After three airings and diminished ratings for each episode, “Harper’s Island” has been pulled from its Thursday night home by CBS and shipped off to the programming wilderness of Saturday nights.
The innovative serialized murder mystery premiered on Thursday, April 9 to an estimated audience of just under 9.65 million viewers and a 2.4 rating in the key 18-49 demographic. Two weeks later, the show was down to under 7.5 million million, losing the majority of its robust “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” lead-in.
“Harper’s Island” will move to Saturday nights at 9 p.m. effective May 2. CBS has set episodes of “Criminal Minds” and “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” for the next two weeks. On Thursday, May 14, CBS will use the 10 p.m. slot for the season finale of “CSI: NY.”
Normally when networks make moves like this, the time period swap (or cancellation) is done in the dead of night, leaving reporters to happen upon the information by chance (case-in-point, NBC’s decision to move “Kings” from Sundays to Saturdays and then to pull even the Saturday airings of “Kings” until summer).
With the move of “Harper’s Island,” though, CBS opted to get out ahead of the story with a press release emphasizing that the mystery’s fans weren’t really watching the show in its time period, but that Nielsen live-plus-7-day playback figures showed an assortment of positive growth. The premiere went up by 29 percent in the 18-49 demo (to a 3.1 rating), by 33 percent in the 18-34 demo (from a 1.5 rating to a 2.0 rating) and that the overall audience increased to 11.29 million.
“The preliminary DVR and online streaming data suggest a passionate audience for ‘Harper’s’ outside its current Thursday time period borders,” spins Kelly Kahl, senior executive vice president primetime, CBS Television. “This move gives us an opportunity to improve the time period on Thursday while experimenting with more original programming on Saturday, and continuing to serve an audience that is clearly engaged in the ongoing ‘Harper’s Island’ story.”
CBS adds that the “Harper’s Island” premiere was was CBS.com’s biggest online premiere, including both clips and the streaming episode.
The network still plans to let “Harper’s Island” air out the remainder of its 13 episode run.
Is Saturday the new Cancellation?
While viewers have been complaining for several years at the lack of original programming on Saturday night, networks have been taking an unusual path to rectifying the situation. NBC kick-started the trend by jettisoning “Crusoe” to Saturday nights last winter. CBS followed by premiering the Ashton Kutcher-produced dud “Game Show in My Head” on Saturdays. NBC’s “Kings” juggling will find the ambitious series returning to Saturdays this summer. Also getting Saturday Burn-Off Theatre treatment this summer are ABC’s “Pushing Daisies,” “Eli Stone” and “Dirty Sexy Money.”
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