Why does ABC cap their biggest hit at 10 weeks?

SKATING WITH THE STARS aired its second episode last night and it produced ratings that I like to refer to as “cancel me now” numbers. Not that it should have been much of a surprise as its premiere last week squandered most of its DWTS lead in and by the last half hour got a 1.7. So I assume ABC, like others, including myself, foresaw this. But a 1.2 when the competition is CBS reruns, a HOUSE rerun and NBC, is basically the audience telling you loudly “we don’t care”. The show then sent CMA CHRISTMAS to a similar  (but slightly higher score). I assume the special might have done better if there were people watching ABC at 9:30.

This flop shouldn’t have been hard to predict as the FOX show from a few years ago, while not from the same DWTS producers, also tanked.

This seems to be par for the course every December for ABC as whatever reality bandage they try to use between DWTS and THE BACHELOR never works. To which I always ask, why is DWTS capped at only 10 weeks. Is it just so it can finish in sweeps and the finale will give the affiliates a nice number? On paper I understand that, but are those affiliates so happy to trade that one good week of November numbers for a month of hideous ones? ABC was a distant 4th last night, only .3 ahead of the CW. Are those affiliates happy about that? That was with zero competition. Next week CBS is all new and NBC’s THE SING OFF is back. Last year that did pretty well and should at least get low to mid 2’s. ABC would be better served running comedy encores than SWTS.

CBS runs Survivor until December 19th, The Amazing Race runs til 12/12. NBC runs The Biggest Loser until the 3rd week in December and brings it back the first week in January. Fox runs Hell’s Kitchen until the middle of December. Wouldn’t technically all those network affiliates want finales in November? I am sure, but the respective networks trade that one week for a continued ratings presence in December. We all know by now this a 52 week business.

ABC could easily extend DWTS for another 2-3 weeks, thereby solving their December problem. Would that one week in November be less impressive? Well yeah, but probably not by too much and their December wouldn’t be anemic. They could always do some big DWTS stunt that last week in lieu of the finale to drum up bigger numbers. Maybe they could bring back finalists from all previous seasons in a one night all-star competition. That’s just off the top of my head. I’m sure the smart people at ABC and DWTS could come up with some cool stunts. They have done a great job of keeping the show fresh for 11 seasons.

Whether on broadcast or on cable I have never seen a HIT reality cycle less than 13 weeks yet ABC’s biggest hit – DWTS is capped at only 10 weeks and has a 4 month, Summer like, hiatus between editions. THE BACHELOR normally has run an incredibly low 9 weeks. This year, it is smartly being extended to 11 (still a very low cycle compared to every other network) and will end out of February Sweeps. I suggest ABC do the same thing next Fall for DWTS. Obviously ABC can’t order 30 weeks of GREYS a year (much as they’d like to ). Dramas are expensive and take 10 months to produce 24 eps. But a live reality competition certainly is much easier to add a couple of more weeks to. It would also give a few more weeks of 20 million people seeing promos for their new midseason offerings.  

(This is rather tangential but ABCs bandage last Fall was supposed to be LET’S DANCE, similar to DWTS, also based on a UK show, but stars only committing for one week and recreating iconic dance routines (ROCKY HORROR for example). They supposedly had trouble casting it and put it on hiatus. I assume that project is dead, but Kathy Griffin was set to host. I can’t imagine that wouldn’t have been an immediate improvement over SWTS. At least the host would have been a blast to watch.)

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