The Hiatus Effect Is Real, and It's Spectacular

Entertainment Features
04.13.12 21 Comments

During “Community’s” hiatus, we made an argument that the hiatus could actually be good for the show because, we reasoned, the ratings for every other sitcom on NBC was dropping, so by comparison, “Community’s” ratings would look better. We were both right and wrong. The hiatus was good for the show, but not because “Community’s” flat ratings stood out by comparison to the other flailing NBC sitcoms. It was because “Community’s” ratings actually soared upon its return. After a three-month hiatus, “Community” returned with a huge ratings boost, with 36 percent more viewers and 47 percent more viewers in the key demo.

The hiatus effect isn’t isolated to just “Community,” but it is unusual for the hiatus effect to boost ratings on sitcoms. Typically, serialized dramas with ongoing storylines will see a big boost after a long hiatus, while sitcoms fall off. Take “Mad Men,” for instance. AFter an 18 month hiatus, it added 600,000 viewers, reaching a new series high. “Breaking Bad” has seen substantial gains after very nine-month hiatus, and “Game of Thrones” had a huge boost in its second season. But short-hiatuses, like the one that “Modern Family” had been on, are not as good for sitcoms. That show saw a 22 percent drop this week, for instance.

The reason? Social media buzz, so believes Ad Age and Blufin Labs, which worked out this nifty little chart.

They argue that the hiatus effect is strongest for those shows, like “Pretty Little Liars” and “The Walking Dead,” with intensely buzzworthy storylines, but sitcoms tend to suffer because they don’t have “cliffhanger-y” storylines. “Community,” of course, is that exception, thanks to the fact that it is the most popular show on the Internet. “How I Met Your Mother,” meanwhile, is a hybrid: Sitcom with a serialized plotline, which explains its flat ratings.

The chart does not, however, explain the ratings erosion of “The Killing,” which had a nine-month hiatus and a intensely buzzworthy storyline. The reason? It was all negative buzz.

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