Friday, December 21, 2012

2012 Upfront Revisited, The CW

The winter break is not quite at the calendar midpoint of the TV season, but it's as close to a "stopping point" as we're gonna get. So this week, as promised, I'm doing one rather lengthy post for each network looking back at how the moves made on the upfront schedules have worked out. Because I love sabotaging my own credibility, I will also revisit some of my thoughts on those moves at the time they happened. Then I'll have a larger-scale look at the ups/downs of the network's fall. Finally, I'll look ahead to the upcoming midseason schedule changes.

More Upfronts Revisited: ABC | CBS | NBC | Fox | CW

Revisiting the Upfront
How did the big and little moves of the upfront look at the time? How do they look now?

The Big Move: Supernatural Back to the Midweek to Pair with Arrow
I consider [Arrow] one of the highest-stakes premieres of the whole season. This is a relatively recognizable comic book name. It should be able to get sampled, and reviews seem decent enough. If not now, when, CW? Being the stupid, stupid optimist that I am, I'm gonna say closer to best than worst. 1.10 average and in a close race for top show on the network. (Best Case/Worst Case)

I think [Supernatural]'s Arrow lead-in will work and that plus viewing levels are going to create at least some upward movement. I'm saying it's up 15% to a 0.84. (Best Case/Worst Case)
I liked NBC's and the CW's schedules the most after the upfronts, and they were the two networks whose "big moves" worked in resounding fashion. Yay me. Anyway, Arrow is the most "unqualified" new hit of the broadcast season; no big lead-in to "blame" in this show's case. The better situation has helped Supernatural to almost exactly the extent I expected. And this is all very good news for the CW.

The Little Moves:

 Surrender Monday
They basically did what I wanted, which was go with some of the low-rated returning soaps here. I think you can question the wisdom in putting what looks like their most W18-34-friendly new show on what is also typically cable rival ABC Family's most powerful night, but the fact that they're waiting on this one means they'll have a chance to premiere it in a very strategic part of the calendar... in other words, between Voice cycles. (Upfront Answers)
Nobody expected much of the Zip and Gossip Girl, and nobody got much, although 90210 is rebounding a little bit lately, and Gossip Girl had a nice last couple weeks. This will come down to The Carrie Diaries. Unless it resonates, I'd expect the CW will consider reducing the soaps part of the schedule from two nights to one night (Hart of Dixie and 90210).

Hart of Dixie and Emily Owens M.D. to Tuesday
They go with their youngest returnee and a new show that seemed like a really logical pairing. With relatively little competition on the night in general, I could see this being a sleeper success evening, but it won't be the game-changer it perhaps could've been. (Upfront Answers)
Liked the scheduling idea, but hated both the promos and the pilot of Emily Owens, so I bailed on that one. Hart of Dixie has not done nearly as well as I would've hoped, but it may be the fourth-strongest show on the CW schedule, sad as that is.

Beauty and the Beast post-The Vampire Diaries
I dunno. Maybe this would be a clearer fail if I'd actually seen it. But people say Kristin Kreuk is not believable and it feels like they were saying that about Rachel Bilson this time a year ago. I'm sorry if this sounds patronizing, but I have a feeling "the Beast is too hot" is not gonna be that much of an issue. I'll say this, like TSC last year, hangs in there despite being creatively suspect and is another close call down the stretch. 0.72 average. (Best Case/Worst Case)
It's averaging a 0.68 right now, so it will ultimately end up below a 0.72, but it did get the back nine and looks like it will, in fact, be a close call down the stretch. This is one of those shows that doesn't pass the "eye test," what with its horrible retention of The Vampire Diaries. But as with Fox's new comedies this fall, the network simply doesn't have enough depth to be able to lower the axe on it right now. Does it look like a weaker show than last year's The Secret Circle in a vacuum? Yes. But the CW's bubble as a whole right now is way weaker. If the season ended today, the CW would likely have to renew this show. I'm sure they are happy that the season does not end today.

Anyway, out of everything on the sked this fall, I still think this was the right choice for the slot, or if nothing else the least wrong choice.

ANTM on Friday
This one's a bit of a cheat on my part since I actually got to see last week's premiere numbers. I don't rule out the show picking up to 0.5 on a couple occasions, but I think 0.4 is gonna be pretty much the norm in the show's probable last cycle. 0.41, down by over 50%. (Best Case/Worst Case)
The "cheat" that I got on this pick painted a very deceptive picture, as the premiere was the worst-looking data point of the whole season. It's pretty sad to say that this show was down 40% year-to-year in its move to Friday and still overachieved expectations. It actually ended up looking like a show that the CDub could justify keeping at least into the spring, but the network instead made the next cycle part of the summer schedule.

