Thursday, October 15, 2020

The War of 18-49, Riverdale

A Quiet Opening Season

Teen soap Riverdale found itself a bit out of place on a CW network overtaken by superhero dramas, and so the network launched it at midseason after the top-tier CW show with the most female-skewing audience: Supernatural. In the early weeks, the two shows seemed like a decent fit; Riverdale premiered on 1/26/2017 with a 0.5 demo after Supernatural's 0.6, and after downticking in week two the show eked out another 0.5 in week three. But the show seemed to be tapering off as the spring hit, first with a series of low 0.4's and then a bunch of 0.3's starting in April, usually two tenths behind Supernatural. By CW newbie standards, that was good enough for a renewal, but scheduling it for the Wednesday lead-off slot in fall 2017 seemed a bit ambitious at the time.

The Huge Sophomore Bounce

But after a summer of streaming exposure on Netflix, Riverdale came back for season two as a completely different show. After spending its rookie campaign in the 0.3 to 0.5 range, it opened season two with a whooping 0.8 demo. It would never hit those heights again, but after a fall to 0.6 in week two it held there for a couple weeks, then stayed at 0.5 for the rest of the fall, which meant the year-to-year growth was enormous. Though it kept slipping in the second half of the season, it was still mostly hitting upper-0.4's, a full tenth ahead of its worst days from the previous season. It was a bonafide part of the upper tier on the CW in adults 18-49, and that's not even getting to its huge DVR audience and incredibly strong appeal among the young female portion of the demo.

A Fast Decline 

Riverdale was still pretty robust even through the fall portion of season three, mostly hitting high 0.4's and even sprinkling in some 0.5's as late as the winter premiere. But the spring of 2019 was when things started to get a little alarming, with a March dip into the low 0.3's and then the high 0.2's. The full season Plus average was still well above season one, and it still had the big DVRing and young female skew. But by the spring, in Plus it was starting to look a lot like that mediocre post-Supernatural performer from two years prior.

The painful spring 2019 drops returned in season four. It had a surprisingly strong 0.42 season premiere, but beyond that it was a bunch of 0.2's and the occasional 0.3. Year-to-year drops of around 40% were the norm, and that took it to essentially a middle-of-the-road performer on the network, with its Plus dipping below season one to a new series low. But with plenty of other problem areas on the network, the fifth season of Riverdale (slated for 2021 due to coronavirus production delays) will get to lead off on Wednesday yet again.

Adults 18-49 info by season:

12017Thursday 9:000.380.30.5detailC+
22017-18Wednesday 8:000.49+29%0.30.8detailA
62021-22Sun 8:00, Tue 9:000.05-50%0.00.1detailD
72023Wednesday 9:000.05-10%0.00.1detailC

Historical-adjusted ratings by season:



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

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