A TGIT Scheduling Idea For The ’16-’17 Season:

ABCs TGIT schedule of Shonda Rhimes produced Thursday night hits has seen a bit of luster come off the 9-11 portion of the night. While Grey’s Anatomy is bucking most TV trends and is amazingly the second highest rated drama on TV as it heads into its 13th season, Scandal has taken a hit since it returned this February as did lead out HTGAWM. Though the latter two shows still get at least a 1.0 DVR lift after 3 days of viewing and still puts them among the biggest dramas on TV, they have lost a bit of their ratings strength even from this past fall. Still, in a TV landscape where everything is falling, it’s worth noting that after 3 days of DVR/VOD viewing, ABC is still winning Thursdays, even with just launched The Catch, which hasn’t broken out on Thursday thus far. (While numbers aren’t great after 6 eps, it’s worth remembering that Scandal didn’t break out ratings wise until midway through its 2nd season and that was in a less dire TV ratings climate. It would not be crazy for ABC to give this show another shot for next season ).

ABC has many more challenging things to worry about regarding their fall sked, i.e. Tuesday, and while Thursday needs some tending to, I wouldn’t abandon their Thursday theme or the TGIT moniker. They worked really hard to brand that night and it’s proven to be really successful for them. To even still win Thursday in L3 in the even more ratings depressed Spring is no small feat. (And in the just released L3 ratings for the top 10 broadcast and cable shows of the week of April 18-24, Scandal was number 7. That’s no small feat in its 5th season). That being said there are ways to make the night stronger, firstly, by launching a new drama out of Grey’s. NBC has smartly used The Voice to launch and give special previews to many shows of different genres. This season alone they launched a hit drama, Blindspot, a comedy, Superstore and a reality/variety show, Little Big Shots. Little Big Shots likely would have worked without the one time preview, but it certainly didn’t hurt. Regardless of what other moves ABC makes on their fall schedule, it makes little sense for ABC not to use their strong Monday reality duo of DWTS/The Bachelor and their strongest drama and second biggest show, Grey’s, to launch a new drama. Use your biggest assets to launch a new show. 

Now before we come to that, lets get back to Scandal. Shonda Rhimes herself has said that it’s a show she feels will not have a long run ala Grey’s. ABC has already renewed it for next season- it’s 6th. I think there’s a way to make Scandal stronger again and make it beneficial for ABC, Ms. Rhimes and cast and crew. That is, to set an end date like ABC did with LOST. Let it run for 2 more seasons through Spring of 2018, BUT the next two seasons will only have 13-15 eps. Outside of its first season, Scandal has never produced less than 18 eps a season. This way Shonda can craft a tighter season (and have more advance time to) which for such an intricate show like Scandal, can only benefit the show. It will also be less taxing on Ms. Rhimes, cast and crew and they will have more time to devote to other projects. I would also suggest ABC premiere it in Jan which has many benefits: 

A) They will have produced most of the eps for the season by the time the show premieres which allows them to promote the season dramatically with more footage etc. 

B) They get to create an event out of it. The show will have been off for 7 months and people will have had more of a chance to miss it and catch up. Remember how both 24 and Alias benefited from this strategy in their 4th seasons, both shows rising to rating highs they hadn’t previously hit. 

C) ABC can use their highly rated New Year’s Rockin Eve to promote Scandal’s return 5 days later on January 5th. 

D) Scandal can run its entire seasons for 13-14 weeks uninterrupted through the first week in April. 

E) Most inportantly ABC will have a TGIT show on all year except for the month of December. This way their brand is intact and they don’t have to worry about bridge programming like My Diet is Better Than Yours, that elicits zero passion and veers far off from the TGIT brand. It keeps TGIT on virtually the entire 10 month season. It also makes promoting Greys return in Feb that much easier and ABC has a hit  on in high viewed Jan. This plan would seem to be a win/win for ABC and Shonda. It would appear to be a way to keep the night strong all year without large gaps and make the abbreviated run of Scandal an event and possibly its ratings stronger foranother two seasons. 

So what should the new drama be at 9p?  For the sake of this idea I’m going to say it’s the Shonda Rhimes produced, Still Star Crosseed. It has amassed a stellar cast led by British newcomer Lashana Lynch and was written by Scandal scribe and EP Heather Mitchell. On paper it sounds like it fits all the things that make a Shonda and TGIT show a hit but yet it’s also fresh in that it’s set in the 16th Century. I don’t know the reality of this being ready for fall. The show just started shooting this past week. I don’t know how much of a completed pilot ABC will see before they set their fall sked in a few weeks. Maybe they see enough that convinces them it’s ready. I also don’t know how many eps of an order they will give to this kind of a show. If not Still Star Crossed, then what? Does ABC feel okay putting a new non produced Shonda show on Thursday at 9? Could it be Secrets and Lies– a show that would certainly fit on the night and that’s EP’d by a Shonda protege Barbie Kligman?  I don’t know the answers to these questions but for the sake of this scheduling piece I’m going to assume that Still Star Crossed comes out great and is ready for fall. 

So ABC fall can look like this: 

8p Grey’s Anatomy

9p Still Star Crossed

10p How To Get Away With Murder

They would run until Thaksgiving and ABC would use holiday specials in December.

