Stability of a broadcast primetime schedule is always
something networks strive for. But even "stability" requires some tweaks: shiny
new entries to continue building for the future and improving on buy opportunities
In broadcast TV, CBS clearly has the most stable schedule, and
it has for several years. But even CBS shook things up a bit by moving veteran
Thursday night 10 p.m. hit The Mentalist to Sundays at 10, and filling
that slot with a quirky new drama titled Elementary, about a modern day
Sherlock Holmes who helps the police solve crimes in New York City. CBS also
moved hit Monday sitcom Two and a Half Men to Thursdays at 8:30 p.m.,
leading out of TheBig Bang Theory,TV's highest rated and most watched sitcom, to
give it an even stronger sitcom block for advertisers to buy into.
ABC had a few more holes on its schedule to fill and announced
a couple of aggressive moves, shifting Wednesday night at 10 freshman drama
success Revenge to Sundays at 9 in the departed Desperate Housewives
slot, and adding a Friday night hour-long comedy block.
Media buyers say those moves could be more important to the
networks than how many of their new shows succeed next season. Overall,
Thursday is the most important night for two huge categories of
advertisers-retail and movie studios-and media buyer consensus is that moving Two
and a Half Men to Thursday night was a smart move for CBS. They say if Elementary-which
has some similarity to The Mentalist in that both lead characters help
police solve crimes in an offbeat way-is embraced by audiences, CBS can bring
in bundles of additional ad dollars on the night.
More than one media buyer said that how ABC grows this
year's six returning freshman shows will have as much to do with the network's
future success as its new 2012-13 rookies will. Once Upon a Time was
broadcast television's highest-rated new drama this season, averaging a 3.0 in
the 18-49 demo, and second in viewers among new series, averaging 9.4 million
per episode. ABC's returning freshman sitcoms-Last Man Standing,
Suburgatory, Happy Endings and Don't Trust the B---- In Apartment 23-averaged
between a 2.2 and 2.5 18-49 rating, ranking them 4 through 7 among new
comedies. They also averaged between 5.7 million and 7.9 million in viewers per
episode. Revenge averaged 6.8 million viewers and a 2.1 demo rating but
is now moving into a tougher time period, going head to head with CBS veteran
hit The Good Wife.
Media buyers believe that if ABC can grow those numbers
rather than have them decline in those shows' second year, it can significantly
stabilize its schedule and make the network more attractive to advertisers
regardless of how its new crop of shows does.
"ABC's primetime strength next season will depend on
how well this year's freshman shows that return do," said one media agency
executive, who-like the other execs that spoke to MBPT for this story-did not
wish be identified. "It will be just as important, if not more important,
for the network."
So, what are buyer perceptions of the two networks' new
shows for next season?
Several media buyers think ABC's new 10 p.m. Wednesday drama
Nashville has the best shot at success. In that series, Connie Britton
plays a country singing legend whose career is starting to wane, so her record
label pairs her on tour with a star in the making played by Hayden Panettiere.
The series offers sort of a soap opera story line, as Britton's character
fights to revitalize her career despite the backstabbing by Panettiere. Buyers
believe the series could hit a chord with middle-America and draw lots of
women, and women make up about two-thirds of ABC's audience.
As usual, however, buyers raised more questions than offered
praise. Just about every buyer MBPT spoke with wondered whether ABC's new 8
p.m. Thursday drama, Last Resort,
about an American submarine that goes rogue, forcing its crew to take refuge on
an exotic island, has content too mature for the family hour. Most see it as
more of a 10 p.m. show than an 8 p.m. show. Having said that, there were
kind words for show star Andre Braugher. And one buyer commented, "ABC has
so many comedies on next season that now it doesn't have enough room to add
Speaking of comedies, several buyers were in agreement that
ABC's new 9:30 p.m. Wednesday sitcom, The Neighbors, about a couple that
moves into a gated community and finds that all the other residents are aliens
in disguise, is not the best fit leading out of the network's hit sitcom, Modern
Family. Most believe Malibu Country, starring Reba McEntire as a
wannabe country singer who moves to California after she finds her husband has cheated
on her, would work better there. Malibu Country will instead air at 8:30
p.m. on Friday nights beginning in November as ABC attempts to start a comedy
block on the night. However, buyers believed that, given McEntire's past
success on TV (she did well on The WB's Reba for
several years) and her country roots, that show would do well leading out of Modern
Family, and also do well in helping Nashville get more viewers.
The overall impression of the ABC shows seemed more positive
than NBC's schedule, but much like NBC, with all the new programming being
offered, buyers at least initially had a tough time picking out much new that
stood out as a potential hit. "The comedies didn't do much for me and I
didn't walk out of the presentation saying any of those shows were
great, let's put more money on ABC," said one exec from a large spending
That said, no buyers picked ABC's Once Upon a Time, a
fairy tale-based series, to be the top-rated new drama of this season.
Reaction to the new CBS shows was more positive, but they
had fewer to look at, making it easier for the buyers to initially digest.
The new Tuesday night CBS drama Vegas, which centers
around 1960s Las Vegas when organized crime was first moving into the city, is
a bit of a departure for the network since it is more serialized than most of
CBS' traditional procedurals. But media buyers liked mob boss Michael Chiklis,
and felt his presence and his successes in prior series, including cable hit The
Shield, give the series a chance for success. Adding to the draw is Dennis
Quaid, in his first TV series appearance as a regular, playing the sheriff
charged with keeping the Chiklis character in line. CBS execs believe this
series will be more compatible to its lead-in, NCIS: Los Angeles, than the
now-cancelled Unforgettable was. And buyers seemed to agree.