Category Archives: Ratings

A Singular Success: On NBC’s Curiosity-courting The Sound of Music Live


The Sound of Music Live is officially a ratings success by nearly every metric imaginable, with the records—Highest rated non-sports Thursday in the demo since ER finale! Most watched non-sports Thursday since the Frasier finale! First time NBC has won five straight nights of primetime since 2002!—flying fast as the magnitude of its success becomes clearer.

I enjoyed The Sound of Music Live. It didn’t actually work as a case of storytelling, harmed by uneven performances by its two leads, but I also think that a lot of those problems were inherent to the medium in which the musical was being experienced. That Carrie Underwood and Stephen Moyer were unable to sell me on a relationship that I can imagine feeling rushed in 90% of performances of this musical is far from history’s greatest failure; instead, it’s a noble effort that created some decidedly powerful images and a few too many scenes of people speaking lines instead of expressing sentiments. Said problems were better overcome by the three musical theater veterans cast around the two leads—Audra McDonald, Laura Benanti, and Christian Borle—and on the whole I would say that I enjoyed the experience both as a social media event and as a unique and ultimately fun television program.

It is also—based on reports in The Hollywood Reporter from earlier this week—likely to fail to meet all of the expectations placed on it by NBC, because I find it difficult to imagine a scenario whereby The Sound of Music Live becomes an evergreen holiday performer in the way Robert Greenblatt imagined it could.

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Better Without The Bear: How The Cancellation Bear Damages Ratings Culture

CancelBearWantedOver the past year or so, I’ve engaged with what I would call a friendly feud with the Cancellation Bear, the—as far as we know—fictional mascot of ratings site TV By The Numbers. In truth, I have no substantive beef with the Bear or its overlords as individuals, but the Bear and I disagree on a number of issues tied to how ratings are reported and enjoy the occasional repartee. I will admit that it’s a silly thing, filled with wildly exaggerated responses—reflected in this Wanted poster—and certainly among the simpler, more juvenile pleasures one can partake in.

However, over the past year, my feud with @TheCancelBear has been tinged with a degree of legitimate concern for the state of the discourse. Originally, the feud emerged from an ambivalent relationship with the site and its approach to ratings reporting. The site’s role in making ratings data both highly visible and highly accessible makes it a valuable tool for teaching about and researching the television industry, but the Cancellation Bear represents the site’s other role: actively inciting fear and uncertainty among fans of series struggling in the ratings in an effort to both drive traffic and—especially in the past two years—crusade against what they see as “fan excuses” that have no traction compared to their sure-fire prognostications. The former has helped make it possible for a “ratings culture” to exist; the latter has made that “ratings culture” unnecessarily combative and unpleasant.

This ambivalence resulted in a rather epic conversation myself and Tyler Dinucci had with a representative of the site last year. Based on a consideration of Last Resort’s ratings, the conversation wasn’t really about the fate of Last Resort (and I’m not just saying that because I was on the side of optimism and the series was canceled after 13 episodes). The conversation was actually about how TV By The Numbers frames its analysis of ratings not simply as good on its own merits, but rather uses the Cancellation Bear as a front behind which it can insult “desperate fans” who would choose to look on the bright side.

More troll-like than ursine, the Cancellation Bear is the site’s Id, framing the site’s largely measured—and unquestionably educated—predictions through the contempt the site’s creators seem to have for many of their readers and fellow reporters/journalists; it’s a frame that risks turning TV By The Numbers into a disruptive force within ratings culture, more interested in loudly performing its distinction than participating in a meaningful discourse central to TV’s future.

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Jericho Rerun Report: Ratings Setback in Week Two

I won’t attempt to sugarcoat it: last night’s ratings results for Jericho’s second week of reruns were disastrous in almost every single way.

From Zap2it:

NBC’s “1 vs. 100” won the 8 p.m. hour with a 3.6/7. A pair of “George Lopez” reruns on ABC averaged 2.5/5, just beating FOX’s “Bones” for second. “Friday Night Smackdown!” drew a 2.4/5 for The CW. “Jericho” trailed with a 2.1/4 for CBS, about a point lower than its return last week.

“Smackdown!” moved into the lead at 9 p.m., finishing with a 2.9/6. A “Las Vegas” rerun on NBC was close behind at 2.8/6. A second “Jericho” rerun on CBS improved a bit to 2.4/4. “Standoff” posted a 2.2/4 for FOX. ABC aired an episode of “Greek.”