Jan 5th would be the much heralded return of Scandal. If they’re able to produce 15 eps they could have a 2 hour premiere following a recap show at 8p for an all night premiere event. For the next 2 weeks ABC could run the previous week’s Scandal ep into the new ep and a rerun of Greys fall finale on Jan 26th and on February 2nd Greys returns at 8 and runs uninterrupted through its May finale. If ABC renews The Catch it can run for 13 weeks at 10pmstarting Jan 12.  If not, it’s a place where ABC can launch a new drama. Should they desire to use Greys again to lead into new drama then Scandal can slide to 10 and the new drama at 9. 

So from Feb 2- April 6 it would be Greys-Scandal-The Catch or Greys-new drama-Scandal. The 9-11 dramas will have their finales on April 6th and on April 13th Still Star Crossed (assuming it worked) and HTGAWM return for the final 6 weeks of the season to run their final eps. 

It’s been years since a night with a theme and slogan like NBCs Must See TV campaign of the 90s was successful. In our current DVR/streaming/make your own TV schedule climate it would seem unlikely that would happen again. But ABC made TGIT happen, and made it successful. Yes it’s taken a hit but with some tweaks like I mentioned above, I think it can return stronger. It’s too valuable a night or theme to discard. 

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ABC Tuesdays Continue To Be Baffling:

Of the many baffling things ABC has done this year, the one that puzzles me the most is their continued treatment of Tuesday like it’s some less important night of their schedule. They schedule Tuesday like it’s Saturday. There’s zero flow to the night. There seems to be zero desire to actually make sure there are viewers. Most importantly, there seems to be no impetus to protect the gem of a comedy Fresh Off The Boat, that’s basically been an island on the night for a year and which until February hadn’t been paired with another family comedy. That comedy-The Real O Neal’s-has in 6 eps done better than anything else ABC has put on the night recently. It’s holding on to most of its FOTB lead and creatively feels like it’s another smart ABC family comedy with a unique twist and with a great cast led by the terrific Noah Galvin. This comedy should be renewed for next season and ABC should nurture it along with its lead in.

What’s really perplexing about ABCs continued Tuesday surrender is that its not relegated to this year. In fact, I wrote about this exact issue more than 2 years ago. (https://bigtvfan.wordpress.com/2014/03/06/is-abc-actively-trying-to-lose/).  To their credit, ABC has smartly scheduled well the last few years. They brilliantly branded a night of Shonda Rhimes shows on Thu as TGIT and despite drops for the 9-11 shows, there’s not another more cohesive or strong block of 3 dramas on any other network. (In L3/L7 they are all within a couple tenths of each other with HTGAWM posting the smallest same day numbers making up the difference with delayed viewing). After years of putting ill fitting comedies at Wed at 9:30, ABC has created the strongest 4 comedy block of any network ratings wise and creatively. Monday nights have seen DWTS/The Bachelor not only stay relevant but also post extremely strong ratings in total viewers for the former and in the demo for the latter. In today’s decaying ratings world that’s rather impressive for an 11 year old show and a 14 year old show, respectively. 

So why would ABC- a network that so skillfully and thematically branded nights like Wed and Thu- be content to leave Tuesdays such an absolute inconsistent mess, to their own detriment, year after year? This season, The Muppets got to hang around til March even though by December its numbers were minuscule and were hurting FOTB as a result. Switching FOTB back to the anchor position stemmed some erosion but waiting til March to finally pair FOTB with another family comedy has taken its toll. SHIELD is at this point an extremely niche show with a very small audience and leaving it in the anchor position at 9 has only made it impossible to schedule a cohesive night around it. It appeared to me a year ago, once FOTB carved out its own audience as a self starter, that the way to go for ABC was to launch another night of family comedies and move Shield to 10. While I think they should still do something like this for the rest of the season Shield doesn’t seem like a show that should even be on their fall sked. So is ABCs insistence on protecting corporate entities like Marvel and The Muppets worth it if it hurts an entire night of programming?

I’d argue that ABC has trained their audience not to watch them on Tuesday by continuing to air low rated, low passion shows year round. They’ve let Extreme Weight Loss occupy their Tuesday schedule in the summer not even getting 2 million viewers. It might be inexpensive and you can sell ads but at what cost? At a certain point your audience knows to avoid you on a certain night especially with other networks like NBC, CBS, even the CW programming their biggest hits on Tuesday and creating nights that flow. Look at what NBC has accomplished on Tuesday just this year. Even without The Voice, the two Chicago shows have put NBC in the plus column year to year in a ratings world where everything is going the other way. The CW has beaten ABC on many Tuesdays this season leaving them in 5th place. 

