Friday, June 12, 2015

The War of 18-49, Hart of Dixie

A Little Engine That Could On Monday

Hart of Dixie came into the 2011-12 season as the least-hyped of the CW's three fall newbies, and it had a pretty undesirable timeslot on Monday after the fast-fading Gossip Girl. But Hart of Dixie opened at an OK 1.88 million viewers and 0.8 demo rating, building from Gossip Girl (1.37/0.7) in both measures. Hart held close to these numbers for most of the fall, even getting up to 0.9 once on 11/28/11, but the heat dissipated in the second half of the season. It followed Gossip Girl downward, mostly hitting 0.6's and 0.5's. Still, this usually matched or slightly exceeded the lead-in Gossip rating.

A Low-End Weeknight Anchor

Hart of Dixie wasn't exactly lighting it up on Monday, but it had done enough in a bad situation to impress the network more than beaten-down fellow newbies Ringer and The Secret Circle. The problem for the CW was that the generation of teen soaps that thrived early in the network's history had melted down, leaving the network with very little depth. Though Hart of Dixie probably shouldn't have been anchoring a weeknight on most versions of the CW, the 2012 CW gave it a whirl and hoped for some growth.

Season two led off Tuesday. Its lead-outs Emily Owens M.D. and Cult did nothing, but Hart was only down a bit more than average. But it got a fair amount uglier when it got yet another lead-off role in season three, dropping to a consistent 0.4 when paired with sophomore Beauty and the Beast on Monday in a fairly blatant "Surrender Night" play.

Early in 2014, the CW reorganized all its lower-end players, pushing Hart of Dixie to Friday and Beauty and the Beast into the summer. On Friday, Dixie had OK lead-ins from Whose Line Is It Anyway?, but the move took another chunk out of the ratings, which were only a mix of 0.2's and 0.3's. It scored another renewal, but only for a short season that most acknowledged was likely the last one.

The Season Four Surprise

Its fate was probably sealed already going into season four, but Hart of Dixie did everything in its power to reverse the course. Airing on Friday at 8/7c starting in January 2015, the show perked up from its spring 2014 0.2's and 0.3's. It hit a 0.4 most weeks of season four, and it even sprinkled in a couple 0.5's. This put it up 16% vs. the previous Monday/Friday season and shockingly close to the Plus of even the first couple seasons.

I tend to advise against trusting weird ratings trends when the raw numbers are this low, especially not knowing the whole story (like how its local programming lead-ins rated). 16% growth is just 0.06 points, after all, and still not even a full tenth after adjusting for the league average. But this final run really did seem like a huge win... just not huge enough. The series still failed to score a fifth season.

Adults 18-49 info by season:

Seas Year Timeslot Avg y2y Lo Hi Results Grade
12011-12Monday 9:000.640.50.9detail
22012-13Tuesday 8:000.55-14%0.40.7detail
32013-14Mon 8:00, Fri 9:000.35-36%0.20.5detail
42014-15Friday 8:000.41+16%0.30.5detail

Historical-adjusted ratings by season:

Seas Year A18-49+ Label Now15 y2y Lo Hi Premiere Finale
12011-12 27 marginal(CW)0.46 21 38 34 25
22012-13 26 marginal(CW)0.44 -4% 19 33 33 24
32013-14 19 flop0.32 -28% 11 27 21 21
42014-15 24 solid(CWFri)0.41 +30% 18 30 24 24

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

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