The show caused CBS to fall to fall to a tie for third in viewers/households, a pitiful last place in Adults 18-49, and it even dragged down the numbers for, well, Numbers at 10pm. After gaining some momentum from reairing the pilot, it was clear that new viewers who came from Ghost Whisperer last week didn’t stick around.

Needless to say, CBS is not going to be happy with these numbers. The disastrous numbers amongst younger viewers are especially concerning, and the drop in the night’s other programs makes Jericho out to be a black hole of viewership. It’s a terrible parallel to the mid-season hiatus, where Jericho went from freshman success to on the bubble with a single episode. The same has happened here, and it isn’t good.

But all hope is not lost. There are some things fans should do in order to improve this situation.

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‘Jericho’ Rerun Report: Week One Ratings a Mixed Bag

While certainly not a depressing defeat at the hands of the Summer Television ratings decline, CBS’ Jericho returned last night (Cultural Learnings Jericho Rerun Report – “Pilot”) with ratings that are considered a mixed result. There are some positives, but since this is just the pilot it’s hard to tell how being a serial will affect future weeks.

From PIFeedback:

The return of CBS’ Jericho, also a repeat, was the most-watched show at 9 p.m., with 4.74 million viewers — 210,000 behind the encore of lead-in Ghost Whisperer. Demographically, Jericho was second among adults 18-49, with a 1.1/ 4.

The Good News:

– Jericho won its timeslot in viewership, something that Close to Home had done in the weeks previous.

– Jericho held onto a large chunk of its Ghost Whisperer lead-in (4.95 Million Viewers)

The Bad News:

– The show finished behind last week’s episode of Close to Home considerably in total viewers, and by a small margin in Adults 18-49.

– The show failed to be even close to competing with Friday Night Smackdown! in key demos.

All in all, I’d say it’s a disappointment in the fact that the show couldn’t elevate CBS’ ratings over last week’s crime procedural. Still, the show maintained a great deal of its lead-in and there is still a chance that next week could see the series perform slightly better. However, it will actually face more competition next week when FOX burns off its remaining episodes of Drive in the timeslot.

And if Jericho can keep these numbers steady throughout the summer, I think CBS will be pleased.


Filed under Jericho, Ratings, Television

‘Pirate Master’ Walks the Ratings Plank

Edit for July 24th 

Pirate Master has officially walked the plank for good, as CBS has pulled the show from its lineup and will stream the remaining episodes online each Tuesday. For more info, head to Variety. Or, really, less info, it’s not very informative.

So, Overnight Ratings are in, and Pirate Master was not embraced by viewers. At all. This highly advertised CBS Reality series was supposed to make a big splash, but it wasn’t appointment television for viewers [You can read Cultural Learnings’ full recap for more info]:

In series-premiere news, Survivor-clone Pirate Master on CBS did not fool the audience, with just 7.09 million viewers (#2) and a 2.4 rating/ 8 share among adults 18-49 (#2) from 8-9 p.m. Considering how tired the Survivor franchise is, what sense did it make introducing the same show with a different title this summer? Wouldn’t it have been better resting the format, and filling the hour with a game show? Bad move, CBS.

Now, there’s multiple reasons this probably took place.

1. Competition

The show faced competition from Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grade? and the Scripps National Spelling Bee, along with repeats of My Name is Earl and 30 Rock. A special event, an established reality series, and some solid comedy reruns: that’s a tough-ish draw for the summer.

2. The Jericho-fan led CBS Boycott

I’m not entirely convinced that the Jericho numbers are substantial enough to skew things at this stage, but CBS is certainly having some trouble launching what was supposed to be a sure-fire success. That’s got to count for something, and is definitely a buoy for the campaign. Yes, that’s right, a buoy. A Pirate Buoy.

3. The Mark Burnett Curse

Survivor might be surviving, but with The Apprentice gone and FOX’s On the Lot falling fast, Mark Burnett has gone from reality-tv poster child to washed up failure. Well, not quite, but still: his days as Midas have ended.

4. People were all Pirated-out

With At World’s End tearing up the Box Office over the past week, were people just already too mired in pirate-talk to really embrace such a series?

5. It was boring

While I think the premise has potential, the first episode definitely wasn’t a fast-paced affair. It was more of a “Here’s what could be interesting in the future”, which would turn people away fairly quickly.

Will this signal an end to CBS’ reality dirge? It is unlikely, considering they’re likely to just develop more. Still, for new summer reality series, things are not looking good in the least.