The other issue is, as I wrote 2 years ago, they keep just treating 10p like a revolving door with no thought. Shows just get placed there to fill an empty slot, not because there’s a likelihood of finding an audience or because they fit. One failed show after another. One flops, bring on the next one. Instead of just moving Shield to 10 and even airing encores of their other family comedies from 9-10, Shield inhabits 9p and ill fitting shows air at 10. Forever was the rare show that actually was on brand for ABC, did reasonably well and had a passionate audience. Last May it joined Body of Proof as ABC Tuesday 10p shows that shouldn’t have been cancelled. Forever had a small audience but it dwarfed anything ABC has put in its slot since, plus it was gathering an extra 1.0 even last spring in delayed viewing (L7). I know they didn’t own it but how in 2015 do you throw away a show with that passionate of an audience, however small it might be? The Goldbergs wasn’t doing gangbusters on Tuesday its first season but ABC nurtured it on Wed and now look at it. (They don’t own that show either).  Instead of letting 8 year old Castle continue to be treated to their 2 best lead ins on the schedule, the similar Forever could have been nurtured a bit behind DWTS. Once the way off brand, Wicked City, predictably tanked in November, why spend the next three months with low rated reruns and low rated fill ins, only to put another new show there for 2 weeks and then Beyond The Tank??

Beyond The Tank is a show that aired 3 times behind its mother show and held virtually all of its audience last May. So after being off the air for 7 months it was tasked with starting a night in Jan where, all things considered, it did fine but now invades the time slot ABC has trained audiences to flee. CBS scheduled its NCIS spin offs after the mother show, NBC has made sure their Chicago shows were launched either behind their parent shows, in the same tineslot or behind The Voice. Beyond The Tank has a format far different than its parent. It’s basically a longer version of the 2 minute updates that air on Shark Tank. In many cases, stories aren’t compelling enough or drama filled to warrant a 20 minute segment. Beyond The Tank stands to do the best paired with Shark Tank, at least for a time period longer than the 3 eps it did last spring. Last night BTT got a .5,  the same number that got Of Kings and Prophets cancelled after 2 eps. So now ABC still has their Tuesday night problem and it seems they’ve kind of destroyed Beyond The Tank in the process. What’s the logic here?                          UPDATE 4/6 : It’s a week later and it’s even worse: SHIELD is under a .9 at 9:30 and BTT is in the 4s ar 10:30- Wicked City territory. 

ABC has three original eps of Friday comedies Last Man Standing and Dr. Ken, two shows whose total viewers tower over anything they have aired on Tuesday in ages. They could potentially air them for 3 weeks Tuesday at 9 and move Shield to 10, and fill the other 4 weeks with reruns of The Goldbergs/The Middle. In all likelihood they would do better than the current occupants. Beyond The Tank will likely do better on Friday than anywhere else. At this point in the season I could see ABC not wanting to mess with their Fridays but there’s 8 Tuesdays left and I really don’t see how they can be satisfied with getting a .5 at 10p and Shield barely clearing 3 million at 9.

As for next season, I still think they should be planning on another 4 family comedy block. It’s the one thing they currently do better than any other network, they have an embarrassment of riches in comedies and of all things currently airing on other networks on Tuesday, there aren’t other family comedies. I would suggest moving The Goldbergs back to its original Tue 9p slot. It’s had two seasons to grow in between ABCs biggest Wed night hits and as evidenced by its strong  ratings a few weeks ago at 8p, it’s fully capable of standing on its own. On Tuesday at 9p it would immediately give ABC their best numbers in years but would also help them build a cohesive comedy block.


8p FOTB/
8:30 One of their strongest new comedy pilots/
9p The Goldbergs/
9:30 The Real O Neal’s.

(8:30/9:30 could work either way. I just thought the Goldbergs higher numbers might give O Neal’s a boost). I’d schedule a new drama at 10pm and use Shield as one of their Jan/summer options.

I’ve had many questions regarding ABC this season:
-How was your second strongest drama from last year –Secrets & Lies- been left off the entire schedule, especially as you could have used it in Jan when your hit dramas were all on hiatus? Now it won’t air until the lower viewed summer months, a year after its first season finished.
-How does aging Castle continue to be the beneficiary of your two best lead ins on the schedule as opposed to a new drama? Look at how NBC brilliantly uses The Voice to continually launch and nurture new shows, in many cases to success. 
-Why are you so reticent to move any underperforming show or try to better the ratings of any show with a pulse? Case in point: Quantico has to regularly follow shows that can’t clear a 1.0 instead of just moving it to 9p in hopes of it not having to regularly build out of low performing shows?

But nothing perplexes me more than the continued Tuesday surrender, where there’s no flow to the night, and the few assets on the night aren’t protected. ABC has a bunch of strong nights and many shows to work with but there are definitely issues and I think Channing Dungey’s number one thing to attack as she puts her first ABC schedule together is to give Tuesday the personality it desperately needs.

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A Few Early Fall ’14 Thoughts:

With the upfronts two months away, the nets are busy planning strategies for the upcoming fall season. I have a few thoughts on how the nets might reprogram certain nights for the fall. I assume as the upfronts draw closer I will likely update and add to these ideas:

A Possible move for THE BLACKLIST to Thu at 9p:

Bob Greenblatt has all but said NBC will likely use The Voice to launch a new drama next fall on Monday and that The Blacklist would likely move. I think it makes sense for NBC to move their hottest drama and one of TVs biggest hits overall (after L7) to the one night they need the most help. CBS wont be programming entertainment in the fall on Thu and even once their 6 week Football stint is over, they are very vulnerable at 9 currently (as is FOX). It would make sense for NBC to move The Blacklist to the anchor slot. Even though Grey’s is still strong, it’s not impossible for The Blacklist to do at least a 2.3 here. In Jan it regularly got that out of low rated reality  and its L7 gains of 2.0 in the demo and almost 6 million regularly prove this show is a real hit with its own audience. Most of that audience will likely follow it to Thu and NBC can command high ad rates on TVs most lucrative night for the biggest drama on TV now.

