Dancing With The Stars has suffered ratings losses versus a year ago that I don’t think we regularly see in TV. Last night it had 16.5 million viewers and a 3.1 in the demo – A series low on both measures. A year ago, it had 20 million and a 4.4 in the demo. Just this past Spring – less than 6 months ago – it had it’s most watched season EVER! The third week last season on April 4th 2011 had 21.4 million and a 4.6 in the demo. How does a show, one of the biggest in TV, lose 5 million viewers and a point and a half in the demo, in just 5 months? Frankly it doesn’t make much sense. I’m gonna attempt to postulate why, but honestly who really knows.
- Reality is down across the board: The Sing Off, The Biggest Loser are down, even X Factor didn’t perform remotely close to Idol levels – Still a point and half? No other show is down even half that.
- CBS had this huge appointment TV with the debut of Ashton Kutcher on Two And A Half Men– I certainly expected DWTS to be down somewhat on premiere night, but again a point and a half?
- Comedies are huge this year, reality is down. Maybe people just got overdosed on summer reality and some just haven’t checked back, in especially with strong scripted options. - Okay, but DWTS opened at a 4.0. Last week dropped to a 3.3, this week a 3.1. Meanwhile CBS 8p comedies have been relatively stable all 3 weeks, even Terra Nova held 100 percent of last weeks demo and even The Sing Off went up 2 tenths from last week, yet DWTS dropped again.
- People just don’t dig this cast. – I can accept that for some decline but again a point and a half? It’s also worth noting that almost every season people say the cast is horrible and then there are people who perform the first week and win people over. Last spring no one (myself included) was impressed with the cast and then night one happens and Kirstie Alley, Hines Ward, Ralph Macchio impress and those gripes usually go away. So I just can’t imagine a “lackluster” cast is responsible for a point and a half drop.
- The people who made those hateful comments about Chaz and vowed not to watch, maybe they meant it? – Honestly I just don’t believe that (nor do I want to, though I am sure they’re accepting full credit) and I can’t imagine that accounts for such a steep drop. (Major props to Chaz who is the epitome of brave and is an incredibly sweet person.)
Before the season began, I expected ABC to step up the casting since the competition was stronger than it has ever been for DWTS. CBS was sure to be a bigger threat than last spring. NBC scheduled a performance reality show (where before they had low rated scripted) that targets the same audience and FOX was sure to do better than last fall. I have to admit that the casting seemed kind of tame in light of the other nets stepping up . I was surprised they didn’t cast someone like Snooki who would appeal to a younger demo (maybe they tried, although she says they didn’t contact her), not to mention the 18-49 numbers for Jersey Shore are higher than most broadcast shows. Last fall they had The Situation, Kyle Massey and Bristol Palin representing the younger crowd. This season they have Rob Kardashian and Kristin Cavallari. I can’t imagine either of them are big draws and it’s not like they have lit up the show thus far. The Situation was on one of the hottest shows on TV and from week 1 Kyle Massey lit up the dance floor and was a definite draw who ultimately made it to the finals.
I am gonna conjecture and assume it’s possibly all of these things put together that have contributed to the losses. Maybe people weren’t wowed by the cast and wanted to see Ashton. Or possibly there were a few Sing Off fans that hadn’t had to contend with these shows airing head to head before and that might have siphoned off a few viewers there. Maybe once people missed the first week and were invested in the shows on the other nets they didn’t bother coming back. The truth is, the show wasn’t amazing the first two weeks. Last night’s was a very special and emotional installment, with some great raw dances too, and it highlighted some great cast members this season – J.R Martinez, Carson Kressley, Ricki Lake, Chynna Phillips and David Arquette- but many people might have already bailed. In all honesty even with all these possibilities it’s still hard to reconcile how this show lost a point and a half from the spring. It’s still the same enjoyable show and many of the pros are bigger stars than the cast of celebs. It’s currently lower rated than America’s Got Talent performance shows (in the demo) were in lower rated summer. Has any other show suffered these losses even with a weaker cast? I have never seen Survivor drop even .7 from a previous season when they have a cast that is not buzzworthy. Idol doesn’t suffer these kind of losses. So my short answer is I really can’t explain these dramatic drops.
The problem for ABC is what do they do next. 2 years ago they had a lower rated fall season (which was higher rated than this one) and they made some changes and came back strong in Spring ‘10 with their most buzzed about cast in years and they delivered record highs. But when they return this Spring, NBC will have had The Voice in that slot since the beginning of February, which is by far the biggest competition DWTS has ever faced and it will have had an almost 2 month head start (including a Super Bowl induced premiere) to hook viewers. Even if ABC got the most star-studded cast ever will it be enough? I assume these discussions are happening internally at ABC now and with the DWTS producers. I don’t know that there’s a simple answer. All they can attempt to do is get the best cast they have ever had, but who knows if that will be enough.