Filed under Jericho, Pirate Master, Ratings, Reality TV, Television

Summer Ratings Update: ‘Traveler’ Gets Lost, ‘Hidden Palms’ Remains So

Last night saw the first real full night of nothing but summer programming, and there was mixed results across the board. [All Ratings Information Courtesy of]

The most disappointing result is for ABC’s Traveler, their attempt at launching a serial drama in the summer of all places. The show re-aired its pilot at 9pm (It previewed after of Grey’s Anatomy earlier this month), and then aired its 2nd original episode. The ratings results, however, were not too kind to the drama.

That led into a repeat of the Traveler pilot at 4.99 million viewers (#4) and a 1.6/ 5 in the demo (#4) at 9 p.m., followed by the Wednesday 10 p.m. time period debut of Traveler at a disappointing 6.20 million viewers and a 2.1/ 6 among adults 18-49.

Finishing a distant 2nd to a repeat of CSI: NY is nothing strange or out of the ordinary, but it kind of sucks for the drama as it now has little chance to succeed. It will air out its 8 episodes over the next two months, and likely won’t be returning next year with numbers like these.

The CW’s Hidden Palms, meanwhile, failed to make an impact at 8pm either. This isn’t too surprising, but looks like The CW will indeed leave this season without a single new non-reality show left.

In series-premiere news, long-awaited CW drama Hidden Palms was hidden in the ratings, with a mere 1.82 million viewers and a 0.7/ 2 among adults 18-49 from 8-9 p.m. Obviously, that was last in the hour.

ABC, disgustingly, had decent ratings for the debut of its celebrity impersonation show that was just utterly terrible. Honestly, my parents had it on for a few minutes and it was entirely unpleasant. How more people watched this than Traveler boggles the mind.

ABC had better results with the launch of the non-scripted The Next Best Thing: Who is the Greatest Celebrity Impersonator?, which was the most-watched show at 8 p.m. with 7.75 million viewers (and a second-place 2.5/ 9 among adults 18-49).

FOX continued to find success with its audition phase of So You Think You Can Dance?

Fox got over the “hump” in winning fashion, with a first-place Wednesday finish in the fast nationals courtesy of 9.21 million viewers and a 4.0 rating/12 share among adults 18-49 for So You Think You Can Dance from 8-10 p.m.

The Summer Programming continues tonight with CBS’ entrant: Pirate Master, from Mark Burnett. Filling into Survivor’s timeslot and following the schedule of that show’s first season, the show has a decent shot of making a splash…except that Survivor’s concept is by now a bit dated, and I wonder whether people are really looking for an apparent carbon copy of it. However, viewers can walk the plank for the show’s premiere at 8pm EST on CBS.

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Filed under ABC, FOX, Hidden Palms, Pirate Master, Ratings, Television, The CW, Traveler

‘Save Jericho’: Why Ratings Are Not Jericho’s Friend

While I’ve been turning very quickly onto the positive side of the ‘Save Jericho’ campaign, this doesn’t mean that I have shied away from being critical or certain aspects of it. My criticism is an attempt to keep this campaign grounded, if you will, without losing sight of CBS’ flawed, yet substantiated, standpoint on this issue. It is for this reason that I must object to a recent list being posted as a way of supporting Jericho that I came across this weekend.

“For the first week of May, Jericho had more viewers than the following shows…

Family Guy
American Dad
The Entire NBC Thursday Comedy Lineup
How I Met Your Mother
New Adventures of Old Christine
The Unit
America’s Funniest Home Videos
Notes From the Underbelly
All the Law and Order shows

All these shows renewed, Jericho canceled.”

Now, as some have said, this is a very simple message that could be incredibly powerful…if it were not for the fact that parts of it are outright lies, it all ignores scheduling realities, and fails to recognize that CBS is an inherently different network than the others. It is an over-simplified list that only dilutes and weakens the complexity of the campaign. This campaign is trying to fight against traditional ratings barometers; this list accepts them, and puts key goals of the campaign in jeopardy. With tomorrow’s big New York City rally being planned, I would hate to see this campaign run off the rails with something this simple.

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The Results are In: Nielsen Ratings Data for 2006/2007 Season

This list is long. This list is extensive. And I really want to know what this list means. Nielsen (Via The Hollywood Reporter) has released their data for every single TV show that aired in America this past season. It tells us where our favourite shows ranked, where much maligned shows ranked, and how scripted drama did against reality programming.And, it raises a lot of questions about this data that I think Nielsen might not want to answer.

