Wednesday, February 12, 2014

NBC True Power Rankings, February 2014

As the Olympics hiatus hits, it's time for this season's second full edition of the True Power Rankings! I line up every entertainment program in broadcast primetime by network/category using my timeslot metric True, offering some thoughts on the ratings strength of the shows. As on the Weekly True Power Rankings, these True and A18-49 numbers are averages of the last third of the season's episodes to date rounded up, which weeds out inflated early episodes that don't really matter anymore. This year, I'm also including the year-to-year trend for the season to date and the "skew" (or percent of the total audience within the 18-49 demo). The number of episodes in the average is listed under "Counted Eps." These numbers are all through February 9.

Other February True Power Rankings: ABC | CBS | NBC | Fox | CW

NBC ComediesTrueA18-49Skewy2yCounted Eps
The "Niche"
1Parks and Recreation1.491.3050%-26%4

Robert Greenblatt basically guaranteed the renewal of Parks and Recreation at TCA. Doesn't seem that unreasonable. The more important question now, and it may be vital for Community, is in what capacity does Parks get renewed?

First, I will say is that I think the formula undercounts Community a bit. I can't really figure out why, but it seems like the viewing estimates in the Thursday 8/7c slot have been a little higher than they "should" be (often even higher than at 8:30). But even if it should be at more like a 1.3 True rather than a 1.2, either way it's pretty close to the same show as last year, stronger than all of NBC's new comedies and weaker than what we think of as the "bubble" dramas. Where it falls within that wide gap may not matter that much.

As always, Community's renewal will come down to scheduling and money concerns, not a precise ratings dissection. With so many NBC comedy failures, it's not unreasonable to think that it'll survive as the midseason emergency option yet again. But what it may really come down to is whether Parks ends up in that role instead. Airing Parks in the fall was pretty disastrous this year, as it provided no help whatsoever to the three highly incompatible newbies that followed. But it's not out of the question that it could happen again, since some of the network's comedy development seems to be shading slightly back in the direction of the Parks/Office/30 Rock generation. Parks paired with a Bill Cosby family comedy would be a waste, but Parks into an Ellie Kemper show produced by Tina Fey isn't that unreasonable.

The bottom line is that I don't think they'll bring back both for midseason replacement duty, unless they make the somewhat unconventional move of just treating the two shows as a single unit completely separate from all the other comedies. (It's rare, but not unprecedented; see ABC's Scrubs/Better Off Ted duo.) Generally, the point of midseason comedies is that they can mix in with whatever starts the fall. So I think the two most likely options are: 1) Parks is on in the fall and Community is the returnee backup, or 2) Parks is the returnee backup and Community is cancelled. Much more about development (and the new comedies to follow The Voice this spring) must be known before going deeper than that.

NBC ComediesTrueA18-49Skewy2yCounted Eps
The "Broad"
3Sean Saves the World1.040.8639%5
4The Michael J. Fox Show0.990.8040%5
5Welcome to the Family0.990.9045%1

Not really "analysis" here, but seeing how tight as these shows ended up being, it makes me wish WTTF had stuck around a little longer (and, more importantly, had a better pairing than Parks). I kind of liked what aired, and it may well have ultimately been a better show than the other two.

NBC DramasTrueA18-49Skewy2yCounted Eps
The Elite
1The Blacklist2.772.7035%5
2Law and Order: SVU1.961.8234%+5%5
3Chicago Fire1.922.0235%+18%5

So how strong is The Blacklist? It's pretty strong. It didn't hit the True numbers of the late fall (it was more in line with the early- to mid-fall ones), though I have a feeling that may have been less about Voice "dependency" and more about the Monday Night Football competition adjustment from the fall being a bit overdone. (This adjustment is mostly there not because MNF is hugely formidable to broadcast shows but because it inflates the overall viewing; but the viewing didn't really come down in January when it was gone.)

Point is, in spite of a media often incapable of analyzing situations like what B-List had in January (the story was it "hit a series low!"), NBC should not be too hesitant about moving this show elsewhere for season two. I wouldn't really hesitate in moving it to Thursday, even with a more formidable Thursday Night Football in the mix. Football is just not as big a deal competitively as its ratings indicate.

