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Episode Four: St. Louis Cardinals
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Nearly two weeks after CBS slid "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" into the plum post-Super Bowl slot, the fledgling chat show has yet to experience any improvement in its nightly ratings performance.
According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, the eight episodes of "The Late Show" that have aired since Super Sunday averaged a smidgen over a 0.5 rating (0.5375, to be exact), which works out to around 680,000 members of the adults 18-to-49 demo. That's flat when compared to the 0.5 rating "The Late Show" delivered the week before the Super Bowl (Feb. 1-5), and down considerably versus Mr. Colbert's season-to-date average (0.7).
Over the same period, NBC's "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" continued to dominate late-night, matching the combined deliveries of "The Late Show" and "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" with an average 1.0 in the 18-to-49 demo. Since the broadcast season began last September, "The Tonight Show" is averaging a 1.1 rating, while the second-place "Late Show" is edging "Kimmel" by one-tenth of a point.
"Late Show" lead-out "The Late Late Show with James Corden" over the course of those eight nights matched its season average with a 0.3 in the demo, trailing "Late Night with Seth Meyers" by two-tenths of a point.
The special post-Super Bowl installment of "The Late Show" averaged 20.6 million viewers and a 7.7 rating among the adults 18-to-49 set. (For the record, the most-watched late-night broadcast in TV history was notched by Johnny Carson's "The Tonight Show" on Dec. 17, 1969, when the nuptials of freaky ukele man Tiny Tim and Miss Vicki -- Google it -- were witnessed by more than 45 million viewers.)
That CBS hasn't been able to immediately capitalize on the massive exposure Mr. Colbert enjoyed following the Panthers-Broncos game is not even a little surprising, as the Super Bowl sugar rush nearly always wears off faster than Peyton Manning can shout "Omaha!" In recent years, shows like "The Blacklist," "New Girl" and "Elementary" immediately plummeted back to earth after enjoying an artificial Super Sunday lift.
Week-to-week retention has become such a non-starter that the networks no longer even bother trying to use the Super Bowl as a launch vehicle for new shows. (The last time that happened was in 2010, when CBS introduced "Undercover Boss" after Super Bowl XLIV; having drawn 38.7 million viewers, it remains the most-watched new show to lead out of the game.) Since 1979, 13 shows have debuted after the NFL title tilt, and of that baker's dozen, seven failed to earn a renewal for a second season. Among the biggest busts were the wholly forgettable dramas "MacGruder and Loud" (ABC, 1985), "The Last Precinct" (NBC, 1986) and "Grand Slam" (CBS, 1990).
$137.8B U.S. ad spend for top 200 advertisers
And if there's apparently little benefit to the lead-out position, the in-game promos don't exactly move the needle either. CBS during Super Bowl 50 aired 7 minutes and 10 seconds of promos for its own shows, on par with NBC's promo load a year ago, and down significantly from the 10 minutes and 20 seconds of in-house ads CBS ran in Super Bowl XLVII in 2013. And despite claiming the undivided attention of more than 100 million Americans, the promos didn't have a demonstrable impact on CBS' prime time ratings.
Take, for example, CBS' freshman hospital drama "Code Black," which enjoyed its fair share of exposure on Feb. 7. Three nights after Denver finished off Carolina, "Code Black" averaged a 1.9 in CBS' target demo (adults 25 to 54). That marked a slight improvement from the show's most recent first-run broadcast (1.7 on Feb. 3), but by Feb. 17 "Code Black" ceded whatever momentum it seemed to have gained, tying a series low with a 1.5 rating.
The same pattern applied across the schedule. "NCIS" on Feb. 9 drew a 3.5 in CBS' guaranteed demo, down a tenth of a point compared to its last new installment on Jan. 19. "Criminal Minds" dropped two-tenths of a point, "Survivor" on Wednesday posted its all-time lowest premiere ratings and everything from "The Big Bang Theory" to "Madam Secretary" to "2 Broke Girls" were flat.
All told, CBS' in-house promo allotment displaced around $68.8 million in paid advertising. Among the handful of shows that the network did not promote during the game were the comedies "Angel from Hell" and "Mike & Molly," and the crime drama "CSI: Cyber." CBS announced it had canceled "Angel from Hell" the day after the Super Bowl, while seven episodes of "Mike & Molly" remain to be burned off once it returns from its indefinite hiatus. Meanwhile, as CBS' least-watched, lowest-rated show, "CSI: Cyber" has no chance at earning a third season after it wraps on March 9.
CBS also used the Super Bowl to alert fans of its prestige drama "The Good Wife" that the show had run its course and would end in May after seven seasons. A month earlier, lead actress Julianna Margulies let the proverbial cat out of the bag when she told an industry crowd that she would be "unemployed come April"; her revelation came just days after CBS acknowledged that series co-creators Robert and Michelle King would be leaving "The Good Wife" at the end of the season.
The Super Bowl is hardly the only TV sports franchise that doesn't automatically bestow a sort of magical halo effect onto other network properties. After interrupting its coverage of the closing ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics with an ad-free preview of its new comedy "Animal Practice," NBC took a beating from TV critics and the Twitterverse.
After drawing 12.8 million viewers and a 4.1 in the 18 to 49 demo, "Animal Practice" returned six weeks later to its regular Wednesday night time slot -- where it delivered 5.19 million viewers and a 1.4 rating. Four weeks later, the show was canceled.