For instance, does this list include repeats in its viewers averages? Because that’s the only way CSI (#4) should be beating Grey’s Anatomy (#6) in total viewers by my calculations. If so, this gives a distinct advantage to shows without repeats (Reality Shows, Lost, Heroes, etc.) or those shows which repeat extremely well (House, CSIs, etc.)

The major thing to watch for in the list is the difference between 18-49 numbers and viewership rankings. It rises many shows into positions of being picked up, even with lacklustre performances in viewers. Some show, like 30 Rock, are in the doldrums in terms of total viewers but shoot up into the Top 75 with adults 18-49, which got it renewed for a second season.

After a few formatting errors, I’ve realized that getting it to highlight canceled shows would drive me crazy, so just refer to your memory. And, either way, some will seem a bit strange. However, remember that these are averages, and don’t reflect ratings dropoff in their later episodes.

This is the case for Jericho, which clearly performed better than many canceled shows. However, CBS did cancel the better rated Close to Home airing on Fridays, so it’s not as if Jericho was the only victim of CBS’ extremely highly place high bar. It might as well be a pole vault at this point.

With the 2006/2007 season over, the industry trades are going right for ratings as their barometer of success. Outside of this post, I’m unlikely to do so as I go into my own year in review season. For now, check out the ratings for all of the dirt, and stay tuned for less quantitative analysis at Cultural Learnings.

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Filed under 30 Rock, ABC, American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, Gilmore Girls, Grey's Anatomy, Heroes, House, Lost, NBC, Ratings, Reality TV, Scrubs, Television, The Amazing Race, The CW, The Office, Veronica Mars

Reviewing the Finales: Lost, Heroes, 24 Ratings Breakdown

Well, this week has seen perhaps three of the biggest cult hits of the last decade end their seasons. 24, Heroes, and Lost are perhaps the biggest shows amongst the younger viewers that advertisers crave so much, and each show also shares something else: a rabid fanbase. These fanbases are devoted, and I have been a part of each of them since each series began. Which is why I want to, over the next few days, consider the way these three shows ended their seasons. I want to do so on a number of levels (Because my decision on quality will be one-sided). While the others will take time, the first thing that we need to consider is gloriously quantitative.

The Ratings

[Ratings Data from PIFeedback and TheFutonCritic]


Hour One

Total Viewers: 12.4 Million

18-49: 5.2

Hour Two

Total Viewers: 15 Million

18-49: 6.4

Total Average

Total Viewers: 13.66 Million

18-49: 5.8

Lost needs to be commended for a HUGE Post-Idol boost, as people seemed willing to watch just the final hour of the season after the reality show concluded. That huge boost in viewership boosts Lost’s total viewers ahead of Heroes, and its overall 18-49 within the same range. Facing off against stiffer competition, Lost is inevitable the ratings champion amongst the three shows with a strong performance in all key categories in the tougher spot…and it bodes well for next season with 15.4 Million catching the last half hour of the episode.

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Filed under 24, ABC, FOX, Heroes, Lost, NBC, Ratings, Television

‘Save Jericho’: Addressing the Hiatus Hernia, The Idol Factor and Promoting the Unpromotable

In an ongoing attempt to provide some analysis of the fall of Jericho and the subsequent rise of its fans, I’ve been fielding a wide range of questions, comments, criticisms, and attempting to provide a perspective for them. I’ve dealt with CBS’ logic for the cancellation, along with documenting the rise of the ‘Save Jericho’ campaign; however, as many have rightly pointed out, I have yet to properly address the claim very succinctly stated in a comment on this very blog by James Denison:

“Jericho was an excellent drama that suffered from the 3 month hiatus, going up against [American Idol], and poor promotion by CBS.”

In doing so, I might have to defend certain decisions CBS made, and I think that this is just: the network is not entirely at fault here. But, by investigating these issues further, I believe that was can increase CBS’s accountability for their own role in this problem. What I want to investigate are the following series of questions:

– Why do shows go on hiatus, and what other options are available?

– If CBS had shifted the show’s timeslot to avoid Idol, what would the effect have been?

– Is Jericho an easily promotable show?

In answering these questions, I believe that we can further understand the series of events that took place, and delve yet further into the questions of New Media, New Advertising, and just about everything in between.

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Filed under American Idol, Jericho, Ratings, Television