Ratings debate: Will ‘Harry’s Law’ prove that age doesn’t matter?

Should we have more of Harry?

When you talk about ratings, there is one thing you almost always hear about first and foremost– how many viewers watching the show are between 18 and 49 years old? This is the demographic that most advertisers look for in shelling out the big bucks to networks, and the goal oftentimes is to cater programming that will get people within this range to check in.

However, at a certain point you do have to try and look at total viewers, as well. Older viewers do still buy products, and even if they are not as valuable by traditional measures to advertisers being one of the most-watched shows on the network should matter. Ultimately, this is what makes the case when it comes to “Harry’s Law” all the more interesting.

Why it should go – To be frank, the 18-49 numbers are bad, almost at a CW level, even. Sunday night’s new episode drew a 0.9 rating (which is around 1.28 million viewers in the demo), and this is a lower number than even one CW show in “The Vampire Diaries.” NBC may be in a bad state at the moment, but with the exception of dead-on-arrival shows like “Best Friends Forever” and non-entertainment programming like “Rock Center with Brian Williams,” “Harry’s” draws a worse rating in the demo than anything on the network.

It also doesn’t help “Harry’s Law” that it is still many seasons away from syndication, so that benefit is gone — as for cost, we also can’t imagine that Kathy Bates comes cheap compared to some of their other shows. Even though “Harry’s” is a Warner Bros. show, that cost still has to get carried over to NBC somehow.

Why it should stay – The fact that “Community” and “Fringe” are still on the air proves that demo ratings do seem to matter more to advertisers than total viewers — however, is NBC really in a position where they can pick and choose? As we said, older viewers still do buy products!

When you actually look at “Harry’s Law” from this┬ástandpoint, it routinely draws around eight million viewers a night. Do you know how many other shows draw this many viewers for the network out of everything currently on the air? There’s only one — “The Voice” (though you could count the results show as two). The fact that “Harry’s” is the network’s most-watched scripted show is something that looks good on press releases, and it does help the audience to have a diverse group of viewers. “Harry’s” has also already shown that its viewers will follow it to different timeslots, and it can be plugged in just about everywhere.

What will happen – While we know that there are websites out there saying that “Harry’s” is going to be canceled without any reason of a doubt, we’re not willing to go that far. Do we think the show has a great chance of renewal? Probably not, but we would not be surprised to see it receive another pickup even if it is for a shorter season. At a time when so many of your new series (“The Firm,” “Awake,” “Prime Suspect”) are flopping, it seems to be a massive mistake to alienate a larger base of older viewers by effectively telling them that they don’t matter as much as the young folks. Is it business? Yes, but the networks have made decisions in the past for both good PR and to appease devoted fan followings.

Right now, this is a show to us that could go either way pending on whether or not NBC wants to take a hard line on the demo, or if they are willing to expand their focus beyond that.

Be sure to check out some of our other ratings debates for “Community,” “Nikita,” and “Fringe” (which we accurately predicted would be renewed for a 13-episode final season).

Photo: NBC

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