As the 2012-13 broadcast television season moves closer to
completion, it looks as though this will be the lowest-rated season ever for
freshman series watched by the 18-49 demo. It will certainly be overshadowed by
last season's freshman class, even though there were few breakout hits then
Last season, 16 freshman series ended the season with a 2.0
rating or higher among the advertiser-desired demo. In fact, three of last
year's freshman series, CBS sitcom Rob, with a 3.3 18-49 rating, and two
Fox dramas, Terra Nova with a 2.5 and Alcatraz with a 2.3, were
cancelled after their initial season.
This season, it appears that there will only be three new
series that top a 2.0 18-49 rating. They include NBC sci-fi drama Revolution,which is averaging a 2.9
demo rating; Fox police drama TheFollowing, averaging a 2.8; and CBS drama Elementary, averaging a 2.1. Every other
freshman series is averaging below a 2.0, which can't make marketers who bought
into those shows very happy, even though they get make-goods for ratings
Last season, there were four freshman series to average over
a 3.0 18-49 rating: CBS sitcom 2 Broke Girls, averaging a 3.7 demo rating as part of the network's Monday
night comedy block; Fox's talent competition TheX Factor, averaging a 3.8 on Wednesdays and a 3.7 on
Thursdays; CBS' Rob,averaging
a 3.3 on Thursdays; and ABC drama Once Upon a Time, averaging a 3.1 on Sundays.
Just below that mark was Fox sitcom New Girl with a
2.9. Other freshman series in the 2011-12 season averaging a 2.5 or better were
CBS' Person of Interest (2.5), Fox's Terra Nova (2.5), and ABC's
comedy Happy Endings (2.5).
Others above a 2.0 included ABC sitcom Don't Trust the B----
in Apt. 23 (2.3); NBC drama Smash (2.3), Fox dramas Alcatraz
(2.3) and Touch (2.2); ABC sitcoms Suburgatory and Last Man
Standing (2.2 each). Barely scraping by were CBS' Unforgettable and ABC's
GCB , both at a 2.0.
That's not to say last season was any more successful for
freshman series, however, at least as far as longevity goes.
Other than 2 Broke Girls, Once Upon a Time and Person
of Interest, all of last year's freshman series are down significantly in
their viewership and 18-49 ratings, or have been cancelled.
After much advanced hype, Fox's The XFactor averaged what was then thought to be a
disappointing 11.4 million viewers and a 3.7 demo rating over its two-night
run. This season, however, it fell to an average 8.4 million viewers and a 2.9 demo
At least X Factor
made it through its second season. Don't Trust the B---- in Apt. 23
started the season on ABC, but was cancelled. Other second year series like
NBC's Smash and Fashion Star and Fox's New Girl and Touch
limped through the season with mega declines in their 18-49 ratings
compared to their freshman seasons.
There were six new series last season that averaged more
than nine million viewers: Person of Interest, 12.2 million; The X
Factor, 11.4 million;
Rob, 11 million; Unforgettable, 10.2 million; 2 Broke Girls, 9.9 million; and Once Upon a
Time, 9.5 million.
This season, there are only three series averaging over nine
million viewers: Vegas, 10.6
million; Elementary, 10.1;
and Golden Boy, 9.2-all
CBS series. However, while all six series that averaged over nine million
viewers last year were brought back (Unforgettable is returning this
summer), only one of the three series this season, Elementary, has been renewed
While 12 freshman series this season have already been
cancelled and eight more are likely to be officially cancelled by the end of
the season, there will be some that are renewed regardless; if the networks
don't, they will have too many holes to fill in their schedules for next
Meanwhile, the broadcast networks will only have themselves
to blame if more advertiser dollars defect to cable in this year's upfront.
While cable networks have freshman series failure too, there just seems to be
so much more buzz about cable.
Sometimes cable series take a little while longer to catch
on with audiences, but once they do, they seem to grow each year. Some prime
examples-AMC's The Walking Dead, History's Swamp People and
A&E's Duck Dynasty. Turner's TBS gave Cougar Town a chance
after ABC dumped it, and the series averaged over two million viewers and a 1.0
18-49 rating, maybe not good enough to be a hit on broadcast, but a solid
enough performer to bring in a decent amount of ad dollars to TBS.
The 2012-13 season has been a real step down for most of the
broadcast networks, and that will put even more pressure on entertainment brass
to produce freshman shows for next season to bring viewers back and keep the
ones they have from defecting.
Another freshman class like this season could
really turn off marketers and their media agencies.