Sunday, September 29, 2013

Tyler's Weekly Rating Roundup - Week ending September 29, 2013

I love television ratings.  I love what they tell us about individual shows, the networks, and the industry in general.  My intention with this weekly article is to take a look at the week in ratings and prognosticate about their future and the health of each network.  Trying to predict renewals or cancelations based on one week’s worth of data is usually a fool’s errand, so in this first week we’ll take more of a macro view of things.  Ratings presented here are the Adults 18-49 rating, which represents the percentage of adults between 18 and 49 watching a particular program.  We’ll go network by network starting with:
"Sleepy Hollow" has been the one real bright spot for Fox thus far
So last week, I wrote an essay predicting dire things for Fox if they can’t keep The X-Factor and American Idol from dropping.  Well, one week into the new season and Fox is in trouble.  The network is down almost 17% in same-day ratings from last season, and there’s no one show to blame.  Only Sleepy Hollow is up over last year, drawing a 3.1 A18-49 rating for its second episode, more than doubling The Mob Doctor’s rating from a year ago. 

While Sleepy Hollow is a genuine hit, it alone is incapable of stemming the bleeding from the rest of the Fox schedule.  Fellow Monday show, Bones, which is slated to shuffle off to Friday nights in a few weeks, is down 17% from a year ago.  The entire Tuesday night lineup, a particular cause for concern in 2012-13, is down more than 30%, though it should be noted that Fox debuted every show but Glee a week early this year.  Finally, the network’s fall anchor, The X-Factor, is in free fall, dropping almost 40% from premiere week last year. 

There are a few caveats to be made here.  As I said, we’re comparing Fox’s second week this year against its premiere week in 2012.  This may not seem like a big deal, but season (or series) premieres almost always rate higher than the following weeks’ episodes.  For example, Fox’s ratings fell 11% from Week One to Week Two last fall.  If we compare this week’s ratings against the network’s second week ratings from 2012, Fox is down only 6% overall, still not great, particularly for The X-Factor, but at least salvageable. 

I expect these variances to balance out over the course of the season, and Fox does still have the Super Bowl and NFC Championship Game, which will provide it with a huge ratings boost, but the network that lead the charts for almost a decade until last season is now in danger of falling to third place.

Fox program averages (2.19 network average):
Sleepy Hollow – 3.30
New Girl – 2.50
The X-Factor – 2.23
Brooklyn Nine-Nine – 2.20
Bones – 2.1
Glee- 2.0
Dads – 1.85
The Mindy Project – 1.70

Can "The Voice" carry NBC to a ratings title?
It looks like Robert Greenblatt can start preparing another mic-dropping speech for January Press Tour.  After a fall that saw NBC’s ratings up 25% from 2011 to 2012, the peacock network is up another 25% in the first week of 2013.  Now, the same caveat I applied to Fox’s ratings I apply here in reverse.  NBC debuted many of its shows early last year, trying to capitalize on the Olympics.  As such, while The Voice and Revolution, NBC’s two biggest shows of the fall, were in their second weeks at this point last season, The Voice premiered this week with four hours and The Blacklist debuted as well.

Even after tempering the enthusiasm a bit, it’s still nothing but good news for NBC.  The Voice is up over its dominating fall premiere ago, settling in behind only Sunday Night Football and The Big Bang Theory as the highest-rated shows on television.  Chicago Fire got a huge bump from airing after The Voice and could turn into a legitimate hit if it’s good enough to earn those ratings.  Even ancient stalwart SVU was up almost 30% for its two-hour season premiere.  And the two dramas that had soft launches, Revolution and Parenthood, still performed significantly better than the shows occupying their timeslots last year.

The one problem that remains on NBC’s schedule is the Thursday night comedy lineup.  Parks and Recreation debuted to a disastrous 1.3 rating, while The Michael J Fox show drew a 2.2 for its one-hour premiere.  Now, that rating isn’t terrible, it’s actually right on par with what The Office was doing last year.  But NBC didn’t give an upfront full-season order to the show for it to pull a 2.2.  They wanted this to be an anchor and right now, it just isn’t.

So NBC is still in search of that elusive hit comedy, but it’s still hard to see this opening week as anything but a rousing success for the network.

