(This is part two of a
series of questions addressed by a panel of media agency executives. The first
part appeared in Wednesday's MBPT newsletter, and can be accessed here.)
The broadcast networks announced their new fall schedules at
their upfront presentations recently, and everyone now has an opinion on those
new shows and the ways each network will try to draw in more viewers for the
2013-14 season. But at this moment, one thing of paramount importance to the
networks is what the media agencies think, and what advice they give to their
marketer clients who are in the process of spending billions on commercial time
during the upfront buying process that's now underway.
MBPT gathered four veteran media agency programming research
executives and tossed 10 questions at them based on the most significant
network moves. The execs are: Brian Hughes, senior VP, audience analysis,
MagnaGlobal; Sam Armando, senior VP and director, SMGx Strategic Intelligence;
Billie Gold, VP, director of buying/programming research at Carat; and Brad
Adgate, senior VP, director of research, Horizon Media.
Robin Williams is
returning to television after more than 30 years. He is known for his over-the-top
humor. How do you think audiences watching his new CBS sitcom, The Crazy
Ones, will greet him, and will the series
Brian Hughes: Having a big star attached to a series is never a
guarantee of a success. It will depend on how relatable the character is, and
how well he and Sarah Michelle Gellar—in the "straight man" role—play off of each other.
Sam Armando: He can been accepted if television can
still be the platform that allows his type of humor, what you have called "over-the-top."
Any watered-down version of Robin Williams will likely disappoint those who
know his style and turn off those who do not. What helps is a strong supporting
cast, with Sarah Michelle Gellar in the second lead and recognizable supporting
players who've proven their comedy chops in other series.
Billie Gold: While I haven't seen the whole pilot, I
was extremely disappointed in the clips that were shown during the upfront
presentation. Robin's over-the-top humor didn't seem to work in the setting of
the show and I am not sure audiences will take to the sitcom. Many beloved
comedians such as Whoopi [Goldberg] had sitcoms that got sampled and quickly
bled viewers, and I think the same will happen here. Sorry Robin.
Brad Adgate: I think it's an interesting scheduling
move putting a first year comedy in a time period, Thursday night at 9
p.m., that CBS has not aired a comedy in in decades. I think Robin Williams has
a strong supporting cast, and advertising agency workplace shows have worked. I
think it will do well, even opposite NBC's Sean Hayes comedy [Sean Saves the World].
After failing two
years ago with the male sensibility comedy How to Be A Gentleman
canceled after only two episodes, CBS is again trying a blatant male-oriented
sitcom titled We Are Men. Is this a smart or a foolish move?
Hughes: I think the network is looking for the next Two and a
Half Men -- a strong male buddy comedy. I'm not sure I would call it smart
or foolish; just predictable.
Armando:How I Met Your Mother's audience is nearly half made up of
men, about 47%, and this show will lead out of it. So if development produced a
male-centric comedy, it is in the right place on the CBS schedule. How to Be
a Gentleman failed because it was not funny, not because it tried to have a
male skew. The ability to make an audience laugh is what will make or break a
sitcom and We Are Men is no exception. The Big Bang Theory
appeals to male viewers, but what makes it a success is good writing that makes
Gold: Male-oriented sitcoms on broadcast television
tend not to do that well, so it is somewhat of a risk. Think Guys With Kids
this past season and How to Be a Gentleman two seasons ago. However, CBS
gave the show a plum time slot and it has likeable stars in Tony Shalhoub and
Jerry O'Connell, so it may have a slight shot. I don't have high hopes for it
though, based on what was shown at the upfront.
Adgate: It really depends on how good the show is.
You can look at a pilot but how good the show is in week six is telling on how
successful it will be. CBS is looking for shows to replace How I Met Your
Mother and Two and a Half Men, the latter being its most successful
male-dominated show over the past decade. So why not take a gamble? CBS is
competitive in virtually every time period in primetime, and We Are Men
is in a protected time period. Having said that, it didn't help Partners this past season. But, they do
have Mike & Molly in reserve.
What network has
the best chance for a breakout drama or comedy hit next season, or are there
not any that fill that bill?
Hughes: It's important to remember that what might be construed as a
"hit" on one network would be canceled after two episodes on another. That
being said, we're seeing several new programming trends that go across the
networks -- family comedies, sci-fi/fantasy, espionage thrillers -- so in that
respect, everyone has a chance.
Armando: There were not any that screamed "hit" to
me, but there were innovative swings that will be interesting to follow. I applaud
dramas that can't really call themselves a crime, legal or medical drama. Think
Scandal. And there are many new dramas that fit that bill.
Gold: My best bet this season is The Millers
on CBS, which will lead out of The Big Bang Theory. I also liked The
Goldbergs on ABC, however its lead-in, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
may skew too male to give it the right audience flow. There wasn't a drama that
looked like a clear "breakout" hit to me, however, I know some of the media
buyers were high on CBS drama Hostages.
Adgate: I think Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC
has a chance to be a hit. The Marvel movies have been box office gold and with
Joss Whedon behind the project it could become a huge show for ABC -- if it's
Will Fox recapture
the 18-49 demo title next season now that it gets the Super Bowl, or can CBS
defend based on its regular schedule that had 10 series among the top 20 in the
18-49 demo this season?
Hughes: We generally don't include sports in our network
comparisons, and looking at C3 ratings through the end of April, CBS and Fox
are actually tied among adults 18-49 with a 2.1.
Armando: Any analysis I do, or any plan I help
construct for a client will not include the Super Bowl. As a result, any
analysis of primetime should not include the Super Bowl or any other event that
is not solid in a primetime plan. With that said, and the fact that 20% of its
schedule will be made up of a declining American Idol and The X
Factor, it will be difficult for Fox to recapture the 18-49 crown.
Gold: It will be tough for Fox to win that title back
with American Idol quickly fading, The X Factor ratings a
disappointment and Glee only a glimmer of what it once was in the
Adgate: I don't think Fox will win the 2013-14
season in adults 18-49. CBS is too strong across the board. Idol, Glee
and The X Factor were down this season so it will be tough for Fox to
catch CBS next season.
What will be the
first show canceled by the broadcast networks next season and who is likely to
be the next breakout star from a new series?
Hughes: Our predictions are top secret so I'm not going to get into
that. I don't think it's a question of who will be the next breakout star. It's
which veteran TV star can make a comeback?
Armando: One thing that is consistent from year to year
is that it's not always what you think is the worst show that is canceled
first. It will take a combination of a lower than expected audience, poor
script development and behind the scenes issues -- only one of which will be
evident to us. I have to give props to Margo Martindale in The Millers. She may not fit what you are looking for as a breakout
star, but she is fantastic. She stood out in FX's Justified and whether you like The
Millers or not, she carried the pilot.
Gold: There were no clear-cut clunkers among this
group of new shows that I can say will be the first canceled. However, based on
just the clips that were shown, my picks are: NBC's Back in the Game,
CBS' We Are Men and ABC's Lucky 7. The breakout star will be
Rebel Wilson from ABC's Super Fun Night.
Adgate: I think The Millers on CBS will be
canceled first. I think the series is a waste of Will Arnett's talents. I have
no idea who will be the next big TV star, but it will probably be someone from
a new CW show.