USA's 'Modern Family' Block Strengthens, but Still Has a Way to Go

Tuesday and Wednesday Showings Improve Over Premiere Week

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The second week of prime-time "Modern Family" reruns on USA is showing is showing signs of improvement, but the network can't relax just yet.

'Modern Family'
'Modern Family' Credit: ABC

Episodes of the show attracted an average of 1.1 million total viewers on Tuesday night, when it aired from 8 p.m.to 11 p.m., according to USA. That's a 17% increase from Tuesday night last week.

Preliminary ratings indicate USA's "Modern Family" on Wednesday grew 13% from the same night last week, a network spokeswoman said.

That's not what USA hopes to see in the long run, but it's a clear improvement. The first week of "Modern Family" reruns on USA averaged 977,000 total viewers, less than half the 2 million viewers that watched "CSI," "Law & Order: SVU" and various movies on the network in the same week last year. In the all-important 18-to-49 demo, the first week of "Modern Family" on USA was off 30%, according to Brad Adgate, senior VP of research at Horizon Media.

USA aired nine hours of "Modern Family" from Tuesday through Sunday last week.

USA, best known in recent years for "blue-sky dramas" like "Royal Pains," wants to use "Modern Family" as a launching pad for planned original scripted comedies. It has thrown significant marketing muscle behind the series, essentially promoting it as if it was an original.

USA parent NBC Universal also priced the comedy much higher in the upfronts -- when TV networks look to secure ad commitments for the fall -- than it had previous priced reruns of shows like "Law & Order: SVU" and "CSI."

The pricing is comparable to "Big Bang Theory" reruns on TBS, but when "Big Bang" began showing there in September 2011, it premiered to an average of 1.6 million total viewers.

Initial expectations
"The bad part is expectations in the sales community were set by initial estimates [made by the network] which were aggressive," said Sam Armando, senior VP-director of strategic intelligence at Publicis Groupe's SMGx.

The composition of the "Modern Family" audience on USA is also already more densely packed with younger viewers, Mr. Armando added, even if the overall audience is smaller so far. A few more weeks are still necessary to gauge its success, he said.

The first week of "Modern Family" on USA was up against premieres of broadcast series, and on Sunday night competed with the return of Showtime's "Homeland" and the series finale of AMC's "Breaking Bad."

USA purposely held off on some "Modern Family" marketing ahead of the broadcast season, not wanting to get lost in the clutter. Instead, the network began promoting the series this week and will kick off its "symphony" campaign -- a marketing strategy that promotes content across NBC Universal's many platforms -- next Monday.

"Modern Family is a long-term strategic play for USA Network and, as evidenced by the show's double digit ratings increase this week, the audience is already growing. On top of that, the show is attracting incredibly young and upscale viewers," a USA spokeswoman said.

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