Friday, January 23, 2015

Empire vs. Desperate Housewives - The Breakout Megahits


For the last decade, the fall 2004 launch of Desperate Housewives has been the gold standard when measuring just how huge a new broadcast series can be out of the gate. Many a TV analyst has lamented that another such launch is not possible in the TV world of today. There have certainly been entire seasons when the TV audience has seemed almost unreachable with new series.

After a huge start and improbable growth in weeks two and three, it's clear that Fox's Empire is the most impressive new scripted launch since Housewives. What's not yet clear is whether it could even surpass the first season of Housewives. Adjusting for the average entertainment original of each season, the early returns are shockingly promising on that front.


For the 2014-15 season, this uses the 1.68 league average that is projected for the end of the season based on the current year-to-year rate. The projected league average has been within a couple hundredths of that number for most of the season.

The premieres were pretty close: Empire's 3.8 (226 A18-49+) vs. Desperate Housewives' 8.9 (219 Plus). And it's worth noting that Empire had a noticeably better lead-in from American Idol (191) than Housewives did from Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (145). The point that really separated the two was the second week, when Housewives took a 3% drop to 8.6 (212) while Empire grew 5% to 4.0 (238). Then, Empire amazingly managed to mimic the roughly 10% week three growth seen from Housewives, keeping Empire's lead quite healthy (262 to 234).

It's a real testament to Housewives that nothing in ten years has been anywhere close to this kind of track, and it's a real testament to Empire that it's actually soundly beating that Housewives standard in the first three weeks, at least relative to the rest of TV at the time.

But another testament to Housewives: to stay on this track, Empire still has a lot of work to do. Housewives didn't just have the crazy jump in week three; it also grew in weeks four and five, and then had two more crazy jumps in weeks six and eight.

That week six jump took Housewives from 9.8 (241) to 11.1 (273). Surpassing that 273 for Empire would require a 4.6 rating. Since Empire has such a head start on Housewives, that doesn't seem like a massive task. Could even happen next week, when it will face less competition than ever (with NBC's Law and Order: SVU going into repeats and ABC still in repeats).

To surpass where Housewives went in week eight (a 307 Plus) would take a 5.2 rating from Empire, which is nearly twenty percent more above where the show rated in week three. Again, almost nothing seems impossible with the way this has gone, but that would really be something to behold.

The jump in week eight wasn't sustainable; Housewives had a couple oddly low points to end the fall of 2004, then returned in January 2005 and settled at about the 11.0ish or 270ish week six level for most of the rest of the season. Not pictured here was the truly epic 13.4 season one finale, good for a 330 Plus. Empire would need a whooping 5.6 rating to get past that by today's standards.

From an average standpoint, the marks for Empire to beat are a 253 over the first 13 episodes (a 4.25 today) and a 262 over the full first season (a 4.40 today).

So that's the story using A18-49+. Whether these numbers are truly apples-to-apples (in other words, whether Empire is legitimately more impressive than Desperate Housewives) is another discussion entirely. It's always worried me a bit that a show could "cheat" the rules of Plus if it finds a way to become DVR-proof the way sports are. Empire had a smaller Live+3 build (+39%) than other big premieres like How to Get Away with Murder (+52%) and Gotham (+56%). So maybe it benefits somewhat, but it doesn't seem that egregious.

29 comments:

Spot said...

Showbuzzdaily is providing full demo/gender data, starting with ABC

So now we know ABC's top show among girls from 2-5 is Scandal.

Spot said...

It's a shame that Fox doesn't have the Super Bowl next season. Empire, much like Grey's Anatomy, could probably take that post-SB slot and really explode into the stratosphere.

Actually, a comparison between Empire and Grey's Anatomy would be an interesting one. I'm pretty sure that Empire would more handily "win" against that midseason drama since it wasn't until the post-SB airing in season 2 when Grey's built from Desperate Housewives.

This also continues the trend of network heads getting fired before a show they ordered into development and series debuted to surprising and/or explosive ratings (Fox: Kevin Reilly (Empire), ABC: Lloyd Braun & Susan Lyne (Desperate Housewives, Lost, Grey's Anatomy) and Stephen McPherson* (Once Upon a Time)).

