was interesting because the game was decided by the opening moments of the second half, leading to a lot of social media talk about how thoroughly the ratings would tank. The fact that it still set a new viewership record was another reminder that "game quality" is not nearly as important in the NFL as people think. (Not that it won't stop the same chatter around the next NFL blowout!)

6. How I Met Your Mother Ends on a New Series High (March 31)
While not quite the zero-to-sixty explosion that was the final Breaking Bad run in 2013, the end of the line for How I Met Your Mother was still something to behold. The final season was the largest of HIMYM's nine-season run after adjusting for the collective entertainment programming decline, nearly doubling those first couple seasons on the bubble in the mid-aughts. For the finale, such an adjustment wasn't even needed; the final hour had the highest raw Live+SD rating (5.4) in a 208-episode run. This was quite an achievement for a series that's aired for so long on a high-awareness broadcast network.


Spot said...

I can understand the bias against Resurrection considering how poorly it's done. But it does show that the broadcast networks can hang an impressive number for entertainment programming even on a very difficult night. And that Resurrection did so as an "original" concept instead of something based on a brand a la SHIELD or Gotham is even more encouraging.

Spot said...

Some of my own that I doubt will make it (especially in the top 5), but I think are pretty cool. (Not meant to be in order of importance)
1. Cancellation of the Millers - I think Joey is the last VETERAN show to be cancelled halfway during a season. It's a very unprecedent move. I think only Medium has something similar, but that was just an episode reduction.
2. The Rise of the Goldbergs - May 6th, 2014 The Golbergs did a tiny 1.3 out on a decent 1.9 from Shield. This number would be matched or surpassed by several summer repeata. September 24th, 2014 The Goldbergs do an impressive 2.4 out of a 2.0. Almost doubling with basically the same lead in! It's up SIXTEEN Percent a year despite having a bigger Shield lead in last year. Crazy.
3. Elsa's Magic Hits Once, and they "Let It Go" - Once Upon A Time reverses its -20% y2y trajectory when its Frozen themed story arc launches to a series high in Plus 3.5. The fall arc as a whole ends up 15% y2y, but loses half its audience along the way.
4. The Limited Shelf Life of the Limited Series - Basically the massive season 2 drops of short orders: The Following, Under the Dome, Resurrection, Sleepy Hollow, and to a lesser extend The 100. All short run series, regardless of acclaim or whatnot take a big step down in season 2.
5. The New Girl Post Superbowl Flameout - After taking a big step down in season 2, New Girl basically collapses in season 3. It's January premiere of a 1.9 is already down big from its 2.9 fall premiere, but it keeps dropping after the Superbowl to a mere 1.1 and is even beaten by Mindy for its finale.
6. becomes the undisputable top website for ratings as his main competitors either are bought by Tribune or become obsessed with Jane the Virgin

Spot said...

Major win for number 6! And lol at your mention of Mark's love for his virgin ahah

Spot said...

The Flash had more in its favor than Murder being a spin-off and a pre-existing brand. For me, Murder is the bigger success since Shondaland has produced a stinker before (Off the Map).

As much "other successful show creator" I'd throw Dick Wolf (the L&O franchise), Aaron Sorkin (Sports Night, The West Wing), or David E. Kelley (Picket Fences, Chicago Hope, Ally McBeal, The Practice) in there. :-)

Spot said...

That's the other thing I was thinking: OUAT, The Simpsons, and Family Guy are going to have really unrepresentative y2y trends this season based of highly inflated early episodes. There are two problems with this. It'll mask how the shows end their season and, more importantly, really hurt y2y comparisons next season against highly inflationary blips.

Spot said...

I agree that the rise of ABC should be in there somehow as a separate moment. I think what makes its rise so impressive to all of us rating geeks is that it feels like a sustained thing. FOX was always about Idol and NBC is all about the voice nowadays. Yeah sure they have some other success stories and all but they wouldn't be at the top if it weren't for those two shows and we all know it. CBS success a few seasons ago feels closer to that of ABC nowadays because it didn't rely too much on a (reality) show but one might still argue it was less diversified than ABC's success is nowadays (it was a lot about how much sitcoms were trending at the time coupled with the height of procedurals popularity). It's also more striking because, as you've said, the rise came after a season that felt like ABC was being absolutely crushed due to the epic failures of their newbies coupled with dramatic declines for some veterans (OUAT, Revenge, DWTS Fall) and only a few success stories here and there (Scandal, Shark Tank).

