After both “Once Upon a Time” (2.4) and “Revenge” (1.7) each posted series-low numbers in the 18-49 demographic for their respective episodes on Sunday night, it was fair for many fans to ask ABC a valid question: why in the world are you airing new programming against the AFC Championship Game? This marks the second straight week in which ABC has aired new episodes of these shows against popular competition; and while they will have the night off against the Super Bowl (which is a night all major television networks throw up a white flag), they will go head-to-head against the Grammys a little later in the month.
For now, though, let’s go back to the Globes and football. Over 40 million saw the Baltimore Ravens defeat the New England Patriots, and had it been a tighter game at the end the numbers may have been even higher. From this standpoint, it does not make much sense for the network to program in a way that cripples there own audience, in particular when there are times in March and early April where new episodes go better than repeats.
So why was this decision made instead? We can only speculate, but here are some reasons that will follow at least some pattern of logic.
1. Remember how airing a lengthy hiatus can sever a show’s audience? ABC clearly does not want that. You could make the argument that the network could just stop airing new episodes of “Revenge” and “Once Upon a Time” until awards season is over in March, but by that time, viewers may already be hooked on something else.
2. It was obviously important for the network to make sure that “Once Upon a Time” and “Revenge” remained Sunday-night staples, and thus both shows were brought back early this year. However, they couldn’t just bring back one episode, wait for two weeks until the Golden Globes and the AFC Championship, come back with a new episode, and then vanish again for the Super Bowl and the Grammys before coming back for one more episode for the Oscars. Do you see how complicated this is? It makes a little more sense to air three episodes, break for a couple of weeks, and then come back for two weeks (even against the Grammys) before the Oscars.
3. Live+3 figures are becoming a little more important to networks in an age where DVR viewing is rampant, so as long as the people who are missing the shows due to football watch via other means, they will be satisfied.
At the end of the day, “Once Upon a Time” is still a lock for renewal, and even “Revenge” has not really been the subject of too many cancellation rumors (though the decline as of late is troubling).
Do you think ABC is making a mistake in airing these shows against so much competition? If you want to see the first promo for the February 10 return of the fairy-tale drama, be sure to check out the story here.