No Glee for This Family of Rookies

New broadcast series are failing to bring in big audiences

Why This Matters

Top 5

Top 5 Series
1. Glee | Fox | 5.2 rating
2. (tie) Grey’s Anatomy | ABC | 4.8 rating
2. (tie) Modern Family | ABC | 4.8 rating
4. Two and a Half Men | CBS | 4.7 rating
5. Dancing With the Stars Monday | ABC | 4.5 rating

Top 5 New Series
1. Mike and Molly | CBS | 3.8 rating
2. Hawaii Five-0 | CBS | 3.6 rating
3. $#*! My Dad Says | CBS | 3.3 rating
4. Outsourced | NBC | 2.9 rating
5. Raising Hope | Fox | 2.8 rating
SEPT. 20-OCT. 17, 2010

One month Into the new television season and this much
is clear: broadcast television is treading water with a freshman
crop that, while not a total bust, has failed to produce the collective
enthusiasm among viewers
that greeted last year’s new entries.

For the first four weeks of the season,
CBS is leading in the key 18-49
demographic, averaging a 2.9 rating.
The network is also in front among
total viewers, buoyed by successful
returning series and the strongest
performances among new shows.
NBC is averaging a 2.7 rating while
ABC is down to a 2.6, with its season
so far resting on aging hit Grey’s
Anatomy, Dancing With the Stars
Modern Family. And NBC has the decided
benefit of Sunday Night Football,
as usual. Fox is in fourth place,
with a 2.5 rating. And The CW is
averaging a 1.1 rating.

CBS is down slightly year-to-year
(1.1%) while NBC is up only slightly
(1.5%) over last year’s Jay Lenobedraggled
primetime. The CW is
flat year-to-year. Even with gains for this fall’s iteration of DWTS, ABC is
still down more than 8% year-to-year. And Fox has declined more than
12% due in part to a lackluster NLCS playoff series this season compared
to last year’s Yankees/Angels ALCS, and erosion on Fridays and Mondays,
where Lone Star was DOA and House could use some strong medicine.

Few of this year’s new series have achieved the critical and commercial
success of last year’s breakout hits, namely Fox’s Glee, ABC’s Modern
and CBS’ NCIS: Los Angeles. The only network generating any
buzz is CBS, with strong performances for its new series and many
returning shows.

Of the top-rated new series in the 18-49 demographic—CBS’ Mike
and Molly
, Hawaii Five-O and $#*! My Dad Says; NBC’s Outsourced; and
Fox’s Raising Hope—none have cracked the top 10. And while the NFL—
whether on NBC, Fox or CBS—sits atop the charts, the top-rated new
series, CBS’ Mike and Molly, comes in at No. 16.

“None of these new programs are picking up the slack from the continued
erosion of existing shows,” says Brad Adgate, senior VP of research at Horizon Media. “You do want to have some new shows that
you can build around, and so far this year it hasn’t been the case.”

There have been multiple casualties. The quick cancellation of Fox’s
Lone Star is in danger of becoming a referendum on the viability of
swing-for-the-fences television, while the shunting of NBC’s Outlaw
to the Saturday death zone from the land of low expectations on Friday
may only be a refl ection of Jimmy Smits’ inability to overcome abysmal
writing. ABC’s mockumentary My Generation, a drama intended
to appeal to younger demos weaned on reality television, lasted all of
two episodes.

NBC has ordered more scripts of Undercovers, which averaged a dismal
1.5 rating for its last outing on Oct. 20. But the network has given
full season orders to Outsourced, The Event, Chase and Law & Order: Los
. Fox has also picked up the back nine of Raising Hope. The CW
has picked up both of its freshmen, Hellcats and Nikita, as well as veteran
One Tree Hill. ABC has yet to give full-season nods to any of its new series.

Only CBS has managed to build a schedule with legs, launching multiple
new series that are winning their time slots (Hawaii Five-O, Blue
Bloods, $#*! My Dad Says
). And
last week the network handed out
full-season orders for its entire fall
slate, including Wednesday drama
The Defenders.

But it’s no secret that broadcasters
are facing a mountain of challenges
as they work to maintain
their dominance among television
audiences. And the bar for ratings
success has steadily sunk, though
advertising rates have not exactly
mirrored the downward trajectory.
Fox’s American Idol, despite a
9% dip year-to-year and an almost
completely new judging panel for
the upcoming 10th season in January,
is still commanding $467,617
per 30-second spot for Tuesday’s
performance show and $400,546
for Wednesday’s results show, according
to Advertising Age. Those
rates represent an uptick over last season’s Idol, the swan song for Simon
Cowell, when 30-second spots on both nights averaged between $360,000
and $490,000.

The fact remains, network television is not gobbling up the share of
the audience it once did. And executives have been forced to adjust their

“These are the realities that we face,” says Mitch Metcalf, executive VP
of program planning and scheduling at NBC. “We deal with the world
that we’re in now, and we have to be judged not by old numbers and old
benchmarks, but by the metrics of today. These are tough circumstances.
But the right shows still will fi nd an audience. And it just means that everything
has to be executed perfectly.”

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