The official start of the broadcast primetime television season is only 11 nights away and it has already produced one certainty: Media agencies won't stop thinking about the series and projecting which ones will perform best and worst.
The projections are based for the most part on impressions of the new series pilots while also factoring the time periods they are located in on the schedule.
A look at the viewership share estimates finds that no new series is expected to be a breakout hit, and the new series that are presumed to draw the most viewership will be helped primarily by their lead-in shows. But the overriding feeling is that CBS has the best chance to come out ahead.
Among the new series projected to get the biggest live-plus-same-day share of audience are CBS sitcoms The Millers, The Crazy Ones and Mom, CBS drama Hostages, NBC drama The Blacklist, ABC drama Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and ABC sitcom Super Fun Night. The CW’s new drama Tomorrow’s People is also expected to be one of that network’s most-watched series. Most of those series have prime spots within their networks’ schedules.
New series that are expected to struggle most include CBS sitcom We Are Men, Fox sitcoms Dads and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, ABC comedies Back In the Game and Trophy Wife, and NBC comedies Welcome to the Family and Sean Saves the World.
“This season is very hard to call because there is no new show that has any type of buzz at all,” says one agency exec, who did not want to speak for attribution. “There is not one specific show that people are really excited about. Usually there is one new show that’s being talked about. Last year, it was NBC’s Revolution, which started off great but lost its audience after NBC put it on hiatus for three months. NBC has been heavily promoting The Blacklist and CBS has been doing the same with Hostages, but it doesn’t seem to be generating that much excitement.”
Revolution is still projected to struggle for viewers this season in its new 8 p.m. Wednesday time period, where it will be competing with The CW’s hit Arrow, CBS’ reality staple Survivor, and Fox’s The X Factor.
Stability Should Pay Off Big
CBS, which has had the most stable returning schedule of late and does again this season, has strategically placed The Millers, The Crazy Ones and Mom in slots where they should get a maximum potential audience. The Millers leads out of television’s most-watched comedy, The Big Bang Theory, which averaged over 15 million viewers last season. The Millers at 8:30 on Thursday nights will lead into Robin Williams on The Crazy Ones at 9. Each sitcom should appeal to its lead-in audience, although The Crazy Ones might skew a bit older.
Mom at 9:30 on Monday nights will lead out of another well-rated CBS sitcom, 2 Broke Girls, which averaged 9 million viewers last season.
CBS drama Hostages and NBC’s The Blacklist will compete head-to-head on Monday nights at 10, and both have to also contend with veteran ABC drama Castle. However, The Blacklist has a solid lead-in with NBC’s highest-rated non-sports show, The Voice, which averaged 12.6 million viewers last season on Mondays, while Hostages is leading out of the strong CBS comedy block.
Buyers: Be Aware
Buyers see Hostages skewing a bit more female than The Blacklist with the battle for viewers between them being close. But since Castle is leading out of ABC’s Dancing With the Stars, which averaged 14 million viewers on Monday night last season, that series is expected to win the time period in viewers.
ABC’s Super Fun Night is thought to have a chance at drawing sizable viewership because it will be leading out of ABC’s most-watched sitcom in Modern Family, which averaged 9.5 million viewers last season. And on The CW, Tomorrow’s People will lead out of the network’s most-watched series, Arrow.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will open ABC’s Tuesday night at 8 p.m. and is projected to be among the most viewed new shows. That’s primarily because it also has a built-in audience base from Marvel Comics and Marvel’s popular films.
Buyers are skeptical that the male-targeted CBS sitcom We Are Men will draw well in the female-skewing Monday night block. They also don’t think Fox’s Tuesday strategy of opening the night with male-oriented comedies Dads and Brooklyn Nine-Nine is sound, leading into two female-skewing comedies in New Girl and The Mindy Project.
In the Tuesday night at 9 and 9:30 head-to-head battle, buyers think the two new ABC sitcoms The Goldbergs and Trophy Wife could get more viewership than Fox’s veteran comedies New Girl and Mindy. Although some believe Trophy Wife could also be one of the season’s early cancellation victims.
“Fox is not going to cancel New Girl or Mindy no matter how bad they do,” one buyer says.
The success of all the other new dramas is considered something of a crapshoot. Fox’s new Monday 9 p.m. drama Sleepy Hollow, NBC 10 p.m. Wednesday series Ironside, ABC’s 8 p.m. Thursday series Once Upon a Time in Wonderland and its 10 p.m. Sunday series Betrayal all have an equal chance to stick around, but each are in competitive time periods.
Sleepy Hollow is leading out of the solid but not hugely watched Bones, which averaged 7.4 million viewers last season. It also has to go up against the CBS sitcoms, ABC’s Dancing With the Stars and NBC’s The Voice.
Once Upon a Time in Wonderland has a potential following already from viewers who have been watching Once Upon a Time on ABC on Sunday nights, which averaged 7.9 million viewers last season. However, 8 p.m. Thursday is not only a competitive time period with CBS’ Big Bang and Fox’s The X Factor there, but ABC has tried and failed to establish series after series in that spot over the past several years. It could, however, steal away some female viewers from The X Factor.
ABC’s Betrayal also has a chance for modest success on Sunday leading out of Revenge, which averaged 6.7 million viewers last season. Betrayal will have to divvy up the female audience at 10 with CBS’ The Mentalist, which averaged 9 million viewers last season, while most men will be watching NBC’s Sunday Night Football.
Mixed on Fox
Another new series that buyers are mixed on is the Michael J. Fox Show on Thursday nights.
One buyer says, “The series will definitely get a lot of initial sampling but there are already some signs that the network might think it is in trouble. They made some cast additions plus the other sitcom lead-ins are not strong.”
Candice Bergen and Charles Grodin just joined the cast to play Fox’s parents and it is usually not a good sign when cast changes are made so close to a series’ premiere. NBC is also opening the night with Parks and Recreation, which averaged only 3 million viewers last season, and following that up with new sitcoms Welcome to the Family and Sean Saves the World that are not projected to draw very well.
As far as returning shows, not much is expected to change the viewership pecking order. The top 10 is expected to include CBS drama NCIS, CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory, CBS dramas NCIS: Los Angeles and Person of Interest, ABC’s Dancing With the Stars, NBC’s The Voice, CBS dramas Elementary, Blue Bloods and Criminal Minds, and ABC sitcom Modern Family.
But much like the start of a horse race, every new show has a chance right out of the gate, and sometimes there is one new show that surprises everyone. That hasn’t happened during the regular broadcast season recently, but it did happen this summer with the CBS sci-fi drama Under the Dome, which has averaged close to 11 million viewers in its premiere run.
Some new shows also survive early cancellation for reasons other than viewership.
“The networks don’t always cancel all the shows that should be canceled,” one buyer says. “And sometimes viewership is irrelevant. Case in point, Fox brought back The Mindy Project [which averaged 2.9 million viewers]. Agency projections are just a guideline of what could happen. It doesn’t mean it will.”