How a TV Show Finds an Audience, in 4 Charts

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Photo-Illustration: Vulture and Photos by FOX

The Ratings Game is a weeklong series exploring what the new world of TV ratings means for your favorite shows.

As we reported earlier this week, the rapidly changing way viewers consume TV these days is forcing networks to adapt how they measure shows — and success. Series that once would’ve been yanked after a couple weeks are being given more time to find an audience, and networks are figuring out fresh ways to make money off of these new viewing platforms. One exec called these different streams “puzzle pieces,” and said his job was to figure out how they all fit together. To better illustrate that point, Vulture decided to take a look at three shows on Fox’s Sunday-night comedy lineup. Geared toward young men, and competing against football on NBC and a slew of big cable dramas, the lineup doesn’t generate big overnight ratings. But with the help of those aforementioned puzzle pieces, and when viewed through the prism of monthly (rather than nightly) ratings, the Fox shows are all finding a decent-size audience.

Bob’s Burgers The streaming survivor

How people watch

Season-to-date average audience, by platform

Live DVR VOD Hulu or Fox Now

Live viewers:1.94m40.2% of viewership

DVR viewers:0.74m15.3% of viewership

VOD viewers:0.33m6.8% of viewership

Hulu/Fox Now viewers:1.82m37.7% of viewership

4.83m total

The audience for this super-quirky ’toon skews younger than the vast majority of shows on network TV: The average viewer is just 36 years old. That may explain why nearly 40 percent of the show’s viewers watch by streaming it, either on Hulu or Fox’s own app. No other show on Fox — and few shows on broadcast TV — aggregates as much of its total viewership outside of the linear TV ecosystem (live viewing, DVRs, or VOD). Bob’s is reaching a whole bunch of viewers who simply no longer watch TV through … TV. Add in the big ratings reruns of the show generate on Adult Swim — and the big bucks that cable network pays Fox for said reruns — and it’s easy to see why Bob’s was just renewed for two more seasons.

When people watch

Season-to-date average audience, across platforms

The share of people who watch... Live Within a week 8+ days after air

1.94m40.2% of total viewers

+1.84m 38.1% of total viewers

+1.05m 21.7% of total viewers

Hover over or tap each chart for more detail

The Simpsons Old-school appointment TV

How people watch

Season-to-date average audience, by platform

Live DVR VOD Hulu or Fox Now

Live viewers:3.95m 56.3% of viewership

DVR viewers:1.42m 20.2% of viewership

VOD viewers:0.3m 4.3% of viewership

Hulu/Fox Now viewers:1.35m 19.2% of viewership

7.02m total

Given how long it’s been on the air, it’s not at all shocking that The Simpsons is a show people make an appointment to watch on Sundays, the night it’s called home for decades. Consider: Even though Simpsons and Last Man on Earth both reach around 7 million viewers each month, the former series draws twice as many fans on Sunday nights as the latter. It also helps that Homer & Co., airing at 8 p.m., often get the benefit of directly following a big NFL game and also don’t have to directly compete with all the big 9 p.m. shows on cable, such as The Walking Dead. Given that premium advertisers pay for live viewers, Fox is very happy to see people sticking with their Simpsons habit.

When people watch

Season-to-date average audience, across platforms

The share of people who watch... Live Within a week 8+ days after air

3.95m56.3% of total viewers

+2.37m 33.7% of total viewers

+0.7m 10% of total viewers

Hover over or tap each chart for more detail

The Last Man on Earth Maximizing every platform

How people watch

Season-to-date average audience, by platform

Live DVR VOD Hulu or Fox Now

Live viewers:2.25m 33.2% of viewership

DVR viewers:2.15m 31.7% of viewership

VOD viewers:0.55m 8.1% of viewership

Hulu/Fox Now viewers:1.83m 27% of viewership

6.78m total

After premiering last March with a solid 6 million viewers, the same-day ratings for Will Forte’s postapocalyptic comedy quickly drifted down to a more modest average of just over 3 million viewers. But as a poster child for how audiences watch today, the actual viewership for LMOE is closer to 7 million. Over the course of a given week, nearly as many people watch the show on their DVRs as watch it live Sundays at 9:30. And over the course of 30 days, streaming views on Hulu and Fox Now nearly equal the audience that watches on the aforementioned linear platforms. The contribution from VOD is smaller, but still significant. Like a motley crew of plague survivors, LMOE is using every tool at its disposal to stay alive.

When people watch

Season-to-date average audience, across platforms

The share of people who watch... Live Within a week 8+ days after air

2.25m33.2% of total viewers

+3.71m 54.7% of total viewers

+0.82m 12.1% of total viewers

Hover over or tap each chart for more detail

How the FOX Sunday Lineup Compares

Live DVR VOD Hulu or Fox Now
Bob’s Burgers The Simpsons Brooklyn Nine-Nine Family Guy The Last Man on Earth

1.94m 40.2% of viewership

0.74m 15.3% of viewership

0.33m 6.8% of viewership

1.82m 37.7% of viewership

4.83m

3.95m 56.3% of viewership

1.42m 20.2% of viewership

0.3m 4.3% of viewership

1.35m 19.2% of viewership

7.02m

2.54m 38.6% of viewership

1.91m 29% of viewership

0.32m 4.9% of viewership

1.81m 27.5% of viewership

6.59m

2.62m 35.9% of viewership

1.72m 23.6% of viewership

0.6m 8.2% of viewership

2.36m 32.3% of viewership

7.29m

2.25m 33.2% of viewership

2.15m 31.7% of viewership

0.55m 8.1% of viewership

1.83m 27% of viewership

6.78m