In addition to not providing any major new hits, the ’10-‘11 TV season was unique in that it shined a light on the status of the 10p hour. With overall live TV viewing diminishing and even the biggest hits being time shifted more than ever (i.e. Glee, Modern Family Grey’s) it appears that the 10p hour has sunk to all time lows universally. The only new show that seems to have popped at 10p is Hawaii 5-0 and even that show usually produces a rating that is at best a 2.8/2.9 in the demo (although it appears to be quite consistent). In fact, no show routinely gets much more than that. The Mentalist doesn’t even usually attract more than a 3.0. The only other show at 10p that’s generally in that area is ABCs Castle when DWTS leads into it (Otherwise it’s in the very respectable 2.5 area). Hawaii 5-0 adds an additional 3 milion viewers and 1.0 demo when DVR usage is factored in. It’s the only new show that can make such a claim and so it’s definitely what I would call a hit, even if it’s somewhat lower than anyone, including CBS, expected.
I do wonder what the show might have gotten if it aired say Tuesday at 9p behind NCIS. It also makes me think that next year’s “big” CBS show will not be launched at 10p, but rather at an hour where they can maximize more live viewing. The 10p hour seems to be when many people begin playing back shows from earlier in the evening. For example on Wednesday, I’d imagine that many of the people who watched Idol live are probably playing back the Modern Family episode that aired opposite it, at 10p. Younger viewers have migrated to shows on MTV like the mega rated Jersey Shore and Teen Mom. Plus USA and FX, Bravo etc have all their signature shows on at 10p and while most are in the 1.0 demo range, they are their respective nets bread and butter and probably siphon off at least a little off of the broadcast networks offerings.
It seems rather counter productive for the broadcast networks to launch big hits at that hour anymore. Gone are the days where an ER can launch at 10p and garner 40 million viewers. I think come next season the 10p hour will be relegated to procedurals that don’t require you committing to them beyond that viewing, reality shows and yes even comedies. Speaking of the latter, 30 Rock has duplicated or bettered the numbers it was getting earlier this season when it was on 8:30 and generally averages a 2.3. That number is higher than any show NBC has aired at 10p this season other than SVU and lately Celebrity Apprentice. It also cements their “comedy night done right” and makes the night that much easier to promote. I would really be surprised if NBC doesn’t leave 30 Rock here next season. Speaking of Celeb Apprentice, the show is routinely getting over a 3.0 Sunday in the 10p hour. Not only is that higher than anything NBC airs at 10, it’s higher than virtually anything any network is airing at 10p and it’s on NBC. In the past I have asked TV insiders why networks didn’t air more reality at 10p since there’s a higher ratio of success than dramas, especially at 10p. I was told it was because even lower rated dramas command bigger advertising rates than higher rated reality. The problem is affiliates need 10p to produce more viewers to funnel into their 11p local news and some of the numbers being reached at 10p these days seem antithetical to accomplishing that. NBC will be airing reality at 10p on Tuesdays beginning later this month with The Voice and The Biggest Loser. I imagine NBC will own this 10p hour like they now do with Sundays.
Surveying the 10p needs for each network:
CBS is the most stable network everywhere and not surpisingly is the network in the best shape at 10p. The only obvious hole at 10p for them is Wednesday night. I could see them moving the original CSI here next season. I highly doubt it will remain at 9p on Thursday, but it’s still doing remarkably well there for a 10-year-old series. It’s usually hovering around the 3.0 mark in a very competitive timeslot. Wednesday at 10p it would no doubt do better than most occupants CBS has had here recently and with Survivor/Crminal Minds/CSI, I believe CBS would be very strong for all 3 hours on Wed night. Lots of people are speculating that CBS will move The Good Wife to Friday. I don’t think so. I think even though it’s lower rated than the average CBS hit, it’s still very durable. Last week airing out of an NCIS:LA rerun it bettered the score from the week before which followed an original. It seems it’s at least a 2.0 show on its own. Plus it’s gets 13 million a week and is the Emmy crown of the CBS schedule. If anything, I can see CBS relocating it to Sunday at 10, but I don’t see it going to Friday. I am gonna guess that CBS’s big new shows for next fall will be launched at 9p. I could actually see CBS sliding NCIS:LA down to 10p and launching their highest profile new dramas like “Person of Interest” or “Ringer” in between the two NCISs with the other one possibly going Thursday at 9p. I would have assumed CBS might expand to a 4 comedy block on Thursday, but the events of Two and a Half Men have probably put a crimp in that.
I do think NBC will stay with a 3 hour comedy block on Thurs with 30 Rock staying at 10p. SVU will most likely remain on Wed at 10p. Harry’s Law has more total viewers at 10 than any other show on NBC. I would think they will shore up Mondays from 8-10 with high-profile new offerings and hopefully that will improve Harry’s Law demo score at 10p. Sundays in the fall NBC is set with NFL (assuming no strike) and that leaves Tues at 10p. Depending on what NBC does with this night I would not be surprised to either see Parenthood or either the second half of The Biggest Loser here.
Lots o’ questions marks here. Even if Brothers & Sisters returns for what I assume will be a shortened final season (I still think they should call it a day now), I assume it will be for midseason and ABC will attempt to put one of their high-profile new dramas at 10p Sunday. If Happy Endings does anywhere near a 2.0 after 3-4 weeks, I think ABC, like NBC, should just expand their comedy block to 3 hours. They haven’t had a drama hit here since China Beach in the early 90s (excluding season 3 of LOST which aired here). They already have a comedy presence on Wednesday. It would make most sense to expand it. It couldn’t do much worse than dramas have. If the comedies don’t work, they might just slide Castle here and use the DWTS lead in to launch another high-profile new drama OR a light comedic reality show would also fit with the night. Lots of people turn to Top Chef on Bravo after the ABC comedies. Private Practice has been renewed for a full season but something tells me ABC will use the GREYS lead out to launch a new drama (maybe “Damage Control”). If it fails, PP can always easily slide back in. If Body Of Proof remains in the 11 million and 2.4 camp, I see ABC leaving it here next season. Obviously that’s a big “if”, especially with NBC going the reality route in a few weeks.
Bottom line: I see the networks using the 10p slots for next season and beyond for existing procedurals that are succesful and older shows that have seen their best days at 9p (CSI, maybe DH for the 12-13 season), comedies, and reality shows