Monday, November 18, 2013

Ratings Roundup - Looking Ahead

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. 

Well, we’ve reached the doldrums of the season in terms of ratings news.  What shows are going to be pulled from the schedule have been.  The shows that are going to receive back-nine orders have received the orders.  And everybody is just kind of going about their business, waiting for midseason shows to debut in the spring.  But, at the very least, the networks are starting to announce their schedules for January and February, so I figured I’d take the time to look ahead at the coming months.

Fox is hoping "American Idol" will be its savior once again
Fox –
Fox is easily the network most looking forward to the spring and their American Idol savior, because this has just been a dreadful fall for the network and things are only getting worse.  After flirting with the bottom for a couple of weeks, Fox finally slipped below ABC into last place on the season and for the first two weeks of sweeps (the most important time of the television season), Fox has averaged less than a 1.5 rating for its shows and only had three shows (Bones, Sleepy Hollow, and Family Guy) break a 2.0.  Fox needs its top show back and it needs it badly.

Luckily for Fox, January is right around the corner when Idol will hopefully storm the schedule once again.  While the show was undoubtedly down last year, losing to Modern Family and Duck Dynasty in some weeks, it still finished the season in seventh place (fifth if you don’t separate The Voice’s two airings or Sunday Night Football from its pregame show).  In fact, last spring’s finale out-rated anything Fox has aired this fall with the lone exception being the World Series.  And with Idol taking up three and sometimes four hours of scheduling each week, Fox will receive a much-needed boost. 

What’s more interesting for Fox is the moves it’s making around Idol.  Enlisted, originally intended to debut this past Friday with Bones and Raising Hope, has had its debut pushed back to January 10th.  This was the best-reviewed Fox sitcom this season and part of me wants to think that Fox is holding Enlisted back to replace Dads should it slide any further.  While Dads has received a full-season order, that same situation didn’t stop Fox from pulling Ben and Kate from the schedule last year. 

I’m also curious to see what happens with Almost Human, which is being expected to last the season with The Following, which returns in January.  I don’t see that as a particularly fruitful pairing, but Sleepy Hollow is definitely going to end its run on January 13th, so the only option there would be to bring Bones back from Friday nights.  There’s also the question of Rake, which is getting Fox’s biggest push this spring, airing first in the coveted post-NFC Championship Game timeslot and then following Idol’s results show on Thursday nights. 

Fox has had a lot of holes in the fall, but it also has a ton of spackle for the spring.  Despite a terrible year so far, we can’t write them off just yet.

There are about three production stills for "Intelligence," so expect to see this photo a lot in coming weeks
CBS is the last bastion of stability in the sea of chaos that is network television at this moment.  CBS has pulled only one show from its schedule this year and its only other show obviously pulling in cancelation-worthy ratings was only ever going to air 15 episodes anyway.  And so it is that CBS only has one move planned for the winter and spring and it’s a move that was announced last May.  On January 13th, Intelligence will debut in the timeslot currently occupied by Hostages. 

There are a handful of other series still on CBS’s bench, and they’ll likely make their ways to air sometime in March and April.  But the real strength of CBS is its ability to generate modest, but acceptable ratings for repeats, especially for its trademark series: NCIS and The Big Bang Theory.  This allows them to fill several hours in the winter and spring with cheap filler. 

The second week of sweeps was a good one for CBS, as it got a big boost from last Saturday’s Alabama-LSU game in primetime and pretty much every show rose from the week before.  After a brief week flirting with last place, CBS is no comfortably in second once more.

NBC's biggest spring question: "whither 'The Voice'"
The big question for NBC’s winter and spring still hasn’t been answered: when will The Voice return?  Last year, NBC waited until late March to bring the show back and it and Revolution both suffered by airing into June.  I believe that decision was made to accommodate the schedules of the judges but I doubt NBC makes the same mistake again.  The Voice has to return by February in order to keep NBC relevant during the winter months.  Nothing else the network has will work.

The question of The Voice aside, NBC’s spring schedule is looking much the same as they planned in May.  The Sing-Off will debut in December for a brief run on Monday nights.  A trio of new shows will replace Sunday Night Football in February.  The Voice will move to 7:00 on Tuesdays, leading in to a pair of new comedies at 8:00.  Chicago PD will fill in for Ironside on Wednesday nights, starting January 8th.  And Community, the show that will not die, will return, once again, in its Thursday at 7:00 timeslot on January 2nd, leading in to Parks and Recreation. 

In current news, NBC’s plan to give its Thursday comedies a boost from SNL and The Voice specials has proven to be a massive failure.  While Sean Saves the World and The Michael J Fox Show managed to not shed viewers while following the bigger lead-ins, once Parks and Rec returned, they crashed, with each pulling in only a 0.9 rating Thursday night.  NBC doesn’t really have any choice but to continue airing more episodes, but Thursday nights are just a complete disaster for the network right now. 

As with the fall, NBC’s success in the spring will depend almost entirely on when The Voice returns and what ratings it brings. 

ABC was hoping Betrayal would last longer than 13 episodes, but it won't
I’m going to preface the following by pointing out that the following announcements were actually made in August and are likely to see some change in the next couple of weeks.

That said, ABC has long had plans for its dramas in the winter: take them off the air.  Wonderland was meant to end in December, giving way to The Quest’s two-hour premiere on January 2nd.  I’m not sure how that’s going to work, though, since Wonderland is unlikely to air more than 10 episodes before the end of the year.  Likewise, Betrayal will likely run until its stable of episodes is empty. 

As for ABC’s successful dramas, the plan was to take them off the air in January and most of Feburary, with Nashville returning February 26th, Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal coming back the next night, and the Sunday dramas (along with new show Resurrection) returning to air on March 9th.  ABC still has not announced its intentions for what to air in January and February, though, so I would generously refer to these plans as “tentative.”

It has not been a good fall for ABC, with most of its new dramas tanking and only Scandal stepping up as a legitimate hit.  Even its big success SHIELD has refused to stop falling.  The entire network is losing ground fast and likely to end up in last place once again.

Season to Date Network Rating Averages (Adults 18-49) –
NBC – 2.69 (Down 5.3% YTD, Down 2.0% Week-to-Week, Down 16.8% from Premiere Week)
CBS – 2.08 (Down 8.6% YTD, Up 2.4% Week-to-Week, Down 29.6% from Premiere Week)
ABC – 1.97 (Down 7.1% YTD, Down 3.0% Week-to-Week, Down 26.2% from Premiere Week)
Fox – 1.97 (Down 3.8% YTD, Down 3.8% Week-to-Week, Down 10.2% from Premiere Week)

New Renewals, Pickups, and Cancelations –

So thoughts?  Comments?  Just want to tell me my blog sucks?  Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @TyTalksTV.

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