The 2012-2013 TV Season begins September 24th and normally the rollout of new and returning shows can sometimes be a crazy obstacle course for network programmers and schedulers as they attempt to get new shows sampled amidst the rival networks big guns. Moving returning shows to new nights can also be tricky for the same reason. Basically everyone is coming back at the same time and there are just natural casualties sometimes merely because of the mass pileup of shows. In this ever-expanding DVR, internet and millions of channels world, it’s even more complicated.
The coming fall season will present even more challenges for those involved as it’s an election year and the month of October brings a pre-emption every week on different nights for 3 Presidential and 1 Vice Presidential debates. October 3rd (Wednesday – the second Wed of the season), October 11th (Thursday), October 16th (Tuesday) and October 22nd (Monday). That’s just October.
November brings Election Night on November 6th, so if you’re keeping score, that’s 2 Tues interruptions in the first 6 weeks, which is less than ideal if you’re launching a new Tues show.
(UPDATE 5/3/2011 6:10PM: The original draft of this story at this point contained incorrect info on my part that Sweeps began Nov 1st and the networks would have to deal with Thanksgiving falling during Nov Sweeps. Thanks to commenter Mitch who pointed out to me that Sweeps begins Oct 25th and runs through Nov 21st, so it concludes on Thanksgiving eve like it has the last few years. I have since removed the part of this story that included my thoughts on how the nets should handle that since it’s not an issue. Sorry for that. My bad. Thanks again, Mitch).
It’s really hard to even conjecture at this point how most nets will deal with these preemptions, especially since the fall schedules haven’t been set yet, but I imagine scheduling will be even more challenging than normal.
CBS – As usual, I expect CBS to be affected the least and weather this the best. The NCIS duo have proven to be the most resilient show there is, so the 2 Tue preemptions shouldn’t really stall any momentum and if a new show is hammocked between them, it should be protected. Plus, the week off for each night in October just replaces a week of reruns for them. They don’t have any live performance shows that will be affected and their dramas repeat better than any other network. As is, they already run drama reruns Thanksgiving eve.
FOX – In addition to the aforementioned pre-emptions, FOX has Baseball interrupting their sked as well. I guess having 3 hours of X Factor take up the bulk of their schedule makes this a little easier since that show can move around, but last year FOX got really hurt by taking New Girl off for 3 weeks due to Baseball which severely curbed its momentum. Now there are 2 other Tuesdays that will be preempted. This is, again, less than ideal when you are (allegedly) planning on launching a new comedy block. I guess they have 2 options: Start the Tuesday block earlier, and get a head start. They could conceivably come back the first or second Tuesday in September and have 5 or 6 weeks uninterrupted. The second option, well hmmm, on second thought, I don’t see any option but the first, if they want to get any Tuesday traction, that is.
NBC – Assuming The Voice is on Mon/Tue they will need to shorten the Mon Oct 22nd ep to an hour, which I guess isn’t horrible. If they are launching new shows on Wed and Thu, it might benefit them starting earlier as well, but now that we have heard they will use the Olympics culmination to premiere some new shows in late August, it all makes sense. They will get a head start. That’s actually their best option, as even without the Olympics platform and the preemptions they should have premiered some early before any competition presented itself.
ABC – As usual the network likely to face the most issues.
The second Wednesday of the season will be preempted from 9-11p, so should they premiere Revenge (assuming it’s still in that slot) the week before only to preempt it a week later? They should probably just return it October 10th and run it straight for 4 weeks til the next preemption (more on that below). If there is a new comedy at 9:30 should they premiere the week before and then take it off? My guess is if that’s that case they’ll likely do an hour Modern Family premiere the week before and premiere the new comedy on the 10th with Revenge premiere. But there’s no way this is ideal.
DWTS results show can slide to 8p the first Tue debate Oct 16th and that conserves new eps of scripted originals, so that actually works okay. Problems arise October 22nd when their biggest show-DWTS-will either have to be cut by an hour or do they move the performance show that week to Sun, move results to Mon…. nah it’s just too messy, preempting two shows on Sun, moving results show up a night etc. It affects too many shows and many nights. I guess they just have to deal with losing an hour of one of their biggest shows. (Crazy idea: Could they air some DWTS specials that week and just extend the season. Probably not) I still think ABC should extend the DWTS season to 12 weeks.
Election night week, the results show will have to be moved to Wednesday (11/7) which while preempting the 8-9 comedies, does help conserve extra eps of those shows which should help in Spring. But, if the CMAs air the second week of Nov, (11/14), like they usually do, that will be 2 consecutive weeks of pre-emption for those shows. Is it possible ABC moves the CMAs to Thursday this year? I suggested that last year for 2 reasons: While the CMAs give ABC a huge boost it messes the Wednesday momentum. The following Wed (11/21) is Thanksgiving Eve, a low viewing night. Last fall, Revenge had its highest numbers (3.0) since the pilot the Wednesday before the CMAs, and hasn’t gotten as high since. Moving the CMAs to Thu, in addition to moving it to another lucrative night would alleviate the Wed preemption problem. The problem, I think, is that there is now Thursday Night Football on the NFL Network and there is shared audience (I think that’s why the CMAs are never on Sun). So if the CMAs air on Wed as usual, there are two weeks in a row of the 8-9 comedies being preempted and then the following week they return on low viewing Thanksgiving eve which is just horrible for momentum. Similarly, Revenge returning after a week off on Thanksgiving eve will not lead to good results. ABC should just air comedy reruns that night, but if they go with new eps of their comedies, Revenge should be preempted. If the CMAs remain on Wed in November, that gives them a great number for the night but affects the momentum of the regular ABC Wednesday lineup. Oh and the first Wednesday of sweeps is Halloween, a lower viewing night. So ABC has a challenge every Wednesday in the fall. Oy.
I actually don’t have easy suggestions for the people making these decisions now. They do have my sympathy as scheduling this fall can’t be easy or fun.