THE 2011-2012 TV SEASON – Week 1
There’s a few general takeaways from the premiere weeks ratings of the ’11-’12 TV season:
Network TV is alive and well: All of us have been lamenting the lower live numbers that each TV season has been bringing ever increasingly since the advent of the DVR and the rise of original programming on cable, but low and behold there were a lot of shows in the plus column from last year and not just for Two and A Half Men. Modern Family was up a full ratings point, 5.1-6.1, in the demo, from last years premiere. The Big Bang Theory was up a bit from last year’s premiere. How I Met Your Mother was up a lot from last year (thought it remains to be seen how much of that was due to viewers getting there early for 2.5 Men) but its first new ep this week was also up a full point from last year to a 4.7. Castle was up .5 from last years premiere. The Middle up .4. NCIS and its spinoff up a number of tenths. Criminal Minds was essentially flat, which these days us as good as up.
TV Ratings Can Still Surprise: The beauty of the TV biz is that “sure things” many times aren’t and then there are complete surprises. When I was speculating last week on how well FOX would do I said that well there are no sure things but X Factor is as close as they come. America loves their singing competitions and Simon Cowell is the biggest star of reality TV. But, I don’t think anyone predicted the number it got. We wouldn’t have been surprised to see a 10.7 rating this week. But, I don’t think anyone expected it to be for Two and Half Men. Yes we all expected that to open beyond huge. In my head that was possibly as high as an 8.0 – likely a bit lower. I also don’t think anyone expected a mid 4.0 debut for X factor and to be beaten soundly by Modern Family and virtually tied by 7-year-old Criminal Minds. X over 2 nights is holding at a mid 4.0 and once the show expands beyond auditions to the boot camp part (which is very new to American audiences) I think it has potential to grow. Either way, a mid 4.0 for Wed and Thu thru December 22nd is a major upgrade for FOX fall and will undoubtedly help make them #1 over this quarter, so it’s hard to see this as anything but good for FOX. The only drawbacks would be if 1) it suddenly collapses – which is not likely. 2) if this show plus The Voice will make viewers tire of singing competitions and depress Idol’s numbers once it premieres in late January. I don’t think it’s likely but it’s also not impossible. Think about it: Prior to this year when Idol would premiere in Jan the last competition of its ilk (America’s Got Talent) had been off their air for 4 months and that show, while strong, is hardly on par with IDOL in popularity or pop culture dominance. Since Idol’s last cycle there will have been The Voice and a just ended IDOL like, X Factor. It’s not unfathomable for Idol to be down. But the truth is, even if it lost a full ratings point it would be in the 5-6 range and if FOX makes those huge Wed/Thu fall gains with X Factor, well they’ve only traded up all year.
Comedies are king again: After only 4 days it was alarmingly clear. The top 6 rated shows in the demo were comedies: 1)Two And A Half Men 2) 2 Broke Girls 3)Modern Family 4) HIMYM 5) TBBT 6)New Girl. 7) is X Factor I don’t think anyone would have predicted this a week ago. But the truth is most ratings experts have said for years that when the economy is down, comedy rises. It’s clearly happening again. Just remember when everyone starts saying drama is dead that this business is cyclical. All the networks have been picking up tons of comedy pitches these last 2 months with lots of bidding wars. Expect that to only increase now. Looking at the entire first week’s numbers, anything with a big number associated with it was a comedy.
A look at each network:
CBS – It is virtually unprecedented to have this unparalleled success across the board. As discussed above, Monday night from 8-10 was ridiculously huge with 7-year-old HIMYM getting numbers it hasn’t seen in years. Two and A Half Men got the biggest numbers for a scripted premiere since 2005. Even if this show drops by half this week, it will get a 5.4 which are fantastic numbers. (I wouldn’t be shocked for it not to drop that much). Scheduling the premiere of 2 Broke Girls after this was brilliant. It got a 7.1 and close to 20 million. Now obviously this was an exception to the rule, under very unusual circumstances, but to get close to 20 million to sample a new sitcom in 2011 is unheard of. This show felt like a hit before, but with 20 million sampling, it should do quite well between HIMYM and 2.5 Men. Mike & Molly is coming off a much-loved Emmy win for Melissa McCarthy so it might have been up anyway. But with Part 2 of 2.5 Men leading into it’s season premiere, it should do quite well tonight. Smart of CBS to introduce Ashton midway the premiere and make it a two parter to insure more people to return for week 2 that might not have. Hawaii 5-0 was beaten in total viewers by Castle and barely beat it in the demo, despite having a monster lead in. That’s the weakest link on this night. Tuesday, the NCIS twins were up over last year (insane) and the premiere of Unforgettable was up over The Good Wife last year. CBS had such a great week, even A Gifted Man got 10 million viewers on a Friday night. The Good Wife brings much prestige to Sunday night, but it’s looking like it won’t ever be more than a 2.5 show. Still, CBS is so strong they can afford to have this gem on Sunday night and I’m sure the higher ad revenue they get for such a universally well-loved show doesn’t hurt either. The only thing concerning about CBS premiere week was the performance of Person of Interest. CBS was saying all summer how high testing it was, and I think they were trying to convince themselves, as well as everyone else, that they weren’t concerned about putting a brand new show (somewhat off the CBS path) in their Thu anchor slot. The fact that it had a massive lead in at 9 and came in 4th, and dropped at the half, makes me think it won’t be their Thu anchor for many years. Plus this week it won’t have TBBT as a lead in. Assuming 2 Broke Girls holds up, I definitely see CBS having a 2 hour sitcom block here by next season, maybe as early as this Spring. Even this season using Rules of Engagement, (and possibly that Rob Schneider sitcom) they have the pieces should they decide to (with these 4 HIMYM, 2.5 Men, TBBT, 2 Broke Girls as 8p and 9p anchors, though not necessarily in those exact spots, on Mon and Thu).