With Sunday Night Football, The Voice Mon and Tue, Chicago Fire, SVU and growing new hit Chicago PD on Wed and The Blacklist on Thu, plus Grimm on Fri, NBC would have powerful assets and hits every night of the week. It will enable them to launch their best new drama Mon at 10, possibly launch something new Wed at 8 and create a new night on Thu with a monster hit at 9.

A New Strategy for ABC Thu 8p:  

With The Big Bang Theory off the CBS sked for the first 6 weeks of the fall season, in favor of football, there’s huge opportunity for the other 3 nets to try to get something going Thu at 8. Lets not forget that while NBC has football on Sunday night and ESPN has Monday Night Football, huge (male skewing) shows like The Walking Dead and The Blacklist have flourished against it. Plus the Thursday games that have aired on the NFL network thus far have been much lower rated than the games earlier in the week. In a way, it’s a huge gift that the other nets will be facing Football Thu at 8 rather than TBBT and there’s ample opportunity that I expect each network will attempt to seize.

ABC has owned the last 2 hours of Thu for the last 2 seasons and their biggest obstacle has been the 8p hour. They have literally tried almost every genre – reality, male skewing drama, female skewing drama. Part of me thinks it might be the right time to move Shark Tank to the 8p slot. The show in its 5th season is still growing and currently dominating Friday. On a more viewed night like Thu, and without The Big Bang Theory there for 6 weeks, it’s certainly possible to see it 1) hit bigger heights 2) attract even more new viewers who weren’t even aware of its existence on Thu and 3) solve a huge problem slot for ABC. It’s not impossible to see that with a stronger 8p the other 2 hours grow as well and ABC be a dominant force for all 3 hours on Thu. Plus when TBBT returns to Thu in Nov, ABC will have established ST there and they will be a strong num 2 at 8 (though it’s certainly possible for CBS to move TBBT to 9p upon its return).

However, increasingly, part of me thinks ABC might go another way: They have 4 very interesting sounding multi camera projects in development. Outside of CBS, no other network has really had one pop big in recent memory despite CBSs success with the genre. With TBBT vacating Thu temporarily, ABC might want to try to establish a couple of multi cams in a timeslot people are used to seeing them. I’m sure ABC already sees huge potential with the Kevin Hart comedy based on his life (that he will recur as a supporting character beginning with the pilot). I could see that being paired with the Cristela Alonzo comedy. ABC has had much success in the past with semi autobiographical comedies starring and created by standups (like Cristela). The Kevin Hart comedy will likely get sampled at least once, wherever ABC puts it. While TBBT is off, Thu at 8 would be a great place to park it and it would give ABC 6 weeks to establish 2 new diverse, multi camera, comedies on a night other than Friday. (I could even see them picking up 3 multi cams with possibly The Winklers following LMS on Friday or maybe even on a more high profile night like Tue or Wed).

At this point either strategy makes sense to me and while I have long advocated ABC move Shark Tank to a more viewed night, assuming both comedies come out well,  ABC might be viewing the latter option as a better way to go. Shark Tank could stay dominating Fri and they could possibly develop some big multi camera comedy hits and fix a troubled slot.

SURVIVOR to Sun:

Survivor is the oldest reality show on the air and it is still one of the strongest. It’s currently even dwarfing American Idol head to head. CBS is developing another NCIS spinoff this season and this one feels like it has a better shot to be picked up, especially with Mark Harmon’s involvement.

CBS will likely want to give it the best shot to succeed and put NCIS:New Orleans in the hammock between the NCIS mothership and their big new success story of Person Of Interest at 10. NCIS:LA  will have had 5 seasons behind NCIS and it should be able to do the numbers Survivor currently gets Wed at 8. Plus, Criminal Minds has had some of their biggest audience numbers this season when following another drama (or a CM rerun at 8). This would free CBS to move Survivor to Sun where it could help them in a  few ways, but mostly in building up their current Sunday ratings average.

It would certainly better the numbers The Amazing Race is currently getting. Right now Survivor is getting a 2.4 while TAR is getting just under a 2.0. TAR, also one of TVs oldest reality series, is still getting numbers any network would want. But what if CBS slotted Survivor in the TAR slot for Fall and Spring and used TAR as a relief in Jan, OR it would enable them to use TAR in Jan to plug a hole on another night. CBS could also air the second TAR edition in the summer where it might get even get bigger numbers against lesser competition and extend its life like ABC did a number of years ago using The Bachelor in Jan and The Bachelorette in the summer.

Another plus for CBS moving Survivor to Sun. It will get same day NFL spots and they’re a good match together. The two Survivor premieres that launched out of the Super Bowl were among the biggest post Super Bowl audiences in recent history.

Perhaps the biggest plus for CBS moving Survivor to Sun would be that they could produce 90 min episodes in the fall. With CBS not beginning primetime most weeks until at least 7:30, it would enable them to air Survivor 8:30-10:00p and then just schedule a drama (perhaps a NEW male skewing drama like Vince Gilligan’s Battle Creek to take advantage of the NFL and Survivor audience and those that just finished watching The Walking Dead on AMC). This will help CBS stay on the grid (give or take a few minutes-it’s never gonna be perfect)  on the east coast and most especially –  be much stronger ratings wise on an important night.

