TV Long View: The Hidden Disadvantage for Midseason Shows

Manifest _ 911 Lone Star _For Life_Split - Publicity - H 2020
Courtesy of NBC, FOX and ABC

Several midseason shows, including NBC's Manifest, ABC's For Life and Fox's 911: Lone Star, have performed solidly in delayed viewing. They are, however, more the exception than the rule with series that have premiered since the new year.

In fact, although the 20-plus midseason series have posted initial numbers more or less in line with their fall counterparts, they fall off the pace somewhat in delayed viewing.

The Hollywood Reporter looked at three- and seven-day ratings for entertainment shows on the Big Four broadcast networks that have premiered since Jan. 1 through the most recent week available (Feb. 10-16 for three-day ratings, Feb. 3-9 for seven-day). Ratings figures for those shows (25 in the three-day ratings, 21 in the seven-day tallies) were compared to 67 entertainment series over the first six weeks of fall. Here's how they stack up:

Adults 18-49 rating Live + same day Live +3 gain
(% gain)
Live +7 gain
(% gain)
Fall 0.83 0.4 (48%) 0.53 (65%)
Midseason* 0.79 0.31 (39%) 0.41 (52%)


Viewers in millions Live + same day Live +3 gain
(% gain)
Live +7 gain
(% gain)
Fall 4.87 1.73 (35.5%) 2.28 (47%)
Midseason* 4.19 1.41 (34%) 1.89 (43%)

*Same-day and three-day figures for midseason shows are through Feb. 16; seven-day averages through Feb. 9.

The fall shows added about 0.4 to their initial 18-49 ratings over three days and another tenth of a point in days four to seven. In total viewers, they grew by 2.28 million people on average.

The midseason crop started at roughly the same point in the 18-49 demo, but after three days of delayed viewing, their average 0.31-point gain was less than the 0.4-point bump for the fall series. The winter shows also grew by 0.1 in days four to seven, but that again leaves them shy of the fall averages.

The story is similar with total viewers, although the midseason series are at more of a disadvantage from the beginning, averaging about 680,000 fewer people to start and posting smaller gains at each interval.

There are some exceptions. Manifest was one of the biggest performers in delayed viewing in its first season in 2018-19, and it has continued on that path this season. The NBC drama doubles both its 18-49 rating and its total viewers within a week. The long-running Criminal Minds also doubles its demo rating for CBS, and the premiere of For Life on ABC nearly did so (going from 0.7 to 1.3 after seven days). Fox's 911: Lone Star doesn't overperform to the extent that parent show 911 does, but it 0.6-point gain in adults 18-49 after a week is above average for all shows this season.

Despite those highlights, however, the midseason crop as a whole lags. Part of likely has to do with the fact that there are simply more shows on the air — a sizable majority of the shows that aired in the fall have continued their runs into the new year, meaning there's more competition for viewers' time and DVR space (to say nothing of the hundreds of other series on cable and streaming platforms).

Broadcasters' rollout of midseason series is also more protracted, making for less certainty on viewers' part as to when a series is on. Every fall show on the initial schedules of the big four had premiered by the end of the season's second week.

Broadcast scheduling is not as crucial as it once was, given the plethora of ways for viewers to access programming now. But the disparity between fall and midseason series suggests that deciding when a series airs still carries some weight.

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