How’d They Do? Evaluating The Ratings of ABC’s 2019-20 Final Seasons

Welcome to this edition of ‘How’d They Do?’. The final season ratings of ABC shows which ended in the 2019-20 season are evaluated here. Note that this does not include cancelations, but rather shows that were announce to be ending ahead of time.

Credit for the ratings go to Programming Insider. Any missing numbers is a result of them not being reported. Some shows will have a column reflected their viewership in Canada, but numbers are only available for weeks where the show made the top 30. Averages in the Canada column are only visible when the vast majority of episodes have ratings reported.

Modern Family (2009-2020)
Modern Family brought new life into ABC’s failing comedy department. The multi-award-winning show anchored a night that included The Middle and Cougar Town when it first premiered, and went on consistently be ABC’s highest-rated comedy. Here are its ratings for the 11th and final season:

While Modern Family remained ABC’s highest-rated comedy this season, it is undeniable that it has seen significant declines in most demos. While this is to be expected as shows’ same-day ratings continue to decline as a whole, it must be disappointing to see a final season slip as much as it did. This is not to mention it did not have to face The Masked Singer this season.

It seems as though younger viewers ditched the show more so than older viewers, as seen by its modest 7% year-to-year drop in total viewers, compared to its roughly 17% drop in Adults 18-49 and Adults 18-34. This makes sense when looking at the show’s median age, which rose by over a year. With the median age getting farther away from 49, viewers steadily are aging out of the key demo. It is notable, though, that the Men 18-34 demographic looks so much better than the others in terms of year-to-year declines, and that the decline was largely because of the Women 18-34 demographic.

Modern Family deserves major credit for its significant series finale bump. This is something not to be taken for granted anymore. Also, even though the 35-day multi platform (MP35) rating was only released for the season premiere, the major growth in demo and viewership proves Modern Family had a significant audience outside of its traditional time slot.

Final Grade: B

How To Get Away With Murder (2014-2020)
How To Get Away With Murder was executive produced by Shonda Rhimes, creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal. Together, those three shows combined to form ABC’s TGIT (Thank God It’s Thursday) block. For the first time in a long time, ABC had created a cohesive Thursday night lineup with three powerhouse dramas in the ratings. Being a serialized show, How To Get Away With Murder has since dropped off significantly, falling to ratings lower than most long-running shows. However, its impressive delayed viewing numbers, presumably tied with its Shonda Rhimes connection, allowed the show to end on its own terms after a six-season run.

How To Get Away With Murder’s declines this season actually weren’t as rough as some other seasons. This in part has to due with getting Grey’s Anatomy as a lead-in for the final batch of episodes. Still, being down 12% in viewers is certainly nothing to dismiss, as not every show gets a boost when put behind a high-rated show (see: Quantico). 

There are definitely some rough spots in its declines, though. The final season was down 29% in the Men 18-34 demographic, and the delayed viewing ratings took a bigger hit than the same day ratings in the Adults 18-49 demographic. 

Most, but not all, demographics were interested in re-joining for the series finale. All women demos spiked multiple tenths, yet the male demos didn’t rise at all, at least when you round the ratings to the nearest tenth. The episode, which was the 15th in the season, failed to match the Live + 7 Adults 18-49 rating from the 13th episode. 

Overall, there are ups and downs to How To Get Away With Murder’s ratings. It certainly could have gone worse, but it is still ABC’s lowest-rated veteran drama in A18-49 same day ratings. 

Final Grade: C

Fresh Off The Boat (2015-2020)
Fresh Off The Boat had more behind-the-scenes controversies than you would think, especially for a broadcast family comedy. First, there was the controversy over the title, with some having concerns that it came off as racist. Then, there was chef and author Eddie Huang, who licensed his memoir to make the show based on his childhood, openly speaking out against the show. He narrated the first season and left after it, saying it had been so far removed from his actual life past the pilot. And finally, there were the Constance Wu tweets. Let’s just say Wu, whose movie career was launched through her well-received performance on the show, wasn’t too happy to learn about the show’s renewal for a sixth season. 

ABC probably wasn’t either, given its abysmally low ratings in its new Friday at 8:30pm time slot led to them making an announcing that Season 6 would be its final season. 

The 22% drop in total viewers doesn’t look completely awful, given it was no longer airing directly after the older-viewing 7pm local programming. But those sub demos have inexcusable declines. Remember, this is a show in its sixth season that had already taken a significant drop in its move to Fridays in the prior season. 

Every sub demo average declined more than 40% from Season 5, with the Adults 18-34 demo approaching a 50% drop. The median age rose by three years, somehow making the show much older-skewing this season than it was when it aired at 8. DVR interest was, at the very least, less weak looking than same day viewing, so it deserves credit for that. Still, being down 24% is not something that should make anyone impressed, in a positive way at least.

It truly is sad to see the ratings down across the board for its series finale, which came three weeks after the penultimate episode aired. While there were some instances of the show rising week to week, there was nothing to suggest in this final season that it was still the strong show it used to be.

Final Grade: D

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