Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A18-49+: Originals vs. Repeats in the Summer

The A18-49+ theme posts combine all of the individual season info in one specific category, allowing us to line up the last decade-plus of collective Live+SD ratings declines on a relatively apples-to-apples basis. In future seasons I will update these pages with the new season numbers.

As we've said many times when looking at regular season real estate, the percentages stay surprisingly steady each year. The percentage of big four primetime real estate dedicated to original series has almost always been somewhere in the low sixties. Just a spike to 66% in 2014-15 made it one of the biggest departures in the era. But the summer has had much more flexibility. Once known as a wasteland of repeats, recent summers have seen original/repeat percentages changing much more drastically. Here's a look at broad programming categories in the summer.

Big Four Real Estate in the Summer

Year Originals Reruns Movies Sports Specials
2002 24% 47% 17% 6% 6%
2003 29% 47% 11% 7% 6%
2004 27% 47% 10% 11% 5%
2005 24% 56% 11% 6% 3%
2006 28% 54% 7% 8% 3%
2007 28% 57% 5% 6% 4%
2008 34% 45% 6% 10% 5%
2009 38% 48% 4% 6% 4%
2010 37% 52% 2% 7% 2%
2011 34% 55% 2% 7% 3%
2012 32% 49% 1% 13% 4%
2013 37% 50% 1% 9% 3%
2014 44% 44% 0% 9% 3%

In terms of original volume, this is very different from the mostly static regular season, as the percentage of originals has nearly doubled from 2001-02 to 2013-14! In terms of repeats, like on the regular season page it's useful to view reruns and movies in tandem as a "cheap filler" category. For most of the era, the percentage of repeats was steady if not increasing, but that's because the networks were furiously decreasing their dependence on movies. Now that movies are a non-factor, any further original programming means series repeats will be the casualty.

One thing worth noting here is that the original percentage hasn't gradually increased every year; instead, there have been long stretches of steadiness, with a couple periods of rapid increase, like 2008-09 as well as last summer. It's almost like each network has its own individual "come to Jesus" moment and suddenly ramps up summer programming to a huge degree. To investigate this further, here's an original breakdown by network.

Original Series Real Estate in the Summer By Network

2002 21% 15% 30% 34%
2003 18% 22% 39% 43%
2004 23% 17% 34% 39%
2005 20% 20% 28% 30%
2006 22% 19% 35% 38%
2007 31% 17% 25% 47%
2008 32% 19% 46% 43%
2009 47% 17% 48% 40%
2010 44% 17% 44% 47%
2011 43% 17% 41% 35%
2012 40% 15% 38% 39%
2013 50% 19% 47% 32%
2014 57% 26% 51% 43%

ABC: They made their first big uptick in 2007, even though none of it really succeeded. But after two big successes the next summer with Wipeout and The Bachelorette, they had stuff to build around and ramped up big again in 2009.

NBC: NBC's big uptick year was 2008. This was partly about the downtrodden network no longer really having much from the regular season worth repeating, and part about some of the writer's strike filler (like Deal or No Deal and American Gladiators) getting tried in the summer. In '07, it was pretty much just America's Got Talent and Last Comic Standing surrounded by repeats, but they've surrounded those shows with much more filler originals since then.

Fox: Though I think they have invested more in summer programming, these numbers say they're by far the steadiest network over the whole 14-year era. It's worth keeping in mind that Fox used to roll out its fall lineup much earlier in the summer, so many weeks of those fall shows got counted in these numbers.

CBS: They were really the last holdout here, as they tended to have the best-repeating regular season series. They could just throw on Big Brother and repeats and call it a day for pretty much the whole era. But even their repeats had to reach the tipping point eventually, and the huge success of Under the Dome in 2013 didn't hurt, so they had a big surge in 2014.

By the way, I didn't include the CW since they're not a part of the full big four averages, but they usually have had many more repeats/fewer originals than anyone other than CBS. Particularly amusing was the summer of 2011, in which they went a full 16 weeks (May 23 thru September 9) without airing a single original program! Since that debacle, they've gotten back up into the 20s original percentage-wise.

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