I love television ratings. I love what they tell us about individual shows, the networks, and the industry in general. My intention with this weekly article is to take a look at the week in ratings and prognosticate about their future and the health of each network. Ratings presented here are the Adults 18-49 rating, which represents the percentage of adults between 18 and 49 watching a particular program.
The third week of the season was filled with mixed messages for the networks. A few individual shows are shining, and the networks are really trying to push the DVR ratings to make their year-to-year losses seem more palatable, but the fact is that every network has at least one gaping hole they’re being forced to leave unfilled because they just don’t have enough content. There’s a lot of season left to play out, and the networks do seem to be looking at a number of options for better weathering the winter months, but the first three weeks have signaled an auspicious start for the networks.
|"Agents of SHIELD" earned ABC's first full-season pickup|
I’m starting with ABC this week because I want to start with good news, and Agents of SHIELD received the season’s second full-season pickup this week. SHIELD hasn’t been the runaway hit that ABC, Disney, and Marvel were hoping for and it hasn’t been anchoring Tuesday night, but it’s still the highest-rated new show of the season (though The Blacklist could pass it) and that’s something worth celebrating.
As already noted, ABC was hoping they could launch an entirely new night behind SHIELD, but that effort has been less than successful. The Goldbergs has been perfectly fine but Trophy Wife is struggling and Lucky 7 has already met an early end. But the network has building blocks in SHIELD, Modern Family, and Scandal, so they’re not dead yet.
In less than good news, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland debuted to very weak ratings, with a 1.7 18-49 rating, about 20 percent below Last Resort, the show that occupied the same timeslot last fall and was canceled after 13 episodes. I’m not entirely certain why ABC decided to launch this show this way and in this timeslot. The original plan was to use Wonderland as a bridge between the two halves of the OUAT mother ship’s season, airing it in January and February when the original will be on hiatus. They also could have scheduled it on Sundays, between OUAT and Revenge; consider that the “NCIS strategy.” Instead, they stranded it out on its own, with no protection or lead-in and it had a predictably soft launch. Since Wonderland was always designed to have a shortened season (and ABC has a very thin bench) I think it’s likely the show will be allowed to air all 13 episodes, barring a complete collapse obviously.
While ABC is technically up from last season, its year-to-year gains are entirely thanks to SHIELD. Without it, the network would be even with last season. The holes for ABC are obvious as they have already been forced to cancel one show, are getting cancelation-worthy ratings from Betrayal, and may be in trouble with Wonderland. I don’t see any reason for ABC to finish anywhere other than last place this year, but there are a few reasons to be optimistic, at least for now.
|"We Are Men" were men|
Unfortunately, it wasn’t all good news this week. We Are Men got the axe from CBS after only two episodes. Now, I’m not going to say We Are Men was a great show, or even a good show. But its ratings weren’t terrible, at least not by 2013 CBS standards. This move was entirely about protecting 2 Broke Girls, not about clearing Men from the schedule.
Along with the cancelation of Men, CBS announced that 2 Broke Girls would be moving to 7:30 to fill its vacated slot, with The Big Bang Theory repeats keeping 8:00 warm until Mike and Molly comes back. Girls has been struggling this season, which is very surprising given that it was an effective self-starter last season. It’s also potentially a very valuable show for CBS and one worth protecting over a new semi-flop like Men. So CBS will protect the show by putting it on after their biggest hit on Mondays, How I Met Your Mother, which is – unfortunately for CBS – ending after this season.
CBS is down about 5% from last year, but it’s not exactly in dire straits. What is less comfortable for the network moving forward is the fact that its 9:00 timeslots are all hurting while its highest-rated shows are also its oldest. Ideally, the network can build out its new comedies, which have had good ratings so far. But Hostages is a flop and I can easily see CBS entering next season with only one drama fewer than six years old – and I couldn’t even name that drama, I just don’t think they would cancel five fall shows.
|"The Michael J Fox Show" has decidedly not met NBC's expectations|
It was actually a quiet week for NBC, the only real news being the continued collapse on Wednesday nights and the complete disaster that is Thursdays. There were no back-nine orders or cancelations this week, though Welcome to the Family fell below a 1.0 rating, which is almost universally code for “about to be canceled.” When you factor in that NBC already has Community waiting in the wings, it’s tough to see Family lasting more than a few more weeks.
NBC also can’t be happy with the performance of The Michael J Fox Show. Their comedy strategy this fall was clearly to bank on established names with established personalities to sell their shows, but man has it failed. Sean Saves the World came in with a 1.0 rating this week and Fox with a 1.2. That clearly wasn’t the result NBC was hoping for when they gave a full-season order to Fox before an episode ever aired. At this point, it’s almost impossible to predict what’s going to happen with NBC’s comedies, their ratings are just so dreadful. It’s entirely possible they could all get canceled by the end of the season but NBC doesn’t have many replacements and networks in general are a little slower to pull the trigger on shows these days, so I could easily see three of the non-Family comedies lasting the season.
NBC is just operating on two completely separate levels right now. On Sundays and Mondays, it’s the highest-rated network on television. Even on Tuesdays and Fridays (once Grimm returns anyway) it will be doing well. But Wednesdays and Thursdays are just disasters. Even setting aside the comedies, the Wednesday dramas are crashing as well, with Ironside crashing out of the gate, Revolution stumbling in its sophomore season, and even stalwart SVU down 40 percent from its two-hour season premiere. I had thought that NBC was in position, thanks also to a falling Fox, to compete for second place this season. But, knowing how much they struggle without the NFL and The Voice to anchor their schedule, unless they can figure out how to fix their Wednesday and Thursday problems, I don’t see that happening this year.
|In which I change my opinion on "The X-Factor's" value to Fox|
I’m tackling Fox last this week not because they’re in last place (though they are), but because there really wasn’t any news out of the network this week. Dads received an order for more scripts, which can be, but is not necessarily, a sign that more episodes will be ordered. One of the networks midseason comedies, Us & Them, had its episode order cut from thirteen to six, indicating that it’s likely headed for a summer burnoff, much like The Goodwin Games this past season.
I’ve criticized The X-Factor a lot at the beginning of the season, but I’m beginning to change my tune. Certainly it’s not the mega-hit that Fox wants it to be, and they’ve obviously had to pare their budget down to accommodate the new expectations, but given the state of the rest of the network, especially the problems with the Tuesday comedies, there’s a certain level of security that The X-Factor brings in being able to run the show out for three hours per week knowing that it will draw a 2.0-2.5 rating every time. I still think Fox would be better served culling it to two hours per week so they can launch another drama, but the show does still have value.
The biggest news for Fox is that they’ll be shuffling the schedule for the next two weeks to accommodate the MLB playoffs. This should provide a slight boost this week (though they aren’t airing a primetime game on Tuesday for some reason) and much bigger gains next week for the World Series.
Season to Date Network Rating Averages (Adults 18-49) –
NBC – 2.81 (Up 0.4% YTD)
CBS – 2.23 (Down 6.7% YTD)
ABC – 2.21 (Up 2.3% YTD)
Fox – 1.89 (Down 14.5% YTD)
New Renewals, Pickups, and Cancelations –
We Are Men (CBS) – Canceled
So thoughts? Comments? Just want to tell me my blog sucks? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @TyTalksTV.