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Is ABC Trying To Lose?

ABC just had a really good week. In addition to the Oscars hitting a 14 year high in viewers, Greys and Scandal returned to high ratings. Both were the top 2 dramas on all of broadcast TV last week and Scandal had their second highest ratings ever. Modern Family, while down, is still the second highest rated show on broadcast after The Big Bang Theory. Shark Tank is regularly dominating Friday night and in its 5th year, is still growing. And yet, ABCs overall strategy this season has led to some really big bombs and what’s so surprising is ABCs reticence to move things and just leave under performing and unloved shows in pivotal spots on their schedule. (There’s only been one show that was pulled – Lucky 7– Every other show has basically been allowed to run out all or most of their eps even while gathering series lows).

Lets take Tuesday for example: ABC began this season with an all new night led by SHIELD which was sure to open. This strategy is always risky but it worked pretty well for them in 2009 on Wednesday and in this case it yielded two shows that are sure to return next season (and deserve to). Shield isn’t a blockbuster but until this week it hadn’t hit lower than a 2.2 and generally goes up 1.5 in L7. Most importantly, it is giving ABC a show that brings in Men 18-34 which is one demo that they haven’t been able to recruit in the last few years. The Goldbergs while not a blockbuster, has proven it has an audience. It is regularly in the 1.5/1-7. zone & goes up about 1.0 in L7. With the right kind of nurturing this could turn into a big hit for them. The problem then arises with Trophy Wife,  a show very on brand for ABC that is clearly not connecting on Tue. Even by week 2 it was down to a 1.4 while Goldbergs was still a 2.1. Since January the show has been under a 1.0 and 3 million viewers and regularly coming in 5th behind the CW. That should be grounds for removal immediately. This show is on brand for ABC and I don’t get why they just wouldn’t relaunch it in spring on Wed after The Middle. If it tanks there, no one could accuse ABC of not giving it a fair shot, but just leaving it on Tue to flounder doesn’t help it and it certainly doesn’t help ABC. Even a Goldbergs rerun would do far better.

There are 3 dramas that have failed terribly in the Tue at 10p slot. But I think that’s the exact problem. It feels like ABC was just “filling” the slot. “Oh you failed – here’s another one” and repeat. There’s no overall strategy of what shows were going here. It felt like these were the other dramas we picked up last May. We’ll just put them into our open hole. There are currently two rival network dramas that are in the 2.0 area. It will be really hard for a new drama to suddenly break through here. They need to counter program. Having basically no audience at 9:30 isn’t doing them any favors either. But I don’t get how it’s acceptable or why they should be complacent to have Tue 9:30-11 be so underviewed. Leaving Trophy Wife there defies explanation. I also think it doesn’t help ABC to be one of 3 networks airing single camera comedies Tue at 9. Trophy Wife was in 5th place before NBC entered the comedy fray. It certainly wasn’t gonna get better.

Two years ago ABC and Paul Lee were derided rather unfairly for adding The Neighbors to their Wednesday lineup and while I thought the initial critical impression of The Neighbors was (as usual in this twitter/media world) incorrect and hyperbolic to a ridiculous degree, ABCs logic made sense. The night had 3 other family comedies. Having a younger skewing comedy at 9:30 didn’t make much sense and a family comedy would likely hold much more of the Modern Family audience (this was proven last spring with How To Live With Your Parents For The Rest Of your Life– a buzzless and quickly cancelled show that had the best MF retention in recent memory, if not ever). So what’s so perplexing about the Wednesday strategy this year is that it violates something that Paul Lee said himself two years ago. While I didn’t think Super Fun Night would work at 9:30, I could hear the argument that Rebel is a big star and they wanted to give her the best timeslot to succeed. But once the show didn’t work ratings wise, it would seem to back up the idea that a family comedy is the way to go. Scheduling Mixology here after all this evidence of what works in this slot seemed very self-defeating.

The most perplexing thing here is they have a family comedy, The Goldbergs doing okay on Tue. Not only would it complement Modern Family in all the aforementioned ways, but on Wed at 9:30 it wouldn’t be facing another comedy and would have a chance to really blossom. Isn’t that point? Networks should want to maximize their schedule for hits and the highest ratings and nurture new ones. This is one of those shows that looks like could really break out there. Why not make Goldbergs as big as it can be now and expose it to more viewers? This season, it’s likely not gonna grow out of the mid 1s on Tue at 9 but it could grow Wed at 9:30 and be that more valuable to ABC as it enters a second season.

So unsurprisingly, Mixology tanked in its premiere and now Modern Family has been trending down as well. ABC has a gem of a family comedy at 8 with The Middle but I think all this shuffling comedies in and out at 9:30, especially incompatible ones, is kind of devaluing their whole special family comedy night as a whole and bringing Modern Family down more than it should be.

