More Numbers… Now With 100% More Spin!

The Numbers… the bad and the good
So the early overnight numbers for the ABC rebroadcast of Spark of Rebellion were released this morning, and they were not good. In fact the raw number was pretty bad…

ABC       Star Wars Rebels               18-49 (0.6/2)                           Total Viewers  2.54 million

So Rebels managed to attract some 2.5 million viewers (half that of America’s Favorite Home Videos at the same time), and only pulled a 0.6/2 among all 18-49 year olds meaning 0.6 percent of all TVs in America were watching the show and only 2% of viewers in the 18-49 year old demographic were watching.  In terms of raw numbers that’s about 750,000-780,000 viewers give or take.  The show also once again performed dismally among boys 12-17 pulling in a 0.4 in that demographic.

The initial numbers were not great, but there does appear to be a glimmer of hope…

If you subtract adults 18-49 and boys in the 12-17 range (about 180,000 viewers) that potentially leaves a pretty sizeable chunk of pie among kids 6-11 and even girls in the 12-17 demographic.  When the final numbers come out in a day or two we should have a better gauge of the show’s performance.

Also, there were a number of outside factors which contributed to the lackluster numbers.  The Steelers vs. Colts game ran late on CBS and cut into the same time slot, in addition the show was facing Game 5 of the World Series, and finally, there was the opening of Sunday Night Football.  A kids show, and a rerun at that, is simply going to be hard pressed to compete against those forces.

How these figures impact the ratings of tonight ‘s episode of Star Wars Rebels remains to be seen, but it could have a positive effect.

Spinning the night away

I really hate corporate spin as it really serves no function other than to make execs feel good about themselves and preventing investor panic.  And speaking of spin, ABC/Disney was in full spin mode today.  ABCs numbers last night, throughout most of primetime, were down… pretty hard.  So ABC went into full blown spin cycle, and included this brief announcement about Rebels:

Star Wars Rebels: Spark of Rebellion (7-8pm – 2.5 million and 0.6/2 in AD18-49):  During the 7pm hour opposite the start of the World Series and a highly rated NFL overrun, ABC’s special encore airing of Star Wars Rebels: Spark of Rebellion – a television movie – drew an average audience of 2.5 million viewers.  Prior to last night’s ABC broadcast, the animated movie had already reached an audience of nearly 16 million unduplicated Total Viewers in the U.S. on Disney Channel and Disney XD since its early October debut (10/3/14). 


Not so fast Sparky…

To understand the language of “TV speak” you need to know the definition of a few words.  “Reached,” as defined in the world of broadcast television, means the show was broadcast, rebroadcast, or made available by means which potentially made it available to 16 million viewers.  Whether or not those 16 million potential viewers actually watched is an entirely different matter altogether.  The original broadcast of Spark of Rebellion reached 2.7 million viewers during its premiere on the Disney Channel, and since then, rebroadcasts on Disney Channel and DisneyXD have not registered a blip on the ratings radar.

If we are to believe these numbers from ABC, how is it possible for a series that was so well reviewed in the press and received so much good buzz among Star Wars fans to drop to just 1 million viewers the following week on DisneyXD, and down to 580,000 the next?  That’s only 3.5% of these “unduplicated total viewers.”  Are we honestly expected to believe that people simply hated the show so much that they turned off by a tune of 15.4 million people?  If 16 million viewers watched the premiere, even taking into account the limited access of DisneyXD, the network should be setting ratings records.  The simple fact of the matter is Spark of Rebellion never had 16 million viewers; it’s corporate spin.

So many numbers… what does this all mean???

Since my original post about Rebel’s dropping ratings I’ve been hit with a ton of question, I’ve been a guest on a podcast (thanks Rob), and been the subject of discussion on another (thanks to the folks at Full of Sith).  Some have accused me of being a Chicken Little and crying “The sky is falling,” in hopes of getting hits, or stirring up trouble within the fan base.  Still others have shared my concern and asked me how they can help, or have been very supportive of my efforts to get fandom engaged, and to them I am extremely grateful.

