Behind the first run episode, “Lana I Ka Moana,” Hawaii Five-0 was seemingly inching up in the coveted 18-49 demo and appeared to improve week-over-week since the third season premiere.
Then the NFL threw a flag on the play.
According to TVByTheNumbers, the show had pulled a 2.2 preliminary rating in the overnights. That’s better than the 1.8 two weeks ago and better still than the 2.0 last week. In overall viewers, it had ticked by NBC’s Revolution for the first time, purportedly pulling in a hair over 9 million to 8.2 for the JJ Abrams drama. Then the afternoon adjustments were made for the NFL markets (Houston and New York) and Five-0 fell three tenths to a more sobering 1.9/8.39 million overall. The number was still h3er than NBC in total viewers, though not by much, but didn’t come close to touching them in the demo. Here’s how it broke down:
Hawaii Five-0: 1.9 • 8.39 million
Revolution: 3.0 • 8.01 million
Castle 2.2 • 10.61 million
Can CBS claim even a small victory with the rise in total viewers? Probably not without looking as goofy as McGarrett in that giant straw hat last night. But think of it as Five-0 blowing air back into a slowly leaking dinghy. Last night’s episode was a pretty good metaphor for the show avoiding what could have been a more perilous situation had those numbers continued to fall. Without a syndication deal already on the table (thanks, TNT!), you would’ve seen Five-0 on every Renew/Cancel index being peddled around the Internet. Instead, the series is likely guaranteed at least a fourth season to get to the minimum number of episodes needed for stripped syndication (running a TV series at the same time daily, normally Monday to Friday, so that it appears in a straight strip across the weekly TV schedule).
I promised last week that I’d examine some reasons Five-0 is falling off in live numbers, because it goes far beyond the immediate competition. In a June 2012 report by TV Basics, Nielsen had estimated DVR penetration at 43%. That number is relatively flat, all things considered, but is higher in other reports and said to be approaching 50% by 2013. Meanwhile, the number of U.S. mobile subscribers watching video on their mobile devices rose more than 40 percent year-over-year. Online video viewing is up 46%, with viewers reported to be watching videos longer by an average of nearly 6 minutes in just a 6-month period.
I’m not telling you something you probably didn’t already know, just with the numbers to back it up. Live programming as we know it has also given way to viewers’ self-indulgent (myself included) live tweets, blogs, podcasts and other multi-tasking tendancies that would prove most of us have the attention span of a gnat. During commercial breaks, I just tune to other shows idling in my DVR and On Demand menu just to skip the advertisements. Then there’s Netflix, Hulu Plus and Apple TV. We watch what we want, when we want, with very little regard to the business model keeping our favorite shows on the air.
Next week when a new round of numbers come out we’ll continue to point fingers at Abrams’ apocalypse, Castle’s smoldering romance and the NFL pigskin. Truth is, we’re the ones letting air back out of that dinghy as fast as CBS and Peter Lenkov can pump it back in.