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Who Will Stay and Who Will Go? A Look at the Numbers

September 26th, 2009 | Jonathan Gray

A pause from the reviews now to look at the new show’s numbers, and to discuss what those numbers tell us about the past five days, the “first official week” of the Fall season. After the fold …
Looking at total viewers, and both ratings and shares for 18-49 year-olds (ie: the people broadcasters care the most about) for all prime time shows this week, I think we can say the following:

The four real success stories so far are (with total viewer ranking, demo rating ranking, and demo shares ranking in parentheses. If you want the actual numbers, go here, here, here, here, and here for each day of the week respectively):

  • NCIS: Los Angeles (2, 5, 6) was CBS’s second best ranked show, and a legitimate hit. It’s not a critical darling, but it hasn’t got bad press either
  • Modern Family (16, 7, 4) was ABC’s third best ranked show (though I’m counting all of the Dancing with the Stars nights as one) overall . And it is a critical darling
  • Flash Forward (17, 11, 4) also did very well for ABC, and with the critics
  • Cougar Town (19, 9, 7) is (much to my chagrin) also in ABC’s top echelon

So, if you like one of those shows, don’t worry – they’re safe (at least for now, and I’d guess for a good while, unless the hole drops out next week). Indeed, it should also be noted that ABC wisely replayed its three on Friday, garnering solid numbers (for a Friday), and thus potentially picking up another 4-4.5 million viewers per show. Factor those numbers in and each of these three shows is top ten material
Moderately successful were:

  • The Good Wife (12, 23, 17)
  • The Forgotten (20, 30, 31)
  • Accidentally on Purpose (23, 24, 24)
  • Eastwick (27, 25, 25)
  • Glee (38, 26, 25)
  • Vampire Diaries (51, 48, 47)

I’d look for some of those numbers to suffer when the novelty factor wears off. The Good Wife will be aided by its strong reviews and press, and Glee was already in week 3, so I’d say those two are safe. Vampire Diaries, too, is in the clear: it has poor numbers when compared to other nets, but this was The CW’s top-ranked show overall, and by far its best ranked new show. The others’ fates will rest on the next fortnight

In Tier III, we can place:

  • Mercy (30, 36, 37), which has awful reviews, matched only by the now canceled Beautiful Life, but NBC is in dire straits, and this is their third best ranked show, so I’d say it’s fairly safe if it can stay at that level
  • The Jay Leno Show (best numbers were on Tuesday, with 35, 31, 34; worst were Thursday, with 48, 47, 47) isn’t going anywhere, since it’s cheap, and Jay is to NBC what Katie Couric was to CBS – they can’t admit an error, and thus will keep the experiment alive even if it gets worse. They also just don’t have the material to replace him at this point. So, Leno’s staying
  • Community (47, 28, 32) did okay with its demo, but it better do better soon

Finally, in the drop zone are:

  • Brothers (53, 57, 53), whose numbers and poor press are sure to put it in trouble. Those are NBC/CW numbers, not FOX numbers, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see it go
  • Melrose Place (60, 60, 60, which is the second worst in all categories) really should go. It’s horrible, and its numbers are bad. But The CW magically, and totally misguidedly  think that signing Heather Locklear will save it (really, CW? Do you think the average 22 year old CW viewer even knows who she is?)
  • Beautiful Life (61, 61, 61) brought up the rear, and for its sins has already been cancelled. As Heidi Klum says, in fashion, you’re either in or you’re out: TBL, you’re out.

A few other observations:

  • CBS and ABC should obviously be proud. All of their new shows so far have ranked well. That said, it’s the wonder of being on top – when people watch your network, they see your ads, which helps
  • It’s interesting to look at the gaps between demo ratings and total viewers sometimes. Take Glee, for instance, which at #26 for demo ratings is up a full 12 spots from its #38 ranking for total viewers, or even more stark is Community, pulling up the rear at #47 for total viewers, yet had an okay #28 for demo ratings
  • So far, we don’t seem to have the scenario so common to many seasons of a critical darling on the precipice: those shows that the critics liked are doing okay, which in turn means that those at risk of cancellation have no defenders. Watch this space, though
  • Another number to play with is 8.76 million viewers, the average number of viewers for all primetime shows these last five days. If that’s our “safety number,” then the only shows above that line are: NCIS: LA, The Good Wife, Modern Family, Flash Forward, Cougar Town, The Forgotten, and Accidentally on Purpose
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  1. September 27th, 2009 at 09:08 | #1

    Very good analysis of the ratings. We at the new fansite of Modern Family loved the first episode and invite everyone to our fansite.

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