I'm kicking it off this time with a "General Thoughts" post addressing a few big picture observations, and we'll come full circle and do the "General Thoughts" answers at the end of next week. Starting tomorrow, the network-specific posts, each one coming one week to the day before its network's upfront.
Other Upfront Questions: NBC | Fox | ABC | CBS | The CW | General
Question: Who Attacks Tuesday?
This season, one of the five weeknights has been clearly weaker than the other four when you combine the average 18-49 rating of the big five networks.
I was just gonna say, "Somebody should go after the surprisingly weak Tuesday night!" and call it a day, but I decided to take a look back at previous seasons. To my surprise, this kind of thing happened each of the last four seasons. There was a clear "weak link" evening (or two) and then a clear "attack" of that space that (in most cases) nearly stabilized or even slightly helped the night the following season.
|Year||Mo||Tu||We||Th||Su||Response in following season|
|2007-08||13.8||16.0||14.7||14.6||15.0||Fox moves House to Monday|
|2008-09||14.1||15.2||13.0||13.7||14.1||ABC Comedy Wednesday launches|
|2009-10||13.2||14.2||12.1||12.2||14.2||Idol W/Th, The Big Bang Theory Th|
|2010-11||10.7||11.1||12.2||11.7||12.6||NBC moves The Voice to Monday|
Back to this year: since American Idol left Tuesday, no one's really seized the night, and that was most obvious this season. While most of the networks have at least one decent piece (Dancing with the Stars results, NCIS, The Voice results, New Girl), the other stuff has been largely underwhelming.
It would seem Fox has the greatest upside on this evening, since they're in a position to reinvent themselves with young-skewing comedies to join New Girl. This is also a night on which I'd strongly consider putting two very promising new shows if I were the CW. Will one of the other big three nets have some game-changer up their sleeve for Tuesday that nobody sees coming? I'd find it pretty surprising if nobody steps up in an obvious way.
Question: Will Premiere Scheduling Get Even Crazier?
Last summer, I did a post about how the scripted series premiere dates from the previous fall (2010) were much more concentrated in the traditional premiere week, whereas the upcoming fall (2011) saw them much more spread out. Fall 2011 was clearly much better for new shows, as there were successes both among the shows beginning in the traditional premiere week (2 Broke Girls, New Girl, Revenge, Person of Interest) and among those premiering later (Once Upon a Time, Grimm). There weren't any clear successes from pre-premiere week, but at least some shows (Ringer, The Secret Circle, Up All Night) got off to decent enough starts.
How much of that was the shows and how much was scheduling? Hard to say, but I certainly wouldn't think this season's results vs. last season's results would deter them from continuing to stagger the shows.
There are also external factors that may inspire more creative solutions. It's been reported that NBC is looking at a bunch of August launches to maximize the juice from all that promo time during the Summer Olympics. The presidential debates and election coverage will create additional preemptions on multiple nights in the early fall, and Fox is coming off a fall in which its New Girl-led Tuesday took a big hit across the baseball hiatus.
Ultimately, the best ways to get a solid uninterrupted run for a new show may be to launch super-early or launch super-late.
(One note: this may not be a big "upfront answer" as a lot of premiere dates aren't announced till well into the summer. We'll have to see how much info comes out.)
Question: How Many and What Kinds of New Shows?
If you've followed my A18-49+ posts, you may have spotted a couple big takeaways that are pertinent to this question:
|Year||New Scripted||New Dramas||New Sitcoms||New Sitcom%|
The share of new sitcoms has been growing even before this season, and this season was clearly an absolute breakout year for the genre. Does that mean this could be the year the number of sitcoms passes the number of dramas?
As for the number of new shows, there obviously has to be a saturation point at which there just isn't enough room to schedule all the stuff, but it helps that sitcoms take up half as much space. I'm predicting the number rises again.