So I’m going to get a little controversial here again… so hang on:

I think Star Wars fans have gotten incredibly fat and lazy (figuratively speaking) in the 15 years since The Phantom Menace… we’ve gotten complacent.  For 15 years we’ve enjoyed nonstop merchandise, a never ending gravy train of media to consume, and a social forum, known as the internet, where we can talk about our mutual love nonstop.  We’ve lived in an insulated bubble of fandom, protected by Lucasfilm and licensees willing to put out endless amount of product, never once asking the question: “What happens if things go south?”

George Lucas was willing to spend untold millions of dollars to see his vision of The Clone Wars realized.  According to some, on average most episodes cost in excess of $2 million and some even approached much larger numbers.  Lucas was willing to experiment and fail because it was his money on the line; he was willing to foot the bill to ensure his animated television dreams came true.  But that’s not the case anymore…

Sure, Disney appears to have endless coffers, and they have invested $4 billion dollars in the franchise.  But the even the execs at Disney and Lucasfilm, and the folks running DisneyXD have bosses to answer to called investors… and they expect a return on their money.  The days of Uncle George’s endless cash supply are over.  If investors feel a show is failing, or if they can find a cheaper show that will pull in the same numbers they will apply monetary pressure.

A number of people have been quick to jump on the “it’s all about the toy sales” bandwagon.  Forgetting the fact there really aren’t a lot of Rebels toys on shelves right now due to a Hasbro screw up, if viewership for Rebels is low, then why should anyone expect Rebels toy sales to be any better?  A kid is not going to invest in action figures for a show they don’t watch.  Discount/Close Out racks are littered with toys from failed kids’ shows.  So basically it will be the same old crowd buying the toys… collectors.

While that’s all well and good, but the investors’ expectations about the brand are completely different.  They were sold, by Iger, on the notion that Disney could expand the Star Wars brand and keep it profitable for the next 40 years.  However, I’d recommend fans go listen to the investors’ conference call the day following the Star Wars purchase, or go and read the transcript.  There’s a lot of doubt in that room; many of the investors were genuinely puzzled.  There’s concerns about profitability of the franchise over the last few years, the perception (created in the media) that the Star Wars Prequels were a failure, and concerns how it might impact the Marvel brand.

When you add those concerns to the faltering ratings of Rebels on DisneyXD, it could create a perception, rightly or wrongly, that the brand may be soft; that Bob Iger may have oversold its long term prospects.  And those kinds of feelings could lead to an early demise to Rebels if ratings don’t improve down the road.

Again, to reiterate, Star Wars Rebels is not going anywhere for two seasons.  Disney will want some kind of presence on the air leading up to Episode VII, so unless the ratings positively crater it will not be cancelled.  However, what happens after Season 2 is another matter altogether.  If the show continues to falter and the Rebels toy line doesn’t sell it might create a climate which could lead investors to question the future of Star Wars animated programming.  And that would be the ultimate punch to the gut, especially on the heels of the cancellation of The Clone Wars.

Star Wars Rebels is a great show, and it deserves to be seen by as many fans and new viewers as possible.  The show has heart and a great cast of characters, and it would be a shame if the plug is pulled before its time…

May the Force Be With You




6 thoughts on “More Numbers… Now With 100% More Spin!

  1. Thank you so much for putting out your research and thoughts on this matter for us all. I know I don’t have the time to understand how TV ratings work! I hope the fandom and people who love the show respond with vigilance (not panic!) and work together to have Rebels last more than two seasons no matter how Episode VII turns out. As for myself, I feel a bit helpless. I watch the show on iTunes, but I really don’t know many people who are interested in cartoons.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your description of that investors conference call was fascinating, including the belief by some of them that the prequels were a failure. I know most of these people have more money than brains, but it continues to amaze me how wide a gulf there continues to be between perception and reality. Conventional wisdom is like a communicable disease.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Agreed, I think the lack of ties to the PT and TCW with the premiere of Rebels really hurt it with young viewers who have spent the past decade and a half growing up with these movies. The past two episodes (Rise of the Old Masters and Breaking Ranks) really are linked to the stuff the target audience grew up on, but if they already turned Rebels off there’s not a lot of hope getting them back.


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