Well, here we are. Another December where Toonami had to do all it could to keep a huge audience watching. While some might argue that Toonami didn’t do itself any favors by airing two marathons back-to-back, it did a lot better than what they might have predicted. The numbers for the entire month weren’t better than average, but I’m sure the executives at Toonami were still happy with the results. December is a hard month for television (even if a network is airing nothing but Christmas movies).
What made this month difficult for Toonami to grab viewers was not only that two marathons were going to air, but the holiday season usually means a smaller audience. Just by looking at Saturday numbers through this past month, viewing numbers were low or down (based on what the website TV by the Numbers was reporting throughout). It wasn’t just Toonami that was worried; every network could have felt the burn when it came to ratings. However, after looking at the viewing numbers, you’d think the action block was having a typical Saturday, which is a huge win in my book.
On their standard lineup days (Dec. 5 and Dec. 12), both days sported the typical numbers fans would expect. The top three shows (Dragon Ball Z Kai, Akame ga Kill, and Parasyte) all had over a million viewers on these dates. In fact, Dragon Ball Z Kai was able to have close to a 900,000 18-49 rating on Dec. 12, which is a huge plus, considering how much Christmas movies and college football led the way for ratings on Saturdays.
It wasn’t all pleasant, as shows later in the block (like Kill la Kill and One Piece) had ratings that were smaller on the twelfth than the fifth, which did feel like a downer, due to the traction the action block was making. Oh, and the NFL decided it was the perfect time to have Saturday games during December as well (more on this later).
The football games weren’t on when Toonami was airing its content, but it still might have taken away fans from watching Family Guy on Adult Swim, thus leading to a smaller audience for Toonami. When that show has viewers, the action block outperforms other networks at that time. Family Guy has been able to take control of Saturday nights these past few months and had some great success in December. It just didn’t translate for Toonami the way I’d hope. In fact, Family was the eleventh best show on the day after Christmas. That would make any fan upset.
Oddly enough, the first two weeks of December had some usual contenders for the top shows of the night. Specifically, Dec. 5, which had the movie “Elf” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” as two of the top three shows of the night. Both gave ABC Family a 1.4 and 1.1 18-49 rating respectively, which had to make the network happy (considering they are moving the channel in a different direction). Also, TBS, which was showing reruns of “The Big Bang Theory,” held down three of the top 12 spots on Dec. 5 (two in the top eight). So due to all of the holiday specials and possible family time, Toonami had some new competition.
To make things worse, the Michiko and Hatchin finale didn’t finish out as strong as I would have liked at 1:30 a.m. On Dec. 5 for its penultimate episode, Michiko and Hatchin had close to a million total viewers with 925,000 (although it’s 18-49 rating was lower than 500,00, which was odd). But on the following Saturday, the total viewers lowered to 855,000 (with its 18-49 rating going up). Some would take that as a “break even” kind of finale for the show, but considering what Michiko and Hatchin were able to bring in back when it was airing at 1 a.m., I would be a little disappointed about how it ended.
So after two regular lineup days, how did Toonami fare with a Dragon Ball Z Kai marathon and a One Piece marathon? For DBZ Kai, it went pretty well, which can also be thanks to Intruder II ending on that Saturday. While the first three episodes weren’t all able to have a million total viewers (as if it was an average night), it was able to end on a similar note of 765,000 total viewers. These numbers didn’t surprise me, due to how viewers seemed to have stayed throughout the entire block on days that an Intruder II episode aired. On another note, I was pretty happy with how well the Parasyte and DBZ Kai marathon went for the action block. Being able to emulate an ordinary night while rerunning episodes of series currently airing is like found money for Toonami. Of course, just getting the numbers they did at the time is a win, considering how terrible that Saturday was for ratings.
On Dec. 19 no show/movie was able to get a one in the competitive 18-49 rating. It was once again another Christmas movie that was able to grab at least a 0.9 rating at 9:45 p.m. Better yet, ABC Family was able to take three of the top five spots on that day. While some might believe that the nineteenth was a slow day for television, that could be a bit misleading, because the Hallmark channel was able to grab 3.4 million total viewers, which made me do a double-take. It just bothered me that DBZ Kai lost out on total viewers and 18-49 rating to four straight episodes of “The Big Bang Theory.” I know it’s called the best comedy of television (when CBS cuts to a commercial), but I believed that the popularity of the Dragon Ball Z franchise would be enough to move them to a higher ranking.