Moving The Goldbergs to Wed at 9:30 could not only help that show flourish and grow (I could see it hitting a 2.3 after MF) but it could actually help MF too. ABC could go back to selling their whole family comedy as a unit again – a place to watch from 8-10. At this point what do they have to lose? Trophy Wife has a .8 on Tue and Mixology is dead. (Mixology didn’t drop too much this week and I hope that ABC doesn’t view that as a win. A 1.6 or a 1.5 (and 4th place) after a 3.3 for Modern Family (1st place)  is complete rejection and they could and should want to do better, but I suspect it’s not getting pulled soon).

I think networks need to protect their hits. Once Mixology failed last week, why would they cut the last half of one of their highest rated shows – The Bachelor for a rerun of a pilot so soundly rejected the first time it aired. That helped the audience go away at 9:30 and sent Castle to a series low. So in addition to leaving weak shows in important time slots, we’re now damaging existing hits too? All in the name of Mixology?

There’s 2 and half months left to the season. ABC could make some changes now that could bolster both nights and actually help their newbies with potential this year:

They seem loathe to want to do a DWTS results show but even with a low demo that show would get 10 million viewers. They can air it Tue at 10 and that would be perfect counter programming to two network drams. It could also give their affiliates a lead into their local news which they haven’t had all year on Tue. With NBC and FOX airing single cams Tue 9 and CBS drama, the clear hole is reality. ABC could air the long on the self The Quest which could keep some of the young males watching Shield. Or ABC could just move Shield to 9p and either run a Shield or Shark Tank or MF/Goldbergs rerun at 8. This would free them up to move The Goldbergs to Wed at 9:30. Both nights would likely see ratings upgrades as well as giving Shield and Goldbergs their best shot to flourish. Many people will scoff at these suggestions – DWTS at 10??? My answer is Why not? – Another new drama isn’t the answer this season. Wouldn’t 10 mil vs. the 2 million that watched Mind Games be appreciated by the network, the affiliates, Jimmy Kimmel?

I’m not naive enough to think that there aren’t other considerations that make these things more challenging than they seem (It takes a lot to produce a DWTS results show for example and right now they’re not budgeted for that nor is the production team prepared to etc). There could be other options for them to consider Tue from 9-11 but I think counterprogramming the other nets should be their primary focus. But I think staying pat and surrendering is a far more frightening prospect or should be for ABC. (Another idea: If Resurrection opens well, I could even see them encoring it Tue at 10 for extra sampling, maybe following a DWTS results show at 9.)

The  headline “Is ABC Trying To Lose” is a bit sarcastic, but it’s worth reiterating what I said earlier. ABC is doing far better than the media will let you know. In addition to all the shows I listed above, DWTS still gets 12 million viewers (yes the demo is low, but what network wouldn’t want 12 million viewers  these days). The Bachelor is a big demo hit 11 years into its run. They have a hit virtually every night of the week including Sunday with OUAT and TVs biggest scripted hit on Wed and the 2nd and 3rd biggest hits on Thu.  (To their credit, I also think Resurrection is their best drama pilot this year and they have scheduled it in the best place for it to do well and they have marketed it brilliantly). The real network that’s currently flopping is FOX where American Idol was down to a 2.4 last week. Last Thursday 5 Broadcast shows had higher 18-49 ratings than it did (3 on CBS , two on ABC)  and that’s essentially their highest rated show.  Monday and Tuesday nights are hitting new lows on FOX every week. They don’t have a show approaching the L7 numbers of MF, Greys or Scandal.

That being said, FOX just made adjustments to their Thu lineup which is sure to yield much higher ratings than they are currently getting and that’s primarily where the question “Is ABC Trying To Lose” comes from. No network is immune from nights and shows that aren’t working but they make adjustments to better that. Leaving Tue 9:30-11 under a 1.0 since January. Leaving shows like Wonderland, Betrayal to run out all their episodes while getting barely 3 million viewers and a .9 doesn’t sound like a network that wants to win.  I’m sure that’s not the case and I know running and scheduling a network is much harder than it seems and I’m not arrogant or stupid enough to think I know better or have all the answers. But I definitely know that leaving things that are working horribly and not making changes is senseless. There’s still opportunity for ABC to make changes on Tue and Wed to upgrade both of those nights. I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t want to.

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GMA Is Still Number 1… By A Lot & That TODAY Demo Win of 12/16 Explained:

Two weeks ago much of the media was all atwitter (pun sorta intended) that the Today show had beaten GMA by a slim margin of 18,000 viewers in the advertiser coveted 25-54 demo (GMA still held a win in total viewers) for the first time in almost 6 months. You could tell they were readying for a Today show comeback story to start the New Year. Hey a win’s a win and it was definitely monumental for the Today Show. What surprised me most was that the pundits covering this just assumed the Today show mantra of “We’ve got a great show now” was working, and didn’t take a deeper look.

There’s no doubt that the Today Show is in a better place than they were 18 months ago, however it’s not as if Today’s show gains that week came at the expense of the other morning shows. In fact, all 3 network morning shows have been up as of late year to year and the week of 12/16 all 3 were up year to year in both total viewers and the demo. CBS This Morning, especially, is growing in ways a CBS morning show never has. That’s a show with a unique focus that viewers are clearly responding to. However, GMA is still posting gains in viewers and the demo year to year, every week. You can’t point to that week and say wow, GMA dropped a lot compared to last year, Today show is starting to pick up some of their viewers. In fact Today also had a demo win the last week of December ’12, so this is hardly unprecedented.

