Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The War of 18-49, Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?

A Post-Idol Sensation

Out of all the shows Fox previewed after American Idol in its prime years, the game show Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? may have had the most promising initial results. The network aired 5th Grader on three consecutive nights, starting with 30-minute installments following 90-minute Idols on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Tuesday premiere on 2/26/2007 had an enormous 26.48 million viewers and an 11.2 demo rating, which about as close as anything came to matching peak Idol (which had a 12.2 on that night and a 13.6 in the 9:00 half-hour).

It dropped to a still-huge 9.7 rating the next night, but was probably even more impressive in the first hour-long edition on Thursday (9.4 with Idol averaging a 10.5). The show got one more post-Idol look (8.0) the following Thursday, then was left to fend for itself leading off Thursday.

Thursday Respectability

After a very good number in its first episode at 8:00 on Thursday (4.6 on 3/15/2007), 5th Grader spent the rest of spring 2007 drifting from high 3's through the low 3's. It returned to the fall schedule for the 2007-08 season, joined by fellow game show Don't Forget the Lyrics. Though it took another step down this season (spending most of the year in the 2's), just getting upper-70s in A18-49+ still made the lineup a lot stronger than almost anything Fox had on Thursday in previous seasons.

Like many 2007-08 unscripted series, the Fox Thursday game shows really peaked in the winter months when most scripted series had run out of episodes due to the writers' strike, with 5th Grader getting as high as a 3.7 on 1/10/08.

Pushed to Friday

Though 5th Grader and Lyrics marked an improvement for Fox Thursday, they apparently weren't good enough. Perhaps their audiences were not particularly advertiser-friendly, and real estate was tight on the dominant network. Fox needed Thursday for reliable second-tier stuff like Bones and Kitchen Nightmares, and later as a second night for American Idol. So the game show tandem got moved to Friday for 2008-09. The Friday move sliced 5th Grader's numbers in half, as the show spent most of the season in the low-1's. It got as low as a 1.0 for a Halloween airing in 2008, then later to 0.9 a couple times in summer 2009 as some straggling originals were played out.

2015 Resurrection

For all the early ratings potential 5th Grader showed, it was quickly thrown into very difficult timeslots because the network was so healthy on other nights. Perhaps this held the show back, though the first-run syndication version had a similarly modest run. In 2015, a very different Fox network hoped some of that initial appeal is there to be reignited. It returned to Fox as a summer player nearly six years after its last primetime airing, but there was basically no nostalgia for this show; it could only muster up a 0.8 on premiere night and eventually trickled down to 0.6ish for most of the second half of the run.

Adults 18-49 info by season:

Seas Year Timeslot Avg y2y Lo Hi Results Grade
1A2006-07Thursday 8:004.833.011.2detail
1BSummer 20072.922.23.2
2BSummer 20081.76-40%1.32.1
3A2008-09Friday 8:001.29-49%1.01.6detail
3BSummer 20091.08-39%0.91.5
4Summer 2015Tuesday 8:000.640.50.8detailD

Historical-adjusted ratings by season:

Seas Year A18-49+ Label Now15 y2y Lo Hi Premiere Finale
1A2006-07 128 hit2.16 80 297 297 80
1BSummer 200778solid(sum)1.3058858577
2A2007-08 76 marginal1.28 -41% 42 112 63 66
2BSummer 200853marginal(sum)0.89-32%39635451
3A2008-09 43 flop0.72 -43% 33 53 47 37
3BSummer 200936flop0.60-33%30503037
4Summer 2015 38 flop0.64 30 48 48 42

The War of 18-49 chronicles the ratings history of veteran primetime series. For more, see the Index.

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