The Big Ratings Stories For The Big 4 & Some Possible Solutions:

CBS is kicking ass, yet on Thursday they have the same problems as everyone else – BUT they also have the easiest solution

CBS is having a stellar fall, even though it generally feels like CBS has a special relationship with the ratings fairy that no other network does. (Shows like NCIS keep rising in their 9th season, bucking normal TV trends: We knew Two and A Half Men was gonna open huge but for How I Met Your Mother, in its 7th season, to be suddenly up a full point, is something I don’t think would happen on any other network – The Middle isn’t up a full point despite Modern Family’s gains). One can’t help but be impressed by their success. However, I am rather surprised by the fact that no one is really mentioning the decline of Thursdays once The Big Bang Theory ends. That show, like other hit comedies this year, is on fire. But at 8:30 last week, the network went from an incredibly dominant almost 5.0 to 2.0s the rest of the night. Yes we all know How To Be A Gentleman is gonna be CBSs first cancellation, but that doesn’t account for Person of Interest’s performance, which placed 4th both weeks and declined to a 2.7 this week.  CBS protested too much all summer about how high testing it was. (For the record, the pilots of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Seinfeld, Friends and many others tested horribly. I seem to recall another “high testing” pilot a few years back was ABCs Big Shots. It lasted half a season and didn’t even open well.) Many people seem to be ignoring the fact that Person of Interest is not performing even that amazing for a CBS drama at 10p, let alone as their Thursday anchor, especially when they start out so strong on the night. (I know the total viewers # is still fine, but CBS gets 10 million for total viewers on Friday night. They are an anomaly). This week it underperformed what CSI was getting in the slot last year. The fact is simple: Week 2 it still was in 4th place and CBS is the least likely network to exercise patience for that. The Mentalist might be hampered somewhat from its lead in but either way it’s also down significantly.

What does CBS do? They could do all sorts of things including moving The Mentalist up to 9pm in the short term. Broadcast TV is having a great season so far except on one of the most important nights – Thursday. CBS is in the most enviable position here because they have the easiest solution to make themselves a huge Thursday Player. It’s obvious that they will have a 2 hour comedy block on the night within the year. The thing is they can claim that position now before anyone else. Move TBBT to 9p now.  At 9:30 they can air Rules of Engagement at 9:30 into The Mentalist. What do they do 8-9p? 8pm run a TBBT rerun which will probably do close to a 3.0 and at 8:30 they can have a rotating wheel of their hit comedies (HIMYM, 2.5 Men, Mike & Molly). If they are really gutsy they can move 2 Broke Girls to 9:30 after TBBT and either slide Rules of Engagement back to Mon 8:30 or run reruns of 2 Broke Girls in its Mon slot. (I am guessing they want to shore up Mondays for the time being and 2 Broke Girls will do far better than Rules). Either way TBBT at 9p will only result in higher numbers for that show and with a 2 hour comedy block now, they will easily win the night (even against X Factor) and solidify their position as comedy night on Thursday EVEN with an hour of reruns leading off the night.

ABC deserves a lot more credit for the opening of their new series than they are getting:

Yes ABC still has some issues, but it isn’t where anyone expected them to. In fact for Week 1 of the TV season they were flat from last year in the demo while rising in total viewers. This despite that fact that their biggest show – DWTS – is suffering tremendous losses. (This is what I mean regarding CBS. No CBS reality show drops a full point between cycles, yet DWTS went from its biggest season last spring – just a few short months ago – to now its lowest. That’s nuts, but I digress). Most people were assuming DWTS would be the one thing ABC didn’t have to worry about. Yet ABC got all their new shows (except Charlie’s Angels, which didn’t crater) to open well. Revenge not only opened well but still had a 2.7 in its second week and close to 9 million in a slot that has been troubled for years. It’s also worth noting that the lead in for the second week was drastically lower and it held that lead and built on it in viewers. This show also seems to be one of the buzziest shows of the new season. Pan Am premiered really well and even built on DH in viewers. (Yes it dropped to a 2.5 in its second week, but it’s certainly higher than what Brothers & Sisters would have done  – and did last spring – and ABC can afford to nurture this one a bit. In a season where comedies are kicking ass, a 2.5 for a new drama in week 2 is certainly not horrible. The mighty CBSs new dramas didn’t get higher than a 2.7 in week 2.) Suburgatory did what Better With You didn’t and built very nicely on The Middle lead in. Even Charlie’s Angels which likely won’t be getting a back 9, isn’t the mega flop that My Generation was. It’s actually, surprisngly skewing kinda old. But even in week 2 it still got 7 million viewers (more than anything on NBC – even The Office- had that night.) Obviously they can do better and should strive to. The verdict is out on how all these shows will fare long term. But ABC should be given credit for a stellar marketing job this summer and getting all their shows to open and open very nicely. Their Wednesday lineup is already markedly in the plus column from last year in every hour. Castle is up nicely even with DWTS’s losses and and is clearly the dominant show at 10p even with CBS’s gains from 8-10p. Imagine if DWTS hadn’t dropped. The network would be up significantly from last year. ABC still has some more shows to open and their staggered approach appears to have been very smart. They also have a very buzzworthy show Don’t Trust The Bitch in Apt 23  (they have smartly returned the original name) to be paired with Cougar Town. At this point I can’t even guess where it will go. I don’t expect them to put it vs. New Girl like initially planned. Thursday at 8p is too early for that content and there are two other nets running comedies. Could they move Private Practice to 8p and air them at 10? I guess they could, I just don’t think 10p is the most ideal time to break a new comedy, plus they have a lot of other new dramas to roll out this season. I assume ABC is having these conversations internally now and will wait for things to settle, see where their needs are and make adjustments. ABC, like CBS and NBC should try to shake up Thursday, even one hour of it, sooner than later.

