Scheduling Benefits Create Dramatic Turn in Year 2

While sophomore dramas see ratings uptick this fall, comedies hit slump

Last television season was tabbed the year of the comedy,
with breakout half-hours such as 2 Broke Girls and New Girl.
But one look at all the series that made it to a second year reveals
a dramatically different picture.

Of the sophomore dramas that have returned thus far, all are posting
ratings at or above their freshman runs. Among the comedies, only one,
ABC’s Suburgatory, is in the black. And the reason for that is scheduling—
Suburgatory is reaping the benefits of a new time period leading
out of ratings behemoth Modern Family, while shows such as Don’t Trust
the B---- in Apartment 23
, Up All Night and New Girl are in decline now
that they are following lower-rated lead-ins in their sophomore years.

“The issue with the comedies is really placement,” says Billie Gold,
VP/director of programming research at Carat, who notes that unless a
show breaks out and wins an Emmy in its first year like Modern Family,
“the only other way usually comedies will grow is if the night itself
grows or its lead-in grows."

1112 Cover story Programming chart

At the same time, networks have been propping up their dramas in
year two, with ABC moving Revenge to Sundays to follow last year’s top
new drama, Once Upon a Time, and CBS giving Person of Interest a much
higher-rated lead-in with the move of Two and a Half Men to Thursday.
Grimm and Once Upon a Time have managed to grow in their second
year without any schedule changes, though both could be benefi ting
from interest in the horror/fantasy genre (call it The Walking Dead effect).

The payback for strong sophomore dramas is not inconsequential.
With Person helping launch the new
Elementary, CBS is consistently winning
Thursdays, the most lucrative night for
advertising. The female-skewing, highindexing
audiences of ABC’s Sunday
night have given the net viable counterprogramming
to NFL football on NBC.
The year-over-year gains are also helping
ABC and CBS build much-needed new
drama assets to replace aging franchises
Grey’s Anatomy and CSI, respectively.

“It’s extremely important that once a
show shows that it can survive on your
schedule, you really need to try to kick
it into the next gear,” says Andy Kubitz,
executive VP of program planning and
scheduling at ABC. “In order to build
long-term assets, you have to nurture
shows in their second year—it’s almost
as big a priority as launching them.”

The drama bumps are even more
of a pleasant surprise in a year where
longer-running dramas are down
across the board. But the slumps for
the sophomore comedies are not surprising
or unexpected. 2 Broke Girls
is missing the glow of Two and a Half
, New Girl declined steadily in the second half of its first year and
Up All Night was a bubble show as it was.

If there is some good news for the sophomore comedies that may be
hoping to snag the syndication deals that come with additional seasons,
one programming acquisitions executive says that where in years past
a 20% year-over-year decline would be troubling, in today’s new reality,
syndicated programming buyers are more concerned with the absolute
rating. That being said, the exec noted only one second-year show seems
to be holding its own in that respect: CBS’ Person of Interest.

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