News Column

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser Outtakes column

October 5, 2013

YellowBrix

Oct. 05--The Nielsen ratings for the season premiere of "Hawaii Five-0," which aired on a new day and time, were good. In fact, executive producer Peter Lenkov told his cast and crew they were "excellent."

But if the past three seasons are an indication, they'll get much better once everyone who recorded the show finally hits the "play" button. The CBS crime drama experienced a hefty "lift" -- that's the term the industry uses -- during each of its first three seasons, according to ratings information provided by Nielsen.

Last season, "Five-0" averaged a 44 percent increase in viewers after ratings were tallied for people who watched it during its scheduled air time or over the course of the next seven days. That was up from the 36 percent lift during the second season and a 32 percent lift during the debut season.

Conversely, the average number of people who watched the show at its scheduled time dropped each year: from 9.1 million in the first season to 8.8 million in the second season to 7.4 million last season, according to Nielsen.

The DVR ratings were good enough last season to push "Five-0" to a No. 14 ranking out of 191 prime-time shows, CBS said.

The show's Sept. 27 premiere won its time slot by drawing 9.46 million viewers. Additionally, its three-day lift produced an additional 2.65 million viewers, according to CBS, which felt the number would grow once the full seven days were tallied. (The seven-day number and ratings for Friday's episode were not available at press time.)

The numbers are a reflection of changing viewing habits. More and more viewers are choosing to use their digital video recorders to watch shows at their convenience.

Lenkov said the DVR numbers for "Five-0" are important because they represent "a very healthy audience" watching the show on different days.

And while the increased use among "Five-0" fans is due in part to more people having the devices, the numbers can't be denied, he said.

"Nielsen overnight ratings are really sort of antiquated," Lenkov said. "The viewing habits have changed so drastically that you have to look at DVR use as being the future of television."

Syracuse University professor Robert Thompson, director of The Bleier Center for Television and Popular Television, said the viewer lift "Five-0" gets from DVR use means CBS executives do not have to worry as much about what day and time the show airs.

DVRs will likely help the show in its new time slot of 8 p.m. Fridays, he said.

"If you are getting a 44 percent bump from people who are watching 'Hawaii Five-0' on a DVR, then one has to rethink the whole idea of scheduling," Thompson said. "You can feel a little less vulnerable by putting it in a less desirable time slot."

Although Friday night has long been viewed as television's scheduling graveyard, it has been host to successful shows such as the CBS hit "Dallas" and NBC's "Miami Vice," Thompson said.

When shows failed on Fridays it was often because viewers were not home to watch them, but also because the shows were seen as a network's weaker product.

"It is a self-fulfilling prophecy," Thompson said. "If you put on the right kinds of shows, you can get really big audiences on the weekends. But it is a bigger challenge."

Lenkov said Mondays offered plenty of challenges: Monday is a school night. It's the start of the workweek. And "Five-0" aired at 9 p.m. in what Lenkov called the most competitive hour of the week, going against NBC's "Revolution" and ABC's "Castle."

"It was like a 15-round slugfest every week," he said. "It was brutal."

Friday nights may be less of a battle. The show easily beat up on ABC's "Shark Tank" (6.94 million viewers), NBC's "Dateline" (6.5 million) and an encore of the new Fox supernatural drama "Sleepy Hollow" (2.71 million).

Lenkov believes "Five-0" will do well on Fridays, and he's always thought of the show as better suited to the earlier, family-friendly time slot it now has.

"At the end of the week, if you've had a rough week, it would be nice to escape to Hawaii for an hour," he said.

But whether people watch it Friday night or days later, Lenkov really doesn't care.

"For me, at the end of the day, I just want people to watch the show," he said. "There is a lot of great effort put into making this thing that I want people to watch it."

AND that's a wrap ...

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Mike Gordon is the Star-Advertiser's film and television writer. Read his Outtakes Online blog at honolulupulse.com. Reach him at 529-4803 or email mgordon@staradvertiser.com.

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