Monday, October 12, 2020

The War of 18-49, This Is Us

A Megahit Drama Is Born

In its first two weeks, NBC's new family drama This Is Us actually aired at 10/9c and posted 2.8 and 2.6 demo ratings, dropping by roughly 20% from its The Voice lead-ins (3.4/3.3).  It looked like a promising new drama, certainly one of the strongest in a long line of post-Voice launches, but at that point it was not immediately clear that it was much stronger than previous examples like The Blacklist and Blindspot (both of which also had over a 200 Plus on premiere night).

But when it returned at 9/8c for its third episode (after taking a week off due to a political debate preemption), This Is Us looked stronger than ever, getting back to a 2.8 and now building on its The Voice lead-in (2.6). It trickled down for a few weeks after that, but kept building on Voice, and it ended the fall on a strong note with a 2.7 and 2.8. Its value became even clearer when it returned to the mid- to high-2's for its winter run, mostly airing after a much weaker The Wall, and it ended a sensational first season with two series highs (3.0 -> 3.4) after The Voice returned. That left it with a 218 Plus, making it one of the strongest scripted new series of the last generation (behind only Empire (303) and Desperate Housewives (262)).

The Season Two Peak

As the focal point of NBC's marketing going into fall 2017, This Is Us returned to a phenomenal 3.9 demo, a half point above its previous high. That level of interest was short-lived, as it fell to 3.1 and 2.8 in the next two weeks, but it still settled at roughly even in raw numbers throughout season two, allowing it to take a big uptick in Plus. Every episode in season two except for Halloween night had over a 200 Plus. The show also did big business for a post-Super Bowl episode with major storyline implications in February 2018 (9.2), though that exposure didn't make any difference to its regular Tuesday ratings.

The Decline Phase

This Is Us had another nice surge for its season three premiere, ekeing out a 3.0, though of course that was down close to 25% from the 3.9 a year ago. That rate of decline actually ended up being pretty representative of the whole season going forward; it fell in a similar fashion post-premiere to a 2.4 the next week, and settled around 2.0 for most of the fall. With the winter/spring run pushed a few weeks later, it mostly had high-1's and experienced some of its most severe year-to-year declines. The show's Plus fell all the way to slightly below season one levels, but it still managed a third megahit season.

Season four brought another round of similar-sized declines. It had less of a premiere surge (1.8) but also didn't fall quite as much, settling in the mid-1's for most of the way. This would've been a smaller decline in Plus, but the broadcast league average improved in the spring due to COVID-19-related viewing upswings. With the This Is Us season ending on March 24, it didn't get much opportunity to take advantage of that inflation itself, though the season finale (1.73) did post the second-biggest rating of the season. It was among the earliest 'regular' dramas to return in the COVID-plagued 2020-21 season, and a slew of scheduling interruptions and delays kept it on its negative trajectory.

The series did end on a pretty good note, turning back in a narrowly positive direction for the sixth and final season to ensure that all six seasons would finish in big hit territory. This is actually quite a rare achievement for a big broadcast drama, allowing it to finish as the biggest veteran drama final season of the Plus era (edging Lost by a single point).

Adults 18-49 info by season:

12016-17Tuesday 9:002.672.33.4detailA

Historical-adjusted ratings by season:

42019-20180big hit0.92-15%140225225211
52020-21157big hit0.80-13%123219219126
62022161big hit0.82+3%131249206249

AVERAGE:196big hit

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

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