One media professional covering this even surmised that the biggest Today show daily win that week (which happened Wed 12/18)  might have been due to GMA broadcasting from the Vatican. I’ll assume this particular pundit was joking, and looking for a flashy lead, because it doesn’t quite compute that sending Josh Elliot and the much beloved Robin Roberts to greet the most loved Pope in ages would incite viewers to tune out. Again, I’ll assume it was a joke. However, there clearly were significant factors that week why Today might have been up and I found it strange that the AM media beat that generally covers this, didn’t seek the connection.

The week of Dec 16th, NBC primetime was on fire. They had a huge NFL game on Sunday, followed by the 2 night finale of their biggest (and one of TVs biggest) shows, The Voice. ABCs primetime was filled with low rated holiday specials and reruns as their big shows had signed off in originals the week before. The Wed of Today’s big win immediately followed the conclusion of The Voice the night before, where NBC was over a 4.0 in the 18-49 demo and close to 15 million at 10:59. ABC, on the other hand, had 2 hours of scripted reruns followed by What Would You Do that didn’t even crack a 1.0. More likely than GMA visits the Pope, was the fact that there were lots of eyeballs on NBC that week (and Tue night especially) as people drifted off to sleep while there were few people tuned to ABC. In fact, at the end of the same week in question, GMA had a huge demo win on Friday, not coincidentally after NBCs primetime ratings came back down to earth Wed and Thu. I don’t begrudge the media making a big to-do about a Today show win, but just like the early days of GMAs #1 status when they were attributing it to DWTS tie-ins, etc, there are other forces at work here.

What bolsters this idea in my mind, is that in the just released AM ratings for last week,  GMA had a mammoth win over Today, a disparity between the two they haven’t produced in almost 20 years. Last week GMA posted over a million lead in total viewers which included a huge demo win on Jan 2 of over 500,000 viewers –  GMAs largest single day win over Today in almost 20 years. (I would have expected a big GMA win on Jan 1st since ABC owns New Year’s Eve, however Tue and Wed (Jan 1) were excluded in ratings that week by all 3 shows due to the holiday.) It also happened on a week that almost of the GMA regulars were on vacation, while TODAY had a much touted reunion with former Today hosts Bryant Gumbel and Jane Pauley, with current host Matt Lauer. Lots of promos on NBCs last big Sunday NFL game for that one. The huge win last week (and GMAs win the week before) suggest that for now, at least, the Today show win of the week of 12/16 likely had more to do with NBCs primetime fortunes than a sudden surge.

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that TODAY isn’t in a better place than they were 18 months ago. They most definitely are. They are in a much stronger position to get a bigger post Olympic halo this Feb (after they likely win the 2 weeks they broadcast from the Olympics) than they did during 2012s Summer Olympics (when viewers literally flipped back to GMA the next day). The show and The Today team are definitely stronger and aren’t mired in all the negativity of that summer. But clearly, GMA is still #1 by a lot.

I get it. Stagnancy is boring. The Today show making a big comeback would be a huge media story and one that will generate lots of headlines. It could ultimately happen sooner than later, especially with NBCs Winter Olympics and their opportunity to showcase a morning show the network is now very proud of. I’m sure editors and reporters are salivating to write that story and many personally are likely looking to see a former favorite return to glory. But GMA is still number one and still growing and despite media’s efforts to assign their dominance to DWTS tie-ins and a more entertainment based slant on GMA, I think they’re number one for the exact same reason Today was number one was for 17 years: Viewers simply like this team, they like waking up to them. (Just like they loved Katie, Matt, Ann and Al. Just like they loved Meredith and Matt etc). They like that the GMA anchors seem to genuinely like each other.   Yes, there are days when certain stunts and show tie ins give you even a bigger bump. But ultimately I think it just comes down to “I like these guys”.  It’s as simple as that.

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SCANDALs Shortened Order Should Force ABC To Make Other Midseason Moves:

ABCs midseason schedule seems to tread the same areas that haven’t worked for them recently. They seem intent on filling holes with ill-fitting shows. They have kept the post Modern Family slot as a revolving door of new comedies not staying there more than half a season, and lately that includes young skewing ones that just don’t match up with MF’s audience at all. I think it’s finally catching up and starting to hurt the anchor comedies on this night. This week both The Middle and Modern Family got numbers so low that they don’t usually see until late spring. ABC has stopped promoting the current occupants of the :30 slots on the night yet they continue to air them. Back In The Game‘s last scheduled ep is this coming Wednesday but Super Fun Night, at present time, is still scheduled to run thru Feb. (ABC will air Goldbergs/Trophy Wife reruns Wed at 8:30 for 3 weeks beginning 12/18).

Meanwhile their most promising new comedy The Goldbergs is scheduled to stay on Tuesday where it is getting no higher than a 1.7. There’s clearly an audience for the show (albeit a small one currently). Both times it followed an Agents of SHIELD rerun it built by .5 out of it. It’s also been getting a .9 increase in L7 these last few weeks. It’s a perfect fit with Modern Family. Both are big mainstream family comedies. I don’t see how ABC thinks its gonna grow Tue at 9, especially as it clearly shares some comedy audience with New Girl.

