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Broadcast Premiere Week Approaches, But Season-Long Ratings Are What Matter to Advertisers

With the new fall
broadcast television season just a few weeks away, it's probably safe to say
that no new or returning series will draw more viewers for its premiere than
what CBS' Two and a Half Men drew last year -- 28.7 million. That's
because this coming season, no returning series will have as dramatic a cast
change as Men did last season, when Ashton Kutcher replaced Charlie

While viewership
dropped off by about 8 million for the second episode, and the series' 18-49
demo rating fell from a 10.7 to a 7.4, advertisers in the first handful of
episodes still got a windfall of viewers who normally don't watch the show.
However, viewers defected little by little, and at the end of the season, Men
was averaging 13.5 million viewers and a 4.4 18-49 demo rating -- still a
solid number, but one that was on a continuous downturn as the season ended.
That's why CBS, in an attempt to revive those 2011 premiere week ratings,
decided to move the series to Thursday nights this season, leading out of its
No. 1 sitcom, The Big Bang Theory.

Benefitting from
last fall's extraordinary viewership of the Two and a Half Men premiere
was the CBS freshman sitcom 2 Broke Girls, which led out of it at 9:30
p.m. and pulled in 19.3 million viewers and a 7.1 18-49 rating. 2 Broke
later moved to 8:30 p.m., leading into Men, and had an
excellent first season, averaging 11.7 million viewers and a 4.6 18-49 rating.

Looking at the new
series that will premiere on the broadcast networks, none jumps out as a show
that would pull in a mega-number of viewers during its first week. And without
all the fanfare surrounding Men, it appears CBS' veteran drama NCIS or
ABC's Dancing With the Stars will be the most-watched premiere, unless
either is topped by viewer interest in The X Factor, which recently
added Britney Spears and Demi Lovato to its judges panel.

A strong premiere of
a new or returning series does not always indicate that it will be a
season-long success. A series that starts off slowly, however, is probably
doomed, unless a network really wants to keep it on the air.

"I think the
success of a hit show is dependent upon its ability to sustain or even grow
ratings in the upcoming weeks or years," says Brad Adgate, senior
VP and director of research, Horizon Media. "So to me, the sixth
week is more important than the first week. And the third year is as important
as the first year."

Advertisers whose
media agencies bought into last fall's new ABC drama Pan Am were
probably patting themselves on the back after the series premiered with 11
million viewers and a 3.1 18-49 rating. However, the series lost 3.3 million
viewers in its second week. By the third week, it pulled in only 6.3 million
viewers and a 1.9 18-49 rating on Sunday, typically a high TV-viewing night.
The series was eventually cancelled.

Fox's sci-fi series Terra
was one of the most promoted and hyped new series last season. It
premiered with 9.2 million viewers and a 3.1 18-49 rating. By the end of its
first-season run, it was averaging 7.6 million viewers and a 2.5 rating, not
far off from its premiere. However, the series' expensive production outweighed
its ratings, and the network could not pull in enough ad bucks. The series was

With some premieres,
it is obvious from the outset that the series will not last. NBC's The
Playboy Club
received plenty of negative publicity, with conservative
organizations' calls for a boycott and an NBC affiliate refusing to air the
show. The series premiered to only 5 million viewers and a 1.6 18-49 rating,
falling to 3.9 million and a 1.3 demo rating the following week. By the third
week, it was down to 3.4 million and a 1.2 rating. Soon after, it was

Some new series can
also be surprises to advertisers and even the networks. ABC's drama Once
Upon a Time
premiered with 12.9 million viewers and a 4.0 18-49 rating. It
ended the season averaging 9.4 million viewers and a 2.9 demo rating, making it
one of the top new series of the season and the top-rated new drama in the
18-49 demo.

Some veteran series
open solid in their season premieres, do well the first few weeks, and then
start a steady decline. One example is Fox's Glee. Last season, the
musical comedy premiered with 9.2 million viewers and a 4.0 18-49 rating. It
fell to 8.5 million viewers and a 3.7 rating the second week, which is not out
of the norm. However, as the season went on, viewers defected. At the end of
the season, it averaged 6.6 million viewers and a 2.7 18-49 rating. Fox, in an
attempt to revive interest in the series, has moved it to Thursdays at 9 p.m.
leading out of The X Factor this fall.

Fox's much-hyped new
sitcom last season New Girl still finished with a solid 2.9 season
average 18-49 demo rating vs. a 4.0 for its premiere episode, but the series
drew 10.2 million viewers for its premiere and averaged only 6 million viewers
for the season. Still, in advertisers' minds, the 18-49 rating is king, so New
was a hit.

Popular series
usually open strong, and while they lose some audience over the course of the
season, end with solid viewership.

ABC's Dancing
With the Stars
premiered with Monday viewership of 19 million and a 4.0
demo rating, ending the season averaging 17.2 million and a 3.1 rating. On
Tuesdays, it premiered with 14.7 million viewers and a 2.9 demo rating and
wound up averaging 15.4 million viewers and a 2.9 rating.

CBS drama NCIS was
the most-watched scripted series on television last season. It premiered to
19.9 million viewers and a 4.3 18-49 rating and ended the season averaging 17.3
million viewers and a 3.3 demo rating. Other veteran CBS series performed
solidly throughout the season following strong season premieres. NCIS: Los
premiered last fall to 16.7 million viewers and a 3.6 18-49 rating,
and averaged 14.2 and 2.8 for the season. Criminal Minds premiered to
14.1 million viewers and a 4.1 demo rating, and averaged 11.1 million and 2.9. Person
of Interest
premiered to 13.3 million viewers and a 3.1 demo rating, and
averaged 12.1 million viewers and 2.6.

Strong lead-ins
during premiere week can help a series get off to a good start, but then it's
up to the lead-out series to make sure viewers continue to tune in, much like 2
Broke Girls
did on CBS. ABC police drama Castle drew 13.2 million
viewers and a 3.2 18-49 rating leading out of DWTS last premiere week,
and it continued to draw a large audience leading out of the dance competition
series all season. Castle ended last season averaging 9.7 million
viewers, although its 2.1 18-49 rating could have been better.

The bottom line with
fall's series premieres is that most will get good viewership in their first
episodes. While many of the new series will not be able to hold, or even come
close to, their premiere numbers, the networks often decide to renew those
series. Sometimes they see a longer-term potential; other times, they are
series in which advertisers like to be involved because of the shows'
storylines or environment.

ABC freshman sitcom Suburgatory
premiered with 9.8 million viewers and a 3.3 18-49 rating. For the season, it
averaged 6.4 million viewers and a 2.2 demo rating, falling significantly from
its premiere. ABC freshman drama Revenge premiered with 10 million
viewers and a 3.3 18-49 rating, but averaged only 6.9 million viewers and a 2.1
for the season. ABC brought both series back for the coming season.

One series
advertisers like is the ratings-challenged NBC drama Parenthood. The
veteran series premiered last fall with 6.2 million viewers and a 2.2 18-49
rating and for the season, averaged only 4.7 million viewers and a 1.8 rating
in the 18-49 demo. But NBC brought it back.

As the new and
returning series begin rolling out next month, it is always interesting to see
which shows the most viewers are tuning into. But in reality, it usually
doesn't determine whether those series will continue to stay on the schedule.
And a "hit" show during premiere week could be a show that, by midseason,
ends up cancelled.