FOX – A Major Part of FOX Fall doesn’t premiere til tonight – Terra Nova, but even without it and with less than amazing/but still quite good scores for X Factor, FOX should be happy. Even with a somewhat down (but hardly out) performance by Glee, New Girl exploded out of the gate building on it. Their Sunday night lineup is now the strongest of all the nets, excluding the NFL on NBC. (Family Guy, even though animated is a sitcom, and also boasted an over 4 number – the biggest for a non Football, Sunday night show. This further bolsters the comedies are king theory.) If Terra Nova premieres in the 3-4 range and doesn’t drop too much after, and the ratings for all their shows from this week hold, they have a very strong schedule and will have no trouble winning the fall – a first for them.
ABC – DWTS was down significantly on both nights. It’s too early to guess if it was due to CBSs huge Monday. The fact that Tuesday night was down even more (4.4-2.9 year to year) makes me think it wasn’t just CBS, despite having a fun cast. But we’ll see. Even with a down DWTS, Castle was up nicely and was clearly the first choice at 10 and this week no one can blame that on a DWTS lead in when the CBS lead was much higher. Body Of Proof is ABCs best option Tue at 10 in a while and even with a much lower DWTS it had 10 million which is what the premiere of Detroit 1-8-7 had last year with a much higher lead in. I don’t expect Body Of Proof to go much lower and it’s possible some that checked out the premiere of Unforgettable will return to Body Of Proof this week. ABC can’t be anything but thrilled with the premieres of their comedies this past Wed and I hope it extends to this week when Suburgatory and Happy Endings premiere. Revenge had the best numbers for an ABC scripted show in that slot in years and an encore on Friday got another 4 million. Looks like even with a down Desperate Housewives (confirming how smart it was to announce this as final season), the premiere of Pan Am held 100 percent of its DH lead, in the demo, and built on it in viewers. That doesn’t happen often. Where Extreme Makeover:Home Edition and DH were down from last year (the latter sharply), Pan Am was up over the Brothers and Sisters premiere from last year. Obviously it’s only week 1, but that’s a nice start. Sunday’s numbers confirm it was a smart decision to move EM:HE to Friday as ABC rebuilds this night. Looks like ABCs biggest concern will be Thursday where Charlie’s Angels doesn’t look like a long-term player. (Hopefully this will finally make the networks stop chasing remakes. They usually flop and even the highest rated one, Hawaii 5-0, is really just a remake in name. It’s really CSI:Hawaii.). More concerning was the premiere of Grey’s. Yes it won it’s 2 hours but it was down a full point from last year’s premiere and Grey’s, as most shows do, usually drops after that. (Sidenote: The drops at 9:30 for both Grey’s and DH is both strange and concerning). I wouldn’t be shocked to see ABC try one of their limited series on Thursday sometime midseason. (Maybe after Grey’s airs its fall finale, I could see ABC airing The River for 8 weeks in Jan/Feb which would allow them to run Grey’s virtually rerun free from Mar-May. They have other options including the Ashley Judd led Missing and Shonda’s own Scandal.) Again it’s way too premature to make guesses but Thursday is looking like a night that will need some revamping soon. Positive for ABC: Comedies look great, Castle is up, Two dramas premiered well. In fact, of the networks premiering new dramas this week, ABC fared the best. Pretty good for a premiere week.
NBC – Alright, we all know that they had a tough week. So I’ll just focus on the positive. Up All Night had a very good number for a 2nd week against all that competition. A full season renewal should come as early as this week (about the same time they pull Free Agents). There is lots of thought about moving it to Thu but they might want to leave it on Wed where they can establish a comedy beachhead. They could always run a rerun of it after the new ep for the short term. NBC should be happy with the premiere results for Whitney which despite horrible reviews (and being multi camera vs all the single cams on this night) held on to a good chuck of it’s The Office lead in. I’m sure NBC will try to find a way to jump-start Thursday better soon and might relocate Community somewhere where it’s not leading off the night. NBC has Fear Factor ready to debut and they might want to create some noise sooner than later so I wouldn’t be shocked to see that brought out in time for November sweeps somewhere (Wed at 9 maybe?). One thing seems clear to me: NBC on Friday night was just .1 behind first place CBS, and unlike CBS, got there with reruns of new sitcoms and a two-hour Dateline (Same ratings for a lot less money). I can’t imagine why they would cut down on 2 hour Datelines for Grimm in a few weeks, as scheduled. The 10p hour of Dateline was their highest rated 10p hour Mon-Fri in demo and total viewers. I could see them either using Grimm during the week as a replacement for a failing new drama, or more likely, holding it for midseason like ABC did last year with Body Of Proof. I also wouldn’t be shocked if The Sing Off grows as it goes along. Last week there was an extra reality element on the night with finale of Hell’s Kitchen. Starting tonight, FOX goes back to scripted.
Biggest takeaway of the week: This was a very encouraging week for network TV. It’s too soon to make many assessments about the long-term success of most new shows. It takes a few weeks for things to settle. People are still sampling. However, one thing stands out: There is one very important night that could stand some shaking up. Between NBCs lower comedy numbers on Thu at 8p and Grey’s trending down and Person of Interest being the least impressive of CBSs premieres, Thursday is open for someone to take a big shot and make some noise. I would expect someone to do that sooner rather than later.