Magazine article Variety

Even the Hits Need a Little Love

Magazine article Variety

Even the Hits Need a Little Love

Article excerpt

The networks see the DVR as something of a primetime panacea for ratings, but same-night viewing is still the biggest driver of a show's numbers.

Just ask some of TVs top series, which remain as strong as ever in "catch-up" viewing via DVR playback, but have fallen off in the overall ratings because of softer numbers in their regular timeslot. Such shows offer the best argument yet that scheduling and lead-ins still matter.

The ratings declines for ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" and "Modern Family" as well as others like Fox's "New Girl" and CBS' "Mike & Molly" can at least partly be attributed to significant ratings falloffs this season vs. last for programs that air in the half-hour before them. Networks figured these signature shows would hold up pretty well regardless of lead-in, but this season's numbers suggest otherwise.

Looking at the Nielsen numbers for all original episodes for which full-week data is available, ABC's Wednesday 9 p.m. comedy kingpin "Modern Family" is down 15% from last year (6.8 rating vs. 8.0). Yet its "lift" in full-week playback (2.3 ratings points) virtually matches that of last year (2.4).

What's the difference? ABC changed the 8:30 p.m. show on the night from "Suburgatory" (which averaged a 2.4 same-night demo rating in the 2012 February sweep) to "The Neighbors," which pulled a 1.75 in the just-concluded sweep. That 27% decline in lead-in is certainly contributing to the dropoff for "Modern Family."

Similarly, "Grey's Anatomy" is down 8% overall this year (4. …

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