MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- Tough times may have given birth to the blues, but it's country music that many turn to during an economic downturn. And this Great Recession seems to be repeating the refrain: Arbitron reports that in the most recently completed season country radio was once again radio's top format, with 12.7% of all listening. And it spanned generations -- leading among adults 18-24, 25-34, 35-44 and 45-54 -- and gender, with a 53/47 female/male listening ratio.
To be this successful, the music can't be all about cowboys and pickups, but has to pick up people as well, giving them hope, or at least a little escapism. So there was probably no better time for the fresh face, and ferocious talent, of Taylor Swift. Still a teenager, she won two top awards, including Entertainer of the Year, at Wednesday night's CMA Awards.
And like the format she represents, the CMAs also increased, up 6% in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic, delivering a 5.3/14 rating and share, which easily gave ABC the top spot in the ratings race, ahead of CBS (3.2/8), Fox (2.8/7), NBC (2.0/5) and the CW (1.0/3).
And America isn't only having a country music moment, but a Taylor Swift one as well. Far from the victim of Kanye West, who stole the mic and the moment from her as she won an award on MTV's Video Music Awards, she's a victor, with her plucky personality playing particularly well even with people who aren't necessarily country music fans. Like the urbanites watching the snarky "Saturday Night Live," which made last week's show, with Taylor as both host and musical guest, a critical and commercial hit, with the 2.8/11 tied for the top rated episode of the year.
The CMAs not only did well, but did so up against other shows about performing, including Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance," which hit a season low 2.2/6 and "Glee" (3.4/9), which was a tenth of a ratings point above its season average, as well as the CW's "America's Next Top Model," which was off 12% from last week to a 1.5/4. (A "Vampire Diaries" repeat followed "Top Model" and delivered a third of "Model's" audience.)
CBS, whose more august audience may have been pulling for 57-year-old George Strait as Entertainer of the Year, had a relatively good night, as "The New Adventures of Old Christine" (2.1/6) and "Gary Unmarried" (2.4/6) were up 5% and 9%, respectively from their original episode season to date averages, and part two of this week's "CSI" intertwined trilogy, "CSI:NY" (3.8/10) was up 19%. But in-between "Criminal Minds" (3.4/9) was off 11% from its normal level.
|See how all the shows did in the ratings.|
As for NBC, "Law and Order: SVU" tied its season high 2.8/7. But what Taylor Swift giveth on Saturday, she also taketh away on a Wednesday, as "Mercy" (1.7/5) tied last week's season low and "The Jay Leno Show" (1.4/4) tied its Wednesday night season low. On a night all about country music, this is been an all too familiar refrain to NBC affiliates, who could use a pick-me-up, too.
WHAT TO WATCH:
Thursday: Fan of police procedurals? DVR CBS's "CSI" and opt for the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, in 1954's "Dial M for Murder" on TCM.
Friday: For a Friday, "Smallville" has had big ratings, at least by CW standards. Find out why at 8 p.m.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Ratings have risen for "CSI: Miami" and "CSI: NY" as the overlapping plotlines this week. Will the original "CSI" benefit too?
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NOTE: All ratings based on adults 18-49. A share is a percentage of adults 18-49 who have their TV sets on at a given time. A rating is a percentage of all adults 18-49, whether or not their sets are turned on. For example, a 1.0 rating is 1% of the total U.S. adults 18-49 population with TVs. Ratings quoted in this column are based on live-plus-same-day unless otherwise noted. (Many ad deals have been negotiated on the basis of commercial-minute, live-plus-three-days viewing.)
John Rash is senior VP-director of media analysis for Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis. For more, see rashreport.com.