Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The War of 18-49, American Ninja Warrior


Testing the Waters with a Cable Sleeper

Many a hit show has begun its run with relatively small ratings. But it's hard to find humbler beginnings than those of American Ninja Warrior, which began its run on the tiny cable channel G4. Its official first dose of NBC exposure was a one-off special in summer 2011, when it averaged a 1.7 on August 22.

That was good enough to get it a regular run on NBC, and in fact many of the season four episodes had America's Got Talent lead-ins. It opened with a 2.4 in its first episode after Got Talent on May 21, 2012, and hovered around 2.0 for most of the rest of that season. In 2013, it was given Monday lead-off duties. Though the ratings dipped in that season, they were still good enough to make it a very valuable self-starter.

One interesting note is that those first two NBC seasons were actually a sharing of original episodes between NBC and G4. Even late in season five, with two years of NBC exposure, it was still only managing a 0.1 rating in most G4 originals, which just goes to show how far off the reservation NBC plucked this show from. As far as I can tell, the sharing between NBC and G4 (now named Esquire) ended after season five, though Esquire still airs repeats as well as an original spin-off.

The Explosion

In the last two years, this show has gone from quirky experiment to one of the bonafide summer elite, and one of the fastest growth stories on broadcast TV. It was up 11% in its 2014 run, and in the second half it cracked 2.0 for the first time in almost two years. It pulled off the twos several more times throughout summer 2015, with season seven up another 8% overall. It got almost all the way back to the raw numbers of its first NBC season in 2012!

In 2016, Warrior previewed on Wednesday for a couple weeks before returning to its usual Monday perch, and also had a late-summer interruption for the Olympics. The show's rapid ascent slowed dramatically in this season, but it was still down less than the league average. 2017 saw the declines speed up again, with the show dropping a bit more than the league average, but it was still clearly a part of the summer elite.

A 2018 Downturn

In 2018, American Ninja Warrior took its first clear downturn from its 2015-17 heyday, dropping far more steeply than it ever had before. Rather than continue as a truly elite summer option, Ninja Warrior fell all the way back to where it had been circa 2014. That will make the 2019 season a revealing one about the show's long-term future. It could bounce all the way back to 2015-17 levels, it could settle in here, or it could take another drop like the 2018 one and fall to the Plus levels of its earliest NBC seasons.

Adults 18-49 info by season:

SeasYearSlotAvgy2yLoHiResultsGrade
4Summer 2012Monday 9:001.991.42.4detail
5Summer 2013Monday 8:001.62-19%1.41.8detail
6Summer 2014Monday 9:001.80+11%1.62.0detail
7Summer 2015Monday 8:001.95+8%1.72.1detail
8Summer 20161.76-10%1.62.0detailB
9Summer 20171.44-18%1.11.6detailC
10Summer 20181.06-26%0.91.2detailD+

Historical-adjusted ratings by season:

SeasYearA18-49+LabelNow18y2yLoHiPremiereFinale
4Summer 201284solid(sum)0.925910210285
5Summer 201377solid(sum)0.84-9%66858171
6Summer 201496hit(sum)1.05+24%8510685101
7Summer 2015116big hit(sum)1.27+21%101125107125
8Summer 2016121big hit(sum)1.32+4%106138117117
9Summer 2017118big hit(sum)1.29-3%86131115123
10Summer 201897hit(sum)1.06-18%83110110108

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

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