Dancing with the Stars – Ratings Watch

As a blogger, I get a lot of my ideas for things to write on twitter or other websites. Often, my ideas are a result of reading things that I know just aren’t true, either in my gut or by knowledge of facts. This series is no different. When I’m not playing Devil’s Advocate, I’m attempting to debunk some crazy hyperbole that I’ve read out on the web. Just call me contrary. :-) It’s my way. Anyway, one of the things that I read on a semi-regular basis is a phrase similar to: “Well, DWTS’ ratings just aren’t that good anymore” or “the rating are way down”. The former is, well – wrong. Or at the very least, seriously in need of CONTEXT. The latter? Well, that would be a bit of hyperbole. They are on a downward trend, compared to previous seasons…but when you are maintaining your top ten status (which certainly means that most TV is down as a whole), does it really matter?? Let’s face it – there are a lot of different ways to watch TV programs these days and I ain’t talking DVR. Not only is there On Demand, but there is the web.

But I digress. Let’s look at the average seasonal ratings for all seasons of DWTS up to this point.

Wow, big scary drop off in ratings, right? Well, it depends on how you look at it. Surely with that large of a ratings drop in Season 13, they fell out of the top ten, right? Nope. This next graph is a graph of the average RANK by season for performance and results show; meaning, where did the shows place in the top 20.

Now, this graph looks wacky, partly because I was missing place data for Season 11 and I’m too lazy to try to find it. :-)  The take away from this graph are the numbers on the right hand side – they’re all less than ten, meaning that the show was always averaging in the top ten of all TV shows. Yeah, not so sucky after all.  The season that had the big drop off in the ratings (13)?  Still had an average of about 4th place for the performance show and 7th place for the results.  What I find most interesting is that the season with the highest rank (10 – Nicole/Evan/Erin) for the performance show, was almost the lowest ranked in the results show. What that says to me is that the audience loved watching the dancing…but may have found the results to be a foregone conclusion.  Or it could be that the performance show was getting trounced by the Number 1 American Idol performance show. Or it could be a wicked combination of the two.  I go with the latter. :-)

There are so many factors in play for the ratings for this show that it’s extremely difficult to draw any real conclusions. On most TV shows the cast is basically the same every season – not this show.  Even the part of the cast that is somewhat static changes a bit every season.  The main thing to keep in mind is when reading articles on the show that say “oh, the ratings are down” is that while that might be true on its face, there is a whole bunch of context that they are leaving out. Context like number of viewers, or rank, or how TV as a whole is doing.  That’s why, if you care about ratings, it’s important that you look at BOTH numbers, not just one or the other. And not just use a number you don’t understand as a bludgeon to claim that the ratings are down because your favorite pro isn’t on it…or because your idea of a great celeb didn’t make the cut.  That’s just silly. :-) Anyway, rarely do articles give you any kind of context – they just scream to the heavens that the world is coming to an end.

So, what about this season thus far? Well, the final weekly ratings aren’t out yet, and I will be doing a new post when they are. I have heard rumblings that the fast nationals showed that the premiere was down about 35 percent from last spring. By itself, this number means nothing. At all. What we want to know is, how did it do compared to other shows and is it still a top ten show. If the answer to the second question is yes…do we care about total viewers? I’m thinking no, not really. But it’s still kinda interesting to a numbers nerd like me. :-)

As I said, we’ll look at the ratings week by week and compare them to previous Spring seasons to get a real feel for how the show is doing.  To set the stage, I’ve graphed each week of the performance shows for the Spring seasons and the Fall seasons.

Note that, for the most part, the shape of all the Spring seasons are similar to each other as are those for fall – but they aren’t necessarily similar to each other (Season 12 being the exception in that it seems to mimic a fall season in the latter half).  I tend to think that the decrease in viewers toward the end of the spring season is due to the improvement in the weather. You’ll note that the opposite is true for the fall seasons; the ratings increase toward the end of the season. But I don’t know the reasons (don’t think anyone does), I’m speculating – there are too many variables to draw a lot of conclusions.

The main points of this post (and series) and what you should take away from all of these graphs and keep in mind going forward is that there is generally a decline (overall) over the course of a spring season. So when chicken little screams “the ratings are falling”, just keep in mind it’s not a new phenomenon.  It happens in the spring.  Also look back to the graphs near the top of the post which shows the average viewers for seasons 5 through 13 and remember that this ain’t the first time DWTS has seen a steady decline in ratings.  Zap2It even declared in Season 5 that DWTS “is in decline”.  Well, 9 seasons later we’re still here. :-)

Another example…remember when American Idol was doing over 20 million in viewers every week and DWTS was occasionally beating it?? Well, look at the screen grab below which shows the ratings for the week of March 5th, 2012. DWTS isn’t the only TV show where the ratings are down and AI can’t blame the Voice, since they aren’t going head to head. DWTS is going head to head with the Voice…and if reports are correct, losing. BUT, also, it should remain a top ten show.  So, what is it losing besides viewers??  Advertising dollars and bragging rights…but I don’t think it’s going anywhere anytime soon.  :-)