NBC is having a tough fall but they should be commended for everything they have done regarding The Voice:.

We all know the tough fall NBC is having but I think they look very smart for holding The Voice til midseason. Seeing the lower than expected (but still strong) numbers for X Factor, I think The Voice would have underperformed if it was scheduled this fall. It might have propped NBC up on two nights where they are faltering now, but I don’t think it would have done what it did this spring and what it might do this winter. NBC is holding it until it has the biggest audience leading into it for people to see it. There will be over 100 million people watching the Super Bowl, many people who don’t watch much TV other than Sports. It also attracts every quadrant – kids, teens, adults, grandparents and The Voice is the most family friendly, mass appeal show that has aired after it in years. There is a lot of love for The Voice from this past spring and with that lead in they have the opportunity to grow it that much more. I also think the panel of personalities on The Voice are universally loved (and much more popular as a result of the show – Adam Levine is currently on the top 2 played songs at radio) and with this extended hiatus people will probably be inclined to welcome them back. NBC will follow with another new ep the next night after the Super Bowl – in its regular slot – not giving people an opportunity to forget about it and it will be immediately followed by their most exciting new drama – Smash. NBC was also very smart in getting it to air as quickly as they did last spring. Obviously reality is down across the board this season and we have no way of knowing why X Factor is scoring what it is. However, I don’t think it helped them at all that The Voice kind of stole their thunder before they made it to air, with a)similar elements and b) just by being another singing competition it probably made the X factor less exciting when it finally arrived. So credit should be given to NBC (and Robert Greenblatt and Paul Telegdy) for getting The Voice to air quickly, showing restraint in its first season and not overdoing it and holding it until midseason when it could ultimately benefit them the most. 

In other NBC ratings stories: I know they delayed Chuck/Grimm a week but I still don’t get why they don’t leave 2 hour Dateline’s from 9-11p on Friday and use Chuck/Grimm elsehwere. This is one night that is working for them.

Lots of questions still regarding X Factor:

If X Factor holds the numbers it is getting now until it signs off Dec 22nd it’s a huge win for FOX as they will win every Wed and Thurs this quarter (as well as Tuesday based on the first two weeks) and will win their first Fall EVER. That’s no small feat. The thing is, there are still many unknown things regarding X Factor. The auditions are over. Those are the highest rated parts of Idol. If it follows that pattern, then the numbers will start trending down this week. When Idol trends down a bit after auditions they are coming off a huge number. Thursdays 2 hour ep got a 3.9 (lower than what DWTS normally gets). There is also the possibility that with the boot camp portion the show will grow. This is the part that is relatively new to the American audience of singing competitions (although The Voice has a similar feature). There is also the possibility that with all these singing competitions, by the time Idol hits the air it will be down overall because of viewer fatigue. Yes it’s the granddaddy of all these shows and like Survivor will probably outlast them all, but one never knows. My gut says X Factor should hold where they have been these last 2 weeks and make FOX an even more dominant network as now they’ll be conquering the fall too, but if this season has taught us anything thus far, no one knows anything. Surprises happen all the time and that’s ultimately what makes this industry so fun. Maybe the biggest hit of the 11-12 TV season hasn’t even premièred yet.

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5 Responses to The Big Ratings Stories For The Big 4 & Some Possible Solutions:

  1. spotupj says:

    I actually think your CBS idea is pretty ingenious, although I think I would wait until late in the season to do that… I’m not big on having a regular repeat for most of the season unless it’s really necessary (like it was when ABC cancelled Hank or when CBS had a Charlie Sheen meltdown). I think they could extend PoI to 17 or 18 episodes (provided it doesn’t tank from here) and then do your move in March or April, setting them up for an all-original block next fall.

  2. Liz says:

    “The Mentalist” has aired new episodes several times at 9p.m., and they’ve not done well any of those times, even with heavy promotion. At this point, I don’t think there’s anything to be gained by putting it at 9, especially if whatever CBS puts on afterward gets lower ratings than “The Mentalist” did. That would be a net loss for the night.

    I also agree with spotupj that if there’s going to be a serious shuffling like what you suggest on Thursday, it needs to wait until at least February 2012. Maybe longer. But in fall 2012, there will absolutely be a two-hour comedy block on the night.

  3. Liz says:

    And “Person of Interest” should have been on Tuesdays at 10 in the first place. It would be a male-appealing procedural opposite what I assume are a female-skewing procedural and family drama. CBS got “Good Wife” finally away from “Parenthood” (although that didn’t seem to help “GW” all that much) only to make the same mistake with “Unforgettable.”

  4. forg9587 says:

    Unless POI drops below 2.0 I think CBS will still keep it there although the alarming low rating of How to Be A Gentleman should be a major concern although at least they still have Rules of Engagement to use at 8:30 if Gentleman dips below 2.0. The Big Bang Theory is destined for 9pm, it will get bigger ratings definitely with weaker Greys and The Office now.

    Charlie’s Angels is a toast now below 2.0 for episode 2? That show will be gone before November sweeps. But what will ABC replace it? They have a lot of options but I hope they will place Private Practice at 8pm already, Grey’s is already down but still somehow strong enough to help boost a 10pm, I hope ABC will not waste this opportunity. Private Practice should stand on its own by now even at low 2s.

  5. Very interesting read as always! Though I agree that I would hold off on moving Person of Interest (though I would take care of How to Be a Gentleman after its inevitable drop this Thursday). POI is really good and could develop some viewers. I would encore it often on Saturdays for a few weeks because it might be able to find its audience still.

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