Sunday, September 19, 2010

22 Hours of Primetime, Sunday 10/9c

Today, the end of the road as my fall preview dissects Sunday 10/9c. This hour presents a very different situation for each network. For one, it's the lead-out to a top drama, one of the most plum spots on the net. For another, it can be a really tough road because football overruns often push the start of the program nearly out of primetime. For the third, it's sports in the fall, meaning you can't air something that would be year-round in the first and second quarters.

Fall 2004 saw the very successful launch of Desperate Housewives, not just a major hit in its own right but also one of the very few major hits of the last five years that proved a capable lead-in to launch other programs at 10:00. For the last four years, it's mostly been just one option: Brothers & Sisters. Unlike previous post-Housewives lead-outs Boston Legal and Grey's Anatomy, it hasn't left the hour and continues there for a fifth straight season despite ABC seemingly being on the verge of pulling off a move on an almost yearly basis. It averaged about a 2.85 demo in originals last season. During the writer's strike of 2007-08, the first season of reality effort Here Come the Newlyweds also aired here.

Though the huge NFL lead-in is a big help to the opening hours of CBS Sunday primetime, the returns greatly diminish as the evening wears on making this a tough hour for the eye. Their last year of true aggression in the hour was '06-'07 when they moved longtime Thursday tentpole Without a Trace to the slot and regularly saw gains out of 9:00 show Cold Case. For fall '07 they returned Trace to its Thursday home and brought in sophomore legal drama Shark which generally skewed too old to continue into a third season. During the writer's strike of '08 the net got an OK run out of Showtime original series Dexter in this hour. For '08-'09 it was another deprioritized show in The Unit and again it got the axe. And Cold Case followed suit with a move to the hour, big drops, and a cancellation in 2009-10. This year, it seems they're being more aggressive as CSI: Miami joins the hour, and it would seem it's less likely to get canned than the last few options. It averaged a 3.59 in originals last season.

Sunday Night Football will be demo dominant in this hour again this fall. For the last three years, the net has then gone with Celebrity Apprentice in their post-football world to decent results, and that should happen again in early 2011 despite the original-recipe version being DOA last Thursday. The last celeb version averaged a 2.80 demo in early 2010.

The third season of AMC's Emmy-winning drama Mad Men is not much of a ratings threat but will air well into the fall thanks to a late start this season. E!'s reality hour will be anchored by female demo draw Keeping Up with the Kardashians, while HBO goes with the sophomore run of comedies Bored to Death and Eastbound & Down.

Sunday Night Football - 7.80 average (-1% from last year)
CSI: Miami - 2.76 average (-23%), 3.2 premiere (-26%)
Brothers & Sisters - 2.43 average (-15%), 2.9 premiere (-3%) 

Mad Men for sure while it's still on the schedule. I've watched Brothers & Sisters pretty much since the beginning but don't really like the cast changes. Since it's likely the final season, though, I may stick around. You?

For more, see my 2009 post on the hour.

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