Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The War of 18-49, Fresh Off the Boat

Self-Starting in Season One

Fall 2014 saw ABC take its family comedy brand to a new level, with sophomore The Goldbergs breaking out at 8:30 and rookie Black-ish succeeding at 9:30. The problem was that there was another promising family comedy in reserve, newbie Fresh Off the Boat, and not really anywhere to put it. ABC decided to give it a one-night Wednesday preview but then leave it to fend for itself on Tuesday. The Wednesday episodes showed some promise; its 2.5 at 8:30 after The Middle (2.2) was as good or better than what The Goldbergs was usually doing, and the same for the 2.3 after Modern Family (3.4) was as good or better than Black-ish.

That promise very much carried over to Tuesday, where Fresh Off the Boat opened with an above league-average 1.7/1.8 for its double-episode timeslot premiere, then went up to 1.9 the next week. It fell for several weeks in a row after that (coinciding with the arrival of Daylight Saving Time) but still pulled itself back up to a 1.5 in the last couple weeks of its run in mid-April. That was good enough for renewal.

Attempts to Upgrade the Timeslot

Since showing that spark in season one, ABC has tried on multiple occasions to put Fresh Off the Boat in better situations. It got back up to very high-1's in the early fall 2015, when it led out of the high-profile mockumentary take on The Muppets. But Muppets fell very hard very fast, and FotB pretty quickly found itself building on that lead-in with mid- and then low-1's. By the second half of the season, The Muppets was gone and Fresh Off the Boat was back to self-starting with low-1's.

In 2016-17, ABC spread out its embarrassment of Wednesday comedy riches, moving The Middle to Tuesday. Fresh Off the Boat aired at 9/8c after strong newbie American Housewife, which was probably the closest thing to a major timeslot upgrade that FotB got, and it managed to hold in the low-1's for most of the season. It became the direct Middle lead-out in season four and seemed to get a notch weaker, declining in Plus even though it missed out on the last two months of the season. (Although the last two months of the season in this case contained the enormous Roseanne revival...)

The Friday Move

In season five, Fresh Off the Boat got back to its self-starting roots, leading off a return to Friday comedy after the network bombed on the night with Once Upon a Time the previous season. It was of course diminished considerably from its Tuesday years, but helped the network rebuild some of what it lost after the cancellation of Last Man Standing. In season six, it was no longer be in the 8/7c slot, as American Housewife came over to Friday to lead off.

Adults 18-49 info by season:

1Winter Spring 2015Wednesday 8:301.721.32.5detail
22015-16Tuesday 8:301.32-24%0.91.9detailC+
32016-17Tuesday 9:001.16-12%1.01.6detailB
42017-18Tuesday 8:301.02-13%0.91.4detailC
52018-19Friday 8:000.61-40%0.50.7detailB-
62019-20Friday 8:300.44-28%0.30.5detailC

Historical-adjusted ratings by season:

1Winter Spring 2015102solid0.847714914989


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

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