Although NBC promises the show is coming back for another season (see previous story), and insists that even season four won’t be its last, it’s time to face facts: Heroes is in deep trouble. Based just on season averages, over the course of three seasons the show has shed 5.78M viewers (-42%) and 2.3 A18-49 rating points (-38%).
But the bigger issue here is the more recent slide in viewers which has resulted in continued week-to-week series lows and an overall low viewership standing. Much more after the jump, including a full look at the ratings charts teased above.
Here’s a brief — well as brief as I can be — history of the show’s ratings.
When the show premiered, it benefited greatly from good word of mouth marketing on the part of NBC. Heroes premiered on September 25, 2006 with 14.10 million viewers and a 5.9/14 A18-49 rating/share. Over the next several episodes, it managed to build its audience and actually didn’t peak until episode 9, when it drew a series high 16.03M viewers and a 6.9/16 A18-49 rating/share (+14 and +17 percent, respectively, from the series premiere). After its Christmas hiatus, it went on to average 14.44M viewers and a 6.3/15 A18-49 rating/share, through 18 episodes (attracting an average audience above what was achieved for the premiere).
The first extensive slide began when it returned after its second extended hiatus. Episode 19 was down 20% among both viewers and in A18-49 rating, and those remaining five episodes of the season went on to average 12.01M viewers and a 5.5/13 A18-49 rating/share (-15 and -17 percent, respectively from the series premiere).
A fear of continued loss into the next season was tempered, at least for one week, when the show managed a strong season two premiere of 14.12M viewers and a 6.5/15 rating/share in the demo (both measures above the series premiere). Then week two happened, resulting in its second-worst week-to-week drop off, dipping by to 11.96M viewers and a 5.5 A18-49 rating (-15% among both viewers and A18-49 rating). The loss of viewership continued through week seven of that strike-shortened season, where it reached a low-point of 9.87M viewers and 4.9 A18-49 rating. To put those numbers in perspective, after just a year and a half, Heroes had already lost 38 percent of its total audience and 29 percent of its A18-49 demo.
Now that brings us to season three. While season two managed to rebound after its late first-season slide (even though season two went on to plummet downward after week 1), there has been very little in the way of positive signs this season. The season three premiere drew 10.09M viewers and a 5.0/12 A18-49 rating/share, down 29 and 23 percent, respectively, from the season two premiere. But the more disturbing aspect is that there has been no sign of growth. The show again hit a series low two weeks ago with just 7.07M viewers (-56% from its high point) and hit a series low in the very key (and once reliable) A18-49 demo last week, when it drew a 3.3 rating (-52% from its high point).
So when NBC says they have no concern over the longevity of the series, don’t believe it, because it’s nonsense. The show is in trouble and I just don’t sense any degree of concern right now in NBC. Now sure, much of the decline has to do with the quality of the series itself (which I’ve found very lacking of late), but it almost appears like NBC doesn’t share in the concern.
Have other shows slid as much as Heroes and in some cases more? Yes, but I think it’s important to look at all this data and understand that the show is in a bad position and truly is in dangerous territory. I really hope the return of Bryan Fuller can rejuvenate Heroes again both creatively and in the ratings. By the way, Fuller’s first episode “in the writing room”, i.e. collaborating on the series, airs Monday night, March 9th. His actual first episode back as a writer follows the week after on the 16th (“Cold Snap”).
If my quick analysis above doesn’t paint a clear enough picture, here are two charts tracking the entirety of the series thus far among both viewers and A18-49 rating. click to enlarge–high and low points are noted
ADULTS 18-49 RATING
Notes: All ratings are based on final national numbers. I used weeks in the chart instead of episodes because the third season premiere consisted of two episodes on one night (so the show has been on for 51 weeks, but has aired a total of 52 original episodes).