*: Ok, in that case there were also sexual harassment claims that were being investigated which could have led to him being ousted. But I wanted more than two examples.

Spot said...

DAMN IT! I should've really read The Question. I just thought that Backstrom was going to be an out of the gate megaflop because the ads just looked that bad.

Spot said...

Bad Judge (0.8) and A-to-Z (0.6) ended with a whimper, but they're notable because they mark the end of NBC's Must See TV 32-year old Thursday comedy block.

Spot said...

Thank you, Backstorm, for allowing me to get a point in the question! It is still in trouble of course since it would need to hold up extremely well with the avalanche of competition coming its way, but this was always what I expected, perhaps only a tick or so better.

The big winners for me were American Idol, for actually holding up pretty well, and Mom. This is a sans TBBT-high if I am not mistaken. I know competition was minimal but it still very impressive.

The CW had a miserable night. Both shows should have done much better sans TGIT. I thought there was a lot of overlap in there but they had practically no competition last night and still did awfully. And they ended the fall on a good note so it is all the more disappointing.

Spot said...

Thanks for the link. I wish they would provide demos instead of shares though. Since I don't actually know the viewers from each group watching on each night, I really can't do much with the share. But thanks in any case.

Spot said...

It's my understanding that Vampire Diaries is going down in a conflagration of creative issues. And Re-IGN has always sucked.

Spot said...

I meant to say drama instead of show.

Spot said...

Pretty much, but I was more concerned about the competition in the following weeks when the other shows return.

Spot said...

Backstrom did alright, but I doubt it'll be a strong third party when Red v. Pope happens.

Spot said...

Backstrom dropped me to 1-3 in 2015 editions of The Question.


I hope it Galatanks.

Spot said...

The competition is what I'm more interested in too.

Spot said...

Speaking of Galavant, that also premiered at a 2.0 as well.

Spot said...

Its going to be the biggest Pope v Red clash since 1949

Spot said...

It hasn't been for a while tbh.

Spot said...

As I recall from the War of 18-49 posts, the Grey's numbers are lower enough vs. the Housewives numbers that the Plus number would be easily whipped by Empire even at its current level.

Spot said...

PTC has already filed an angry complaint.


One in every four women above 65 watching TV on monday nights watch DWTS, wow.

Spot said...

It's been weakening this season.

Spot said...

I could be wrong, but I personally think that the demographic Empire attracts are more inclined to view a program live rather than DVR it.

Of course there is limited data to support such a notion though.

Spot said...

Supplemental fun fact, per Joe Adalian: Moon Over Miami only lasted ten episodes, out of thirteen ordered.

Spot said...

It is interesting how The Middle is slightly outdoing the Goldbergs until they hit an age where people were actually born/around in the 1980's. It makes sense. I want to see Blue Bloods vs. New Girl 18-20 and 65+ comparisons!

Spot said...

Then we must replace vampire w/ nanotech, and enemy vampires w/ just straight up Goth stereotypes, and fight the Second U.S. Civil War on our televisions. Or something.

Spot said...

Well I guess people have been over the vampire genre especially in recent terms, that and TVD's problems have been catching up to them.

Spot said...

The Taste and the Murder repeat lineup has almost highhandedly led to CBS catching up with ABC average on Thursday despite all the lead that TGIT had created for it. CBS is at 1.80 right now and ABC at 1.86. I bet ABC couldn't be happier to have its crown jewel back next week.

Spot said...

Pretty much, they need their big night back after weeks of schedule fodder.

Spot said...

CBS should have no trouble competing for second place on the hour I think, unless the odd couple derails the big ban run big time.

Spot said...

You really think The Blacklist will suffer that much for the move (and get that little help from the Super Bowl)?

Spot said...

Empire could still get the post-NFC championship slot since it's Fox turn to get the primetime game.

Spot said...

Oh, then I guess Cancel (confident) Season 2. X3 (Is joke).

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