Will the Return of “Scandal” Stem the Ratings Decline of “How to Get Away with Murder”?

Emmy and SAG Award Winner Viola Davis stars in ABC’s “How to Get Away with Murder”.

I’ll bet ABC can’t wait for the return of Scandal on January 19.

But this is about How to Get Away With Murder — which, for its first two seasons, was the 10pm lead-out for ABC’s 9pm tentpole on Thursday nights. But due to Scandal star Kerry Washington’s pregnancy, the nearly five-year-old political drama was held back until midseason.

In its place was the new drama series Notorious, starring Piper Perabo (formerly of USA’s Covert Affairs) and Daniel Sunjata (formerly of USA’s Graceland and FX’s Rescue Me). However, in terms of ratings, Notorious was no Scandal. With nine of ten episodes airing, its Live + Same Day (L+SD) ratings average in total viewers (4.13 million) are 51% below that of Scandal (8.46 million) for its own first nine episodes of last season. But unlike Scandal, Notorious doesn’t register in even the Top 25 for L+7 Day (L+7) DVR lift.

Naturally, this has had an averse affect on the ratings for How to Get Away with Murder. For the first part of its third season, its own L+SD ratings in total viewers (4.40 million) are 38% below that of the first part of the previous season (7.06). But unlike Notorious, its DVR lift is averaging 79% for the first eight episodes of the first part of the season — the most current weeks available at this time.

The good news for How to Get Away with Murder is that it while it “only” retained about 83% of its L+SD Scandal lead-in for the first part of last season, it exceeded its much lesser lead-in this season by 7%.

So what can we expect when Scandal does return in early 2017? Well, Scandal declined 22% in L+SD viewership between the 2014-2015 TV season and the 2015-2016 TV season. So let’s say it experiences another 22% decline in that same metric this season and Murder maintains its 80% retention from last season.

Interestingly, Murder‘s L+SD and L+7 viewership this season is not likely to increase from where it is now — but at least they’re not likely to go down any further.

At the same time, the long delay of Scandal could renew interest in the show for viewers who either caught up through Netflix or decide to give the show another chance because of the delay. An increase in viewership (or at least less of a year-to-year decline) for Scandal would likely mean an increase in viewership for Murder (or at least a stemming of its own year-to-year decline).

And I certainly hope so because How to Get Away with Murder is an important show to have on the air.

Ask me and I’ll tell you why I think so.


Sources: TV Series Finale for L+SD ratings information and Spoiler TV for L+7 ratings information.

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