Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The War of 18-49, How to Get Away with Murder

TGIT Is Born

With Scandal catching fire in the 2013-14 season, ABC decided to slide both Grey's Anatomy and Scandal down by an hour, plugging up the long-troubled Thursday 8/7c hour and giving the Scandal lead-in juice to a third Shondaland show that could create a full themed night. And they came up with just the right show for that plan: How to Get Away with Murder, a legal thriller starring legit movie star Viola Davis. On premiere night, Scandal (3.8) built big from its Grey's Anatomy lead-in (3.1). And at 10/9c, Murder matched Scandal's 3.8 while building noticeably in total viewers.

Matching Scandal ultimately proved unsustainable, but Murder was darn close throughout season one. It fell to a 3.2 in week two and took another steep-ish drop to 2.8 in week four. But it managed to stay in the high-2's for the whole rest of the season, never venturing out of big hit territory. Despite airing at 10/9c, Murder amazingly ended up having the highest ratings average of any of the TGIT shows in 2014-15, though it did so on a bit of a technicality (since its short seasons allowed it to end in late February, while Scandal plowed on into the deep spring).

Murder Plummets Alongside Scandal

How to Get Away with Murder never really looked like that dazzling rookie series again. It came back for fall 2015 on a new series low 2.6 and was south of 2.0 a month later. That's not all on Murder; Scandal had hit its decline phase in this season as well, and Murder was still not that much lower than what Scandal was rating. But after a fall of 30%ish year-to-year declines, things got particularly rough when Murder came back for six weeks in early 2016. It opened the winter on a 1.8 (tying its series low), then fell to 1.5 for two weeks and 1.4 for the last three. That was more like 50% below where Murder had been at the end of season one.

The declines continued with a long run of low 1's early in season three, but this time it had a good reason: since Scandal was held for TGIT, the network had thrown new drama Notorious into the 9/8c hour and gotten terrible results. So while Notorious had gone fractional with the Grey's lead-in, Murder was doing really solid work just to get back to a 1.2ish at 10/9c. That became clearer when Murder increased in the ratings after Scandal's return in the winter. Compared with the dreadful end to season two, the last episodes of season three were virtually even in Plus, and the 1.4 finale actually managed to match the last year's raw numbers.

But whatever resurgence appeared to be happening in season three did not carry over to season four; it opened with a 1.0 after the Grey's Anatomy premiere (2.3) and was mostly fractional even with the return of Scandal as a lead-in in the fall. It upticked a little bit to 1.0ish after the new year, but in the end season four was down just about as much as season three, and season five took another similar-sized drop. The same declines appeared to be in store for the final season, but the final six episodes performed respectably, with help from a Grey's Anatomy lead-in and COVID-19 viewing inflation.

Adults 18-49 info by season:

12014-15Thursday 10:002.962.73.8detail

Historical-adjusted ratings by season:

12014-15176big hit1.44161226226167


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

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