For CBS Post-Super Bowl, There's No Place Like Holmes

Airing rookie drama 'Elementary' after 49ers-Ravens holds big upside

When CBS' Elementary bows after the Super Bowl
on Feb. 3, it will be the first
drama to occupy the coveted slot in
five years—since Fox’s House in 2008.
And though unscripted fare has generally
drawn the highest ratings after the
big game, in choosing Elementary, CBS
is sticking with the trend of spotlighting
an existing series still in its ascendency.

The last time CBS had the Super
Bowl, in 2010, it used the game to
launch Undercover Boss, which premiered
to 38.6 million viewers, making
it the Super Bowl’s most-watched
lead-out program since 2001, when
an episode of Survivor drew 45 million
viewers. Last year on NBC, The Voice
approached Boss’ high number with
37.6 million viewers, underscoring
the fact that reality shows tend to pair
well with football.

0128 Programming Postgame Standings chart

Scripted fare has generally rated lower in recent years.
ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy was the highest-rated post-game
program in the last 10 years, drawing a whopping 16.5
rating in 2006, but dramas also claim the two lowest spots
in the last decade (Alias in 2003 and Criminal Minds in
2007). Comedies have rated just slightly higher.

While CBS could have chosen to launch a brand
new series, with midseason reality entry The Job or new
drama Golden Boy, conventional wisdom has leaned toward
picking an ascendant series rather than saddling a
rookie with the most enormous of expectations.

Other seemingly prudent picks for CBS would have
been sophomore sitcom 2 Broke Girls or drama Person of
. (The Big Bang Theory is still hitting series highs
six seasons in, but it already benefits from rampant exposure
in syndication.) Also likely at least a small factor
—both 2 Broke and Person are from Warner Bros. Television,
while CBS owns Elementary, allowing it to benefit
more from the back-end success of the series.

CBS also owns its other rookie drama, Vegas, though
the network ultimately felt that Elementary, which averages
a 3.1 rating with adults 18-49 compared with
Vegas’ 2.2, had broader appeal.

Vegas and Elementary were competing
for the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, alternating
during the beginning of the season;
it was a choice we made,” said CBS
Entertainment president Nina Tassler at
the Television Critics Association press
tour earlier this month on Elementary
getting the nod. “It’s a character procedural.
We think it’s got a lot of great appeal; the relationship
between Holmes and Watson is palpable. And we
just felt it was a better fit for right after the Super Bowl
in terms of appealing to all the viewers.”

And while dramas can be harder to jump into midseason
than an unscripted show or comedy, Elementary
has the benefit of being a procedural based around a
known character, Sherlock Holmes.

“It’s an incredible opportunity to expose the show
to people who may not have checked it out yet,” said
Elementary creator/executive producer Rob Doherty. “So
we tried to take all that into consideration as we developed
the story that, we felt, not only was a good example
of what the show can do, but something that our
regular audience would really have fun with as well.”

The hope is that casual Super Bowl viewers will
follow Elementary to its regular time slot on Thursdays,
the most lucrative night for advertising. Elementary
commands $141,690 per 30-second spot,
according to Ad Age’s 2012 commercial price survey,
below ABC’s Nashville and Fox’s The Following but
more than Vegas. By driving interest in Elementary,
CBS is bringing more attention to its Thursday night
lineup in general, already benefi tting this year from
the relocation of Two and a Half Men and growing Big
and Person of Interest.

And with CBS’ Super Bowl strategy already bringing
CBS News, daytime show The Talk, The Late Late Show
With Craig Ferguson
and CBS Sports Network to New
Orleans, among other corporate assets, CBS stations
also stand to benefit from Elementary’s big-time exposure
as their lead-in to late local news.

“I think [affiliates] would applaud the fact that a 10
o’clock show is getting the showcase because, if Elementary
is more successful, then they’ll be more successful,”
said Bill Carroll, VP/director of programming at Katz
Television Group.

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