‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ the top of its game
Gives ABC its best 18-49 rating in nine years
February 6, 2006
Deciding what show to put in the post-Super Bowl slot is a delicate choice. Do you go with a sure thing, like CBS, and put a mega-hit such as Survivor in the spot?
Or do you take a show that’s struggled and try to prop it up with an infusion of new eyeballs, as ABC did three years ago with Alias?
ABC eschewed both strategies in choosing Grey’s Anatomy, the second-year medical drama, to follow this year’s game on Sunday night. The show was already a hit airing out of Desperate Housewives but had not quite reached the esteem level of a Housewives, Lost or CSI, despite rising ratings this season.
Now perhaps it might.
Sunday’s post-Super Bowl Grey’s, which aired on ABC between 10:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m., became one of the biggest post-game successes since 1991, when networks really began to realize the value of the post-Super Bowl spot.Grey’s averaged 38.1 million total viewers, a series high and the best post-Super Bowl draw since Survivor II on CBS in 2001. The show certainly had a strong lead-in, with 90.7 million watching the game, but that does not always a guarantee big post-game numbers. Last year The Simpsons on Fox averaged just 23.1 million total viewers despite having a lead-in of 86 million.
Grey’s had the third-best post-Super Bowl showing since 1991, behind Friends’ record 52.9 million on NBC in 1996 and Survivor. “Grey’s averaged a 16.6 in 18-49s, making it ABC’s top-rated non-sports show in that demo in nine years.
That’s quite a difference from the last time ABC had the Super Bowl, 2003, when it aired Alias in the post-game slot.
Hobbled by a late start at 11:01 p.m., the latest ever for a post-Super Bowl show, Alias delivered the worst viewership ever for the slot, just 17.4 million. It taught ABC a valuable lesson: Post-Super Bowl is not the place for a struggling show.
Hence the selection of Grey’s. And producers of the show knew exactly what to do to ensure the Super Bowl audience stayed put.
Just two years after Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl halftime flash show kicked off a 12-month indecency furor, the opening segment of Grey’s pictured three very attractive female interns showering together as part of a man’s fantasy.
There was basically no reason for the scene beyond capturing the Super Bowl audience’s attention, and it evidently worked very well, much better than countless promotions starring Jennifer Garner in a skimpy bikini worked three years before for Alias.
What does this mean for Grey’s now?
The show already ranks eighth for the season among households with an 11.6 average rating, holding about 77 percent of Housewives’ lead-in in the Sunday 10 p.m. slot. That may rise now, with viewers picked up from the Super Bowl.
But ultimately what it means is that ABC can next season move Grey’s Anatomy to another part of its schedule if it wants to build up another night “ Monday, perhaps, now that Monday Night Football is gone. The show is now established enough that the audience will likely follow.
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