Now for those who want to say marathons aren’t the best solution for holidays, they were proven right on Dec. 26. I had a feeling the One Piece marathon numbers would be small, so I won’t go crazy when looking at the total viewers and 18-49 rating. To be fair, I’m just happy that One Piece was able to have an episode reach over a million total viewers and another episode over 800,000 total viewers. Toonami is at a filler arc in One Piece at the moment, so besides fans getting to see Franky streak around (among other things), I’m pretty content with what the numbers said. Nevertheless, the 3 a.m.’s 18-49 rating below 300,000 certainly made me give out an enormous sigh of sadness.
However, Toonami’s decision to show a marathon on that day could have been a blessing in disguise. The NFL decided to hijack Dec. 26, grabbing huge numbers for television (over 8 million total viewers and an 18-49 rating of 2.5). Even the pregame show was the second-best rated show on television that day. I’m even surprised that Family Guy was able to get 1.5 million total viewers on that day. But things still turned out pretty well for Toonami.
There might be another factor that helped Toonami keep its numbers steady. College football has had a dismal bowl season, with rarely any of the games being competitive. A few of them were able to get solid ratings (like the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 26), but it has been a down year for the sport, which is good news for the action block. Don’t believe me on how college football is having a down year? TV by the Numbers broke down on how the playoff games, to crown and eventual champion, were down from what they were last year. A contributing factor to this could be due to how lopsided the scores have been. No one likes to watch a blowout in sports due to how boring the game is. With Clemson vs. Oklahoma ending 37-17 and Alabama thrashing Michigan State 38-0, the “premier” games looked like garbage. Considering how late these games could go, it had to encourage viewers to switch from football to the action that Toonami brings.
What could be the best asset Toonami has in its arsenal are how much the faithful tweet about the block. Intruder II was able to trend to at least the third biggest trend in the United States (during days it aired). For the first two weeks of December, the Twitter handle “statweetstics” reported a high volume of tweets for the shows Michiko and Hatchin (Dec.5, up 1400%) and Akame ga Kill (Dec. 12, up 520%). Better yet, a series that wasn’t airing on Toonami trended on Dec. 12 (Samurai Champloo), adding more intrigue to the block. The better news about trending? A few characters trended during the month, and no show did not trend in December, thus making Toonami a two-platform threat against other television programs.
So which show would I give the nod to as the show of the month? I really can’t think of any show more deserving than DBZ Kai. It dominated all Toonami programming with its total viewers and 18-49 ratings, but it also did better than expected on its marathon day on Dec. 19. It kept the momentum Toonami had built up going, and it was fun seeing Goku vs. Freeza all over again. Usually, I try to avoid giving DBZ Kai my “Show of the Month”, since it has such an unfair advantage against other series, but I think I can let that go for the month of December (you know, for the holidays).
Other than that, I will say that Dec. 5 was the best day for Toonami. Mostly because it was able to end the night with Kill la Kill having over 700,000 total viewers (which I believe could happen consistently). One Dec. 12 it was able to have better viewing numbers to start the night, but it tailed off more than it did on Dec. 5. Not to mention the Naruto Shippuden was able to hold onto 900,000 total viewers on the fifth. Yes, things went downhill after that Saturday (numbers-wise), but it wasn’t dramatic by any stretch of the imagination.
What will my predictions be for the month of January? I expect numbers to climb back to what they usually are when the lineup is normal. I’m curious to see how Samurai Champloo performs, due to how it is the new series joining Toonami, and due to the age of the show. Samurai Champloo is a show that fans can see on their own, and in fact, Adult Swim has aired it on their block before. However, from what I have noticed on social media, it’s being received well and should entice fans to stay up to see what will happen next. But it will be good to keep an eye on how that show performs.
It looks like Toonami was able to survive the dreadful month that was December. I was pretty happy as to how well the action block performed on all four Saturdays. This past month has to be viewed as good news. Especially for fans who want new episodes, and the lineup will be returning to showcase them. This move should get fans geared up for the new year. A new year for Toonami means all kinds of new goodies for fans. Which in turn, could gain more viewers for the future.
C.J Maffris is an editorial writer for Toonamifaithful.com. He was very impressed with how well the action block performed in December. Hopefully, this means Toonami is in line for a brighter future. Feel free to follow C.J on Twitter @SeaJayMaffris