Anyway, and since you've mentioned my classifications (thank you for that by the way ;) ), I have to say that as of the moment, ABC isn't actually on the top:
- NBC: 1.78
- CBS: 1.76
- ABC: 1.73
- FOX: 1.26
- CW: 0.59

(Numbers include ratings up until 28-12-2014, though the numbers for this last week are preliminary from Wednesday onwards).

However, the difference is small and is mostly explained by the fact that ABC didn't air its crown jewel lineup (TGIT) in the last month and, to a smaller, extent, DWTS, while NBC kept The Voice on until very late in the month and CBS was also airing more originals. ABC has much more room to improve than the others. For the record, as of the end of November (which is probably more representative), the standings were:
- ABC/ NBC: 1.90
- CBS: 1.89
- FOX: 1.37
- CW: 0.61

Finally, and I know the post is long but since we are talking about networks on the rise I think this one should be mentioned, the CW is quietly up 6% in raw numbers year to year which is obviously a crazy increase in PLUS. Sure enough The Flash is a big reason for that but the fact is that with the exception of Thursdays, all nights are up in PLUS (and even in raw numbers, excluding Wednesdays which is down 5%). We'll see how this holds up in the second half of the season but that's also huge, especially because their best year to year comparisons did happen in the later portion of the fall which bodes well for the future.

Spot said...

Murder is almost a spin-off as well. And I am not sure how we can honestly argue that a show that has the biggest drama on broadcast TV as lead-in (which also happens to be the most compatible show on broadcast TV, imo) and barely any competition didn't have a lot in its favor. The Flash was a pre-existing brand and a spin-off sure, but there are so many examples of those things not turning into successes that I find it hard to say it had an easier job than Murder.

It's probably a mute discussion anyway, since both are some of the biggest success stories broadcast has had in the last years.

Spot said...

That's true. Though in the case of the cartoons it was just a one time thing so it should just be a blip, as big as it was.

In any case, and concerning OUAT, when the early fall numbers started to come in, I felt like what OUAT would do would be to finish the season erasing the horrible year to year trend it had last fall, therefore finishing like it would be had Season 3 trend never happened.

Something like: Season 2 ratings * year to year decline from last season * year to year decline from this season = Season 4 ratings (which is like saying like Season 4 would be equal to Season 2 in PLUS). I am still convinced this could be the case.

Spot said...

I wouldn't really see the cancellation of The Millers as a big ratings moment. The rest I agree with though.

Spot said...

The Walking Dead has made the list every year - and has been in the top 5 for three of the four lists (excluding 2011). I wonder if it will be in the top 5 again this year!

Spot said...

i dont necessarily agree with number 9, although their good premiere ratings were a pleasant surprise.

Spot said...

Resurrection should be higher unless it was brought down by the sophomore slump. The Super Bowl is always there but it's kind of predictable.

My top 5:

1- The Sophomore Slumps (multiple dates): Under The Dome, The Following, Resurrection, Sleepy Hollow, all down 40% year to year. Peter Pan and Sound of Music are separate events but they fit the rule of "fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me". They have been the story of the season and a multiple year trend that peaked this season (let's not forget Touch and Smash).
2- The Millers cancelation: most surprising cancelation of the year by a wide margin, especially considering CBS
3- Premiere Sunday: the proof that gimmicks work to inflate ratings on television, wheter it is popular movies, death of characters, crossovers and a little bit of football.
4- The Walking Dead: it's another record for a show who doesn't stop breaking records, just isn't number one because its 8.2 premiere in 2013 was way more impressive, today, it falls under what I said about the Super Bowl, but for a scripted show, so, deserves a top spot.

5- TGIT: Grey's ended ABC's long streak at the 8 PM timeslot, Scandal has become the most powerful drama on network TV and Murder leads all freshman dramas, they aren't 2001-02 must see TV (247 average) but it's still a night with a 10-year old hit and two big hits.

Spot said...

I think Joey is the last VETERAN show to be cancelled halfway
during a season. It's a very unprecedent move. I think only Medium has
something similar, but that was just an episode reduction.

Someone has already mentioned Don't Trust the B in Apartment 23, but Arrested Development famously had its order cut and its final episodes burned-off opposite the Olympic opening ceremony.

Spot said...

I can't necessarily think of anything else to replace these five, although I agree that they weren't particularly noteworthy, excepting HIMYM.

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