Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The War of 18-49, Elementary

A CBS Drama Darling

The new CBS drama Elementary was put in a good position to succeed. It took the Thursday 10/9c timeslot from top 10:00 drama The Mentalist and led out of promising sophomore Person of Interest (which CBS was also trying hard to boost by installing Two and a Half Men as its 8:30 lead-in). At least on premiere night, Elementary lived up to the billing pretty well, building on its PoI lead-in with 13.41 million viewers and a 3.1 demo. It took a somewhat severe week two drop to 2.5, but it was able to stabilize in the low-2's for the rest of the fall.

CBS saw that as good enough to try to boost it with the Super Bowl lead-in. Its ratings were not good in the Super Bowl lead-out context, but it also caught a rough break as a power outage during the Bowl bumped Elementary's start time well out of primetime. As with most scripted Bowl lead-outs, there was no long-term (or really even short-term) bump, and it stayed in the low-2's for the rest of the season. Overall, season one was just a tiny downgrade on what the network had gotten from The Mentalist in the last three years.

Weakening on Thursday

But it was all downhill from there for Elementary, and rather sharply. It had pretty much left the 2's behind by week three of its second season, and deteriorated all the way into the mid-1's by season's end. Season three was the first one with a delayed premiere due to Thursday Night Football, and it was a pretty steady diet of low-1's. It managed to hang onto very low-1's in season four, but the network finally had enough and sent it to the brutal Sunday 10/9c slot. It never broke a 1.0 after that spring move was made.

Elementary never remotely became the signature drama that CBS desperately wanted it to be. But it still got early-renewed for season five and will happily air another low-rated season on Sunday in 2016-17. That's probably because it's a CBS Studios drama that got a very rich syndication deal from WGN America. Talk about syndication money is probably overblown in a lot of cases, but this is a show whose survival seems very much justified by it. While CBS may have spent too long trying to make it happen in the Thursday 10:00 hour, it's finally been exiled to where it belongs: a tough slot where the opportunity cost is minimal.

Adults 18-49 info by season:

12012-13Thursday 10:
42015-16Thu 10:00, Sun 10:000.97-24%0.71.2detailC
52016-17Sunday 10:000.63-34%0.50.8detailD+
62018Monday 10:000.47-26%0.30.6detail
7Summer 2019Thursday 10:000.41-14%0.20.5detailC+

Historical-adjusted ratings by season:

7Summer 201943flop0.41-1%26535340


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

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