Big Picture
What are the best and worst possible spins on the network's performance this fall?

Glass Half-Full:

The CW can brag that the top of the network's totem pole is in its strongest state in awhile. Arrow has succeeded, The Vampire Diaries has had a surprisingly strong fall, and Supernatural is way on the upside in its move back to the middle of the week. There's some question about the long-term commitment of the CW's affiliates, and the best way to answer those questions is to find more shows that can consistently do better than local programming alternatives. For now, that pretty much means a 1.0+. Arrow is a good start, but they'd be well advised to keep up this developmental pace.

Glass Half-Empty:

Consider where the network's bubble shows were at exactly a year ago: The Secret Circle was pulling 0.8's and 0.9's after TVD, and the other two new shows (Ringer and Hart of Dixie) along with 90210 were almost always managing at least a 0.7.

A year later, it's a world of 0.5's and 0.6's for the shows we think of as marginal on the CW. That's a pretty huge percentage difference. Hart of Dixie's down over 20%, 90210 and Nikita are both down well over 30%, Gossip Girl's done, and the two newbies not named Arrow have not impressed. The highs may be higher, but every other rung on the totem pole is much weaker. This is going to make it a very tough road to try to field a ten-hour schedule. Fingers crossed for the new shows.

Looking Ahead
What moves will the network make at midseason, and how smart are those moves?

Carrie Diaries to Monday 8/7c

The evidence has continued to mount this fall that having a local programming lead-in is a good thing for most CW shows. We don't know that Arrow is doing better at 8/7c than it would if, say, it aired after Supernatural, but we do know that it's the biggest new shows success on the CW since The Vampire Diaries... also a show premiered in the 8/7c hour. We do know that local programming seems to have helped a floundering Nikita in a noticeable way in the last few weeks. But will those lead-ins help a completely different kind of show like The Carrie Diaries? I don't know, but it's worth a shot. I like it better than airing after 90210.

Cult to Tuesday after Hart of Dixie

Not a fan at all. I figured with Beauty and the Beast not doing that well on Thursday and Cult led by a The Vampire Diaries cast member, they'd at least want to try the show in that timeslot. I've noted that with Emily Owens cancelled, the network really has nothing to pair with Hart of Dixie, but this pairing with a psychological thriller seems an almost comically bad combination. A network with so little depth should not be throwing anything under the bus till they're sure it's worth throwing.

More Upfronts Revisited: ABC | CBS | NBC | Fox | CW 


Spot said...

It is possible that they're merely throwing Cult away. I've heard that not only is it terrible, it's the type of terrible that's unwatchable instead of hilarious. If that's the case, then it's just CW executing the show, and we shouldn't fault them that much.

Spot said...

CBS is going to test Golden Boy in a good timeslot for two weeks, before moving it to Friday. But if "Boy" somehow exceeds expectations, I can see Vegas moving to Friday instead.
I don't understand why CW is not learning from its big brother. Why not test Cult for a few weeks in a good timeslot (simply let B&B or Supernatural take a bit longer hiatus) ? Then in unlikely event it shines, let it stay there, and otherwise dump Cult to Tuesdays. Where, with low-rated and incompatible Dixie lead-in, it'll die quickly, no doubt. Just a little tweak, but it'd mean they at least tried to give it a chance.

Spot said...

I think they should've tried Cult on Friday perhaps, at 8/7c with the better local programming lead-in. Pairing it with the woefully rated Nikita might not be the best idea but they seem more compatible and it seems like the type of show that is suited to Friday nights. Could do a tad better than Arrow repeats but then it would leave the question of what goes with Hart of Dixie.

Spot said...

Had The CW ordered one more midseason show, then I think they would have been better prepared. Clearly they thought Emily Owens would at least be able to limp along for the whole season a la Ringer. Instead, it bombed and left The CW with nine shows to air but ten hours to program. From a fiduciary standpoint, they can probably charge advertisers more for a 30 second spot on Tuesdays than Fridays for Cult. From a scheduling standpoint, Cult definitely fits better on Fridays with Nikita. So money won out.

I'm surprised they didn't announce pulling a summer show (Breaking Pointe, Oh Sit!, or Top Model) into their midseason line-up. Top Model could have slid into Tuesdays, but I like The CW actually putting an effort in the summer.

Spot said...

My guess is The CW wants to avoid a new/repeat mix of shows on a given night. Bumping Beauty & the Beast or Supernatural would mean there's some weeks when their lead-in in a rerun.

Also a factor: limited promotional dollars. If Cult succeeded on Wednesday or Thursday, then the bumped show needs airtime & ads promoting its relocation. If Cult bombs, then The CW has to promote a failing show and give it a second chance.

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