Now comes word that ABC has to cut 4 eps of their biggest drama Scandal. I wonder if this latest issue, while not planned, forces ABC to rearrange their midseason schedule to better service their hits and make their nights more cohesive and nurture their growing newbies.

SHIELD is an island on Tuesday. It really needs another male skewing show to follow it. There’s also an opportunity to air a reality show in Jan while The Voice isn’t on. (I assume NBC will be expanding The Biggest Loser to 2 hours in Jan but don’t know for sure). I’ve long suggested Shark Tank for Tue at 9p, yet ABC seems reticent to move it off Friday.  They also have a very interesting sounding reality show called The Quest that was scheduled to debut this January and now doesn’t have a premiere date. The Quest sounds like the kind of show that could reignite the reality genre. It feels like a reality version of Game Of Thrones. If network TV needs anything now it’s a show that can make some noise. It should also skew more male than ABCs typical reality show and could make a great tandem with SHIELD and help keep some of their viewers and maybe give more people an incentive to watch it live.It’s also likely to do better than the 1.1 ABC is getting at 9:30 now and could funnel more viewers into their new 10p dramas. I’m guessing this isn’t likely to happen since they would need time to promote it and Tue in late Jan has the State of Union address followed by the Olympics in Feb.

At the very least ABC could air 3 weeks of Shark Tank in Jan, and an extra ep of The Bachelor the first Tue in Feb (like they did last year). Then they might be inclined to bring back the DWTS results show in late March. The demo won’t be high but it will be higher than a 1.1, plus it will at least give them 10 million viewers and their new 10p dramas a much better lead in.

Whatever they do on Tue, it will enable them to move The Goldbergs to Wed at 9:30. This will present ABC with their most cohesive comedy lineup in a while: The Middle-Suburgatory-Modern Family-The Goldbergs. The :30 shows are shows that clearly have an audience and are liked and wouldn’t simply be hammock shows. It would also give The Goldbergs its best opportunity to grow. (Trophy Wife could air in the spring after Suburgatory or The Goldbergs completes their run).

I would assume that ABC wants Scandal on all 4 weeks of May sweeps and returning Feb 27th as planned only to break 4 weeks in the middle sounds like a really bad idea to me. They could instead promote the return of Scandal for March 20th which could be a clip show/catch up/behind the scenes special. Then March 27th they would roll out the final 8 eps uninterrupted thru their May finale. What does ABC do those 3 weeks from 2/27-3/20. That would be a good place for them to double up on eps of Mixology. I know broadcast networks are loathe to air comedies at 10, but Grey’s seems like a much more compatible audience for Mixology than MF anyway. It would have the Grey’s Anatomy winter return to lead into its premiere (likely a bigger than normal Grey’s audience) . The young women that watch Grey’s is the exact audience that likely would watch Mixology. If it bombs – it’s only 3 weeks. But it should also be enough time to display to ABC whether it’s a hit or not without hurting them if it’s the latter.

These moves should make each night stronger. They certainly make each night more cohesive. It also gives them the opportunity to grow their new comedies on a night where they won’t face other comedies and match up better audience wise with the existing hits than recent occupants.

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With SLEEPY HOLLOW Looking Strong, FOX Should Spread Out Their Hits:

Week 2 of Sleepy Hollow against mammoth premiere competition has solidified it as an early hit for FOX.   It’s FOXs biggest new hit in years and even ratings drops in future weeks (presuming they are not large) still will make this a major asset for them.  I don’t see why they wouldn’t order a full season even if that means 18 eps as opposed to 22. It seems silly for FOX to have their only 2 drama hits – SH and The Following –  share a Monday timeslot when they can both be used to bolster different nights.

FOXs schedule currently has Rake premiering on Thu in Jan in between fall and spring/summer 11 pod eps of Glee. FOX should move The Following to Thu at 9 in Jan. With CBS vacating drama in this time period it actually gives it a better shot to perform well. Plus with FOXs singing competitions down, it actually makes their Thu much stronger than Idol and unproven Rake.  (Rake can launch late spring/early summer or earlier to help another time period should it be needed, but likely the former).

Back to Monday. There is no need for FOX to move Bones to Fri (not that any of us thought it would happen. ) Fox can air Sleepy Hollow in two pods. A fall pod and a spring pod beginning in March and running uninterrupted through May (which can then lead into 24 in late spring/early Summer) .  Sleepy Hollow can take off Jan and Feb (especially with 2 Olympic weeks that month). Fox can launch Almost Human as planned in Nov to air in tandem with Sleepy Hollow for the remainder of its fall run. Then  in Jan, Bones can return to Mondays to air with the remainder of Almost Human’s eps and complete its 13 ep order right before the Olympics. The first Monday after the Olympics – March 4th, Sleepy Hollow will return and air uninterrupted until its May finale. (An added bonus with Bones being off in Nov and Dec, it should be able to air originals practically every weeks it’s on).

On another FOX related note, FOX might be able to remedy their X Factor issue simply. Remove the Thu results show and make a more action packed 2 hour Wed show including results (like DWTS). FOX could then air Masterchef Juniors Thu at 8. It’s currently one of the only few hours on the TV sked with no reality shows on any other net and the original MasterChef is currently one of FOXs highest rated reality shows.

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