Throughout the fall, the top two shows in the demo have been Glee and Modern Family. I’d say it’s been a virtual tie with the 2 shows trading off the top spot usually by a tenth or two. With the exception of a couple of weeks in the 5’s (high 5’s for Glee) both have usually gotten high 4’s in the 18-49 demo.
Last year the American Idol results show moved to Wed at 9p earlier than usual and a number of people assumed it was to take down Modern Family which was beginning to emerge as a real hit. Usually ABC shows get decimated versus IDOL. Only CBS, with whatever special magic ingredient they possess* is able to hold on to virtually all of their regular numbers vs IDOL. Surprisingly Modern Family held up rather well, a first for ABC vs Idol.
On further thought, last year, Modern Family faced the first half of the results show, where basically nothing of significance happens. This year it is facing the last half hour of the performance show – probably the highest rated half hour of IDOL all week. In fact, by scheduling the performance show from 8-9:30 FOX also takes aim at ABCs momentum gaining (and underrated) The Middle.
I don’t think this was the primary motivation in FOX moving IDOL to Wed/Thu (if you have read this blog before, I have outlined other reasons) but I do think it’s a big perk for them and one I am sure they considered. Think about it. GLEE comes back February 6th to what will be its biggest audience ever – after the Super Bowl. I would imagine there will be some new viewers on its next Tuesday episode , two days later, Feb 8th. I think it will most likely be its highest rated Tues episode (it’s also their Valentine episode). Even if Modern Family holds up well against IDOL it will most likely be knocked down a few tenths, as will The Middle. So Glee will most likely be rising, while Modern Family will probably tick down somewhat, thereby causing some disparity with the top 2 shows and thereby GLEE separating itself to be the #1 show in the demo.
It probably doesn’t help that ABC has Better With You, at 8:30, which sticks out creatively from the rest of ABCs terrific comedy block and even ratings wise drops off from The Middle. It should be gaining with HUT levels higher and as people tune in early for Modern Family. Last year The Middle at 8:30 built on whatever was on at 8. With IDOL competition being much steeper, having a mediocre performer and one that most viewers and critics seem rather apathetic about (vs the other ABC comedies) makes Modern Family even more vulnerable. ABC must realize this and on January 26th and Feb 2nd when all the comedies except Cougar Town are in reruns, ABC has replaced a Better With You rerun with another rerun of The Middle at 8:30.
In addition to having a big hit every night of the week, by moving IDOL to Wed/Thu, FOX also might be halting ABCs comedy momentum on the night. As much of a fan I am of the ABC comedies, and don’t want them to get hurt, from FOXs perspective they are being smart and aggressive programmers and frankly they’re smart.
(* CBS seems to buck normal ratings patterns always – They are never hurt by IDOL, holidays etc – witness last nights NCIS which in year 8 got numbers almost as high as Mod Fam in the demo – a 4.5, and in total viewers had over 22 million viewers – its highest total viewer count EVER)