Friday, June 26, 2015

The War of 18-49, Falling Skies

A Cable Breakout That Stayed Strong

Cable hasn't developed many truly breakout dramas since The Walking Dead came around in 2010, but at least for one season, TNT's Falling Skies was definitely one of them. It opened with 5.905 million viewers and a very strong 2.0 demo rating for its two-hour premiere on 6/19/11. The show dropped big to 1.5 and then 1.4 the next two weeks, but then it held at 1.4 for a month before building back to 1.5 and then spiking to 1.9 for the season finale. This was a highly impressive first season, easily surpassing everything on its own network and even the entire USA Network empire. And though it doesn't seem in the same class these days, Falling Skies notably had a higher season one demo average than contemporary newbies like Game of Thrones and American Horror Story.

Season two made it pretty clear Falling Skies wasn't headed on a GoT/AHS-esque path long term; it opened at 1.5 and held in the low-1's for the rest of the season, finishing down 21%. But that was still a very good average by cable standards. And season three was particularly positive, going just -8% despite a move to 10:00.

The Season Four Meltdown

But this consistently elite cable drama finally hit its first major bump in season four. Even with one of its strongest lead-ins yet, the low-1's newbie The Last Ship, Falling Skies could only get back to a series low-tying 1.0 for the premiere, down a third from the previous premiere. It dropped to 0.8 and held there for a month, then dropped to mostly 0.7's for the next month. These numbers were down at least a third from the previous season's low 1's, but the real debacle came for the two-hour season finale with no Last Ship lead-in; it averaged a paltry 0.53 rating in each hour. This put the season down a round 40% year-to-year.

TNT didn't know just how bad it would get, but the early 2014 results were discouraging enough that the network announced a month into the season that its next season would be the last. Skies seemingly became something of an afterthought in season four, even if 0.71 is still a higher average than many of its cable drama piers. But at least The Last Ship gave the network a worthy heir to its Sunday perch. Skies came back to play out its last string in season five and took another sizable year-to-year hit.

Adults 18-49 info by season:

Seas Year Timeslot Avg y2y Lo Hi Results Grade
1Summer 2011Sunday 9:001.641.42.0detail
2Summer 20121.29-21%1.21.5detail
3Summer 2013Sunday 10:001.20-8%1.01.5detail
4Summer 20140.71-40%0.51.0detail
5Summer 20150.49-32%0.40.6detailC-

Historical-adjusted ratings by season:

Seas Year A18-49+ Label Now15 y2y Lo Hi Premiere Finale
1Summer 2011 64 54 79 79 75
2Summer 2012 55 49 62 62 58
3Summer 2013 57 46 71 71 59
4Summer 2014 38 28 54 54 28
5Summer 2015 29 22 37 30 37

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

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