NBC program averages (3.20 network average):
The Voice – 4.90
The Blacklist – 3.80
Chicago Fire – 2.70
Law & Order: SVU – 2.70
The Michael J Fox Show – 2.20
Revolution – 1.80
Parenthood – 1.60
Parks and Recreation – 1.30

Is "Marvel's Agents of SHIELD" ABC's last, best hope?
Premiere week was something of a mixed bag for ABC this year.  The network was up about 5.5% over last year, but that increase was due entirely to the phenomenal debut of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, without which ABC actually would have been down from a season ago.

That’s not to say it was all bad news.  Monday night was steady as Dancing with the Stars and Castle basically held their ratings from last year.  Modern Family, while down from last fall, was up from its spring airings and is still the #2 comedy on television.  Likewise, Grey’s Anatomy, even in its tenth season, is among the top five dramas.  And SHIELD managed to at least partially revive Tuesday night’s, posting a great 4.7 rating and giving at least a solid sampling audience to its leadouts, The Goldbergs and Trophy Wife.  Of course, the one true, complete failure of premiere week was Lucky 7, which failed to generate any kind of audience at 9:00 on Tuesday night.

The best news for ABC is SHIELD’s success.  I don’t know that it’s drawing quite the audience they were hoping for, but it’s an instant hit show, something the network hasn’t really had since Modern Family launched several years ago.  If Scandal can keep on building its audience on Thursdays, ABC could end up with a legitimately strong presence on three nights (along with Modern Family on Wednesdays), which is how they rebuilt themselves in the early 2000s, on the backs of Lost, Desperate Housewives, and Grey’s Anatomy.

We still have a great deal to learn about ABC’s season, as their most volatile night, Sundays, has yet to debut and we haven’t yet seen the debuts of Super Fun Night or Once Upon a Time in Wonderland.  I still think ABC finishes the season in last place, but there are at least some signs of life.

ABC program averages (2.67 network average):
Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD – 4.70
Modern Family – 4.20
Grey’s Anatomy – 3.40
The Goldbergs – 3.10
The Middle – 2.50
Dancing With the Stars – 2.30
Trophy Wife – 2.30
Castle – 2.20
Back in the Game – 2.20
Nashville – 2.00
Lucky 7 – 1.30

"The Big Bang Theory" is the biggest hit on television.
After several years holding the title as “America’s Most Watched Network,” CBS finally broke Fox’s nearly decade-long grip on the Adults 18-49 ratings lead.  While not everything is perfect for the eye network, after one week, they seem to be well on their way to winning another demo title.

What has made CBS so strong is that there are just no real weaknesses on the schedule.  NBC actually has more highly-rated hours (for our purposes, a 3+ rating) but it also has multiple hours on its schedule rated below 2.  CBS not only has top-level strength (The Big Bang Theory is the highest-rated show on network television), but it has depth, with even its worst shows (Hostages excepted), pulling in at least a 2.0 rating.  CBS shows also tend to repeat very well, at least compared to the other networks, so the network is much better at suffering the winter doldrums than the others. 

On an individual show level, there was nothing really surprising about premiere week.  The Big Bang Theory premiered up from last year (though down a little from its high mark in January), further proving that it is everybody’s second-favorite show.  What is so impressive about The Big Bang Theory and its place on television right now, is that it seems like the one show people will default to when they’re not watching anything in particular.  You see this especially when the show repeats, either on CBS or on TBS.  In the final numbers, the show attracted 20 million viewers for its second half-hour, which is just an incredible feat in this day and age. 

Hostages was the closest thing to a failure for CBS in premiere week, though it’s ratings were even with what Hawaii Five-0 drew in the same time slot last year.  If I were a betting man, I’d bet that Hostages gets to run its full season before being canceled and fraudulently submitted to the Emmys as a miniseries.

CBS isn’t in first place after the first week, NBC is.  And there a lot of questions still hanging in the air for the rest of the year.  How will the Super Bowl rate?  Will NBC get a boost from the Olympics?  When will The Voice come back?  The answers to these questions will likely determine which network will finish on top, but right now, with Fox falling apart, my money is still on CBS.

CBS program averages (2.96 network average):
The Big Bang Theory – 5.80
The Crazy Ones – 3.90
How I Met Your Mother – 3.70
NCIS – 3.60
NCIS: LA – 3.00
Two and a Half Men – 2.90
Criminal Minds – 2.80
Two Broke Girls – 2.80
Survivor – 2.40
Mom – 2.50
Person of Interest – 2.30
Elementary – 2.10
CSI – 2.00
Hostages – 1.80

So thoughts?  Comments?  Just want to tell me my blog sucks?  Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @TyTalksTV.

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