When baseball season starts in thein the spring, we’re reminded to keep our eye on the ball.
And when the new TV season starts, you should keep your eyes on the ratings of the networks’ returning shows, according to longtime TV researcher Steve Sternberg.
Most of the attention during and after premiere week focuses on the performance of the new shows. But the success and failure of those freshmen have less of an impact on each network’s overall health than the viewership trends on older shows.
Why is that?
According to a blog post by Sternberg, the first reason is because there are a lot more returning series than new ones.
Secondly, when a new show flops, it gets the hook fast and it often gets replaced by a higher-rated show.
On the other hand, when a returning show starts to decline, it usually slides for a while before getting canceled. Then it gets replace by a show that does even worse.
By that logic, Sternberg says the biggest issue with Fox next season is how American Idol does without Simon Cowell. At CBS, the keys are how well Big Bang Theory and CSI Miami and New York do in their new time slots. At ABC, the biggest concern is whether Grey’s Anatomy and Desperate Housewives continue to slide.
New shows are most important to NBC, which is still trying to dig out from the Leno-in-primetime mess, which left it with few successful returning scripted series.