Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The War of 18-49, American Horror Story

Just Another FX Success

FX's American Horror Story began on 10/5/2011 with 3.184 million viewers and a 1.6 demo rating. After a drop to 1.4 the next two weeks, it grew the next two weeks and settled right around a 1.6, never going higher than 1.8 or lower than 1.4 in season one. It was unquestionably a success, but not a particularly huge one. For example, this average was only about on par with the first season of TNT's Falling Skies, a show was never much more than a solid performer. And it was well behind FX crown jewel Sons of Anarchy.

AHS had held up well enough that a sophomore bounce seemed possible for the second season, Asylum. It certainly followed that script with the season two premiere, opening at a 2.2 that was way above the whole of season one. But it quickly dropped to 1.7 in week two and settled at the same 1.6ish from season one for the next month. Then came a very ill-fated Thanksgiving Eve airing, which saw the show plummet to a 0.9 that remains easily the series low. Beyond that, there was a noticeable portion of the audience that never returned to Asylum; it only averaged about a 1.3 in the second half of the season, putting season two as a whole down 10%. (By the way, it's never aired on Thanksgiving Eve again.)

The Season Three Leap To Elite

Though Asylum went down as something of a failure to launch, each season is a new beginning for American Horror Story. And that was never more obvious than in the premiere of season three, Coven. Despite the show's string of low-1's late in season two, the fall 2013 premiere skyrocketed all the way to a 3.0, going yet another massive step above all that came before it. This time, the premiere was big enough that even with another big post-premiere drop, it was able to sustain a much larger rating than in previous seasons; Coven mostly hit low-2's through the fall of 2013, with a few upper-1's for the early 2014 episodes. That put it well above the broadcast league average, making it one of the truly elite cable series.

Season four, Freakshow, eked out another series high with a 3.1 premiere on 10/8/14, but ultimately went down as another minor post-premiere disappointment. It stayed in the low-2's for about a month after the premiere but petered out into the mid-1's for the December and January months. This put it 12% behind season three. Overall, it's a highly acceptable drop by cable standards, if not that thrilling in light of the 3.1 premiere.

The Biggest Drop Yet

Ever since season two, American Horror Story has always taken the same kind of trajectory: a huge start, followed by huge post-premiere drops. But for American Horror Story: Hotel, it was pretty ridiculous even by AHS standards. With Lady Gaga joining the cast, the first two weeks' 2.99 and 2.15 were extremely healthy on a year-to-year basis. But it just. Kept. Going. Down. Over half the premiere audience was gone by week five, and it was actually fractional for episodes ten and eleven, meaning it had lost over two-thirds of the premiere audience. The overall decline, -22%, is no worse than a league average decline on cable nowadays, but this one was just ridiculously front-loaded. It'll be interesting to see how much of the crowd comes back for next fall.


The sixth season of AHS was a nice bounce-back for the franchise after a somewhat disappointing fifth installment. We're using a projected Plus above but unless the league average miraculously gets over 1.3, it is basically certain to be a new series high for AHS. The shorter season (and lack of holiday breaks) definitely helped the trend here, which was actually -1% if you just compare with the year-ago first ten episodes. 

Adults 18-49 info by season:

1Fall 2011Wednesday 10:001.601.41.8detail
6Fall 20161.57+5%1.22.8detailA-
7Fall 2017Tuesday 10:001.10-30%0.72.0detail
8Fall 2018Wednesday 10:000.96-13%0.71.4detail

Historical-adjusted ratings by season:

1Fall 20116859766872
6Fall 201612897227227109
7Fall 20171016618418492
8Fall 20181017815315385


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

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