As for the other three: I'm perfectly fine if they all stay put next fall. The "Grimm on another night" ship has beyond sailed, The Voice and ChiFi seem like a perfect duo to continue to hammock something new/new-ish at 9/8c, and amazingly, the even to slightly up SVU has somehow become a highly capable Wednesday centerpiece, even for this slightly stronger NBC. Ideally, you'd want your network's biggest shows to be stronger than SVU is, but NBC is still not in an "ideal" mode at this point. There's one other show that has much chance of doing better than SVU in this tough hour. If the pairing of The Blacklist and something new has to be on Wednesday because NBC fears football, so be it, but otherwise... SVU's looking fine.

NBC DramasTrueA18-49Skewy2yCounted Eps
The Middle
5Chicago PD1.681.7032%2

Pretty wide range of shows here. I'm not as quick to anoint Chicago PD as some, because much of its "hold" in weeks three and four came against diminished competition. The fifth episode (a 1.7 against a strong original CSI) was the first performance of a caliber that would really make me a believer. But since it's only one week, I'm not penciling it onto the fall sked just yet. The indicators are positive.

On the other end of the spectrum, I'll keep the door slightly open for cheap co-production Dracula just until some Hannibal results are in. My uneducated take on Friday is that NBC wants to continue cycling two cheap short-order shows through that post-Grimm slot in a season, ideally a mix of one new and one returning. A ratings tie would go to Hannibal over Drac because of its hugely positive buzz. But if it comes in a lot weaker than Dracula, all bets are off. Dracula may have a shot in that case, or the show may have gotten weak enough that they just revert to all newbies.

In the middle are Parenthood and Revolution. Hasn't it kind of felt all season like it would ultimately come down to just one of these two for the last slot? ChiPD's apparent success means that could be where we are if the season ended today, and there's also the possibility that Believe and/or Crisis could topple both of 'em. Both shows actually stack up pretty well across the last several years in their respective timeslots, mostly because NBC has been a huge mess in those two hours. But for a network getting a bit stronger in general, these levels are just not high enough to make them locks.

Maybe neither or both survive. But if There Can Only Be One, I'm throwing my lot in with Parenthood. First, the formula actually says it's a stronger show than Revolution by about a tick and a half, which goes against the raw numbers (where Revolution has the tick and a half advantage). This might be a bit exaggerated, but I'm guessing not enough to make up the difference. Thursday 10/9c has less overall viewing, (at least in the fall/spring) much more drama competition, and Michael J. Fox as a lead-in probably fell well below what Revolution gets from local programming. Having been around for so long, there's probably less downside with Parenthood projecting forward to whatever low-priority timeslot the "winner" gets. It has more positive acclaim/buzz. And NBC owns it.

That being said, I will make this note for Revolution: like with Nashville, I wouldn't get caught up in the "renewal means you're priced into investing in 44 episodes" dogma. Its back-end future will mostly lie in newer-school arenas, not in airing five nights a week on broadcast. It wouldn't surprise me to see it (or Parenthood) get a shorter order.

NBC DramasTrueA18-49Skewy2yCounted Eps
The Dunzo

NBC UnscriptedTrueA18-49Skewy2yCounted Eps
1The Voice Mon Fall3.433.4540%-9%4
2The Voice Tue Fall3.003.2238%-12%5
3The Biggest Loser1.781.8438%-16%5
4Dateline Fri1.591.3425%-2%5
5The Sing-Off1.471.4036%3
6Hollywood Game Night1.341.4037%+6%2
7Dateline Wed1.181.1030%1

Really hoping that The Biggest Loser returns to its 2012-13 role, primarily airing between The Voice cycles. The network has enough respectable scripted options now that there's no need for it to steal an hour from the fall schedule, and the Olympics hiatus won't exist in 2014-15. NBC may not want to wait until late March on a Voice return again; so they may have to share schedule space for at least a little bit.


Spot said...

The Tuesday midseason sitcoms (About a Boy, Growing Up Fisher) essentially have a leg up as Voice lead-outs this season as opposed to Go On and The New Normal since there's no dead period for any fraudulent ratings to be exposed. If either or both of them have decent ratings on the surface I think they come back since NBC is not going to want to admit comedy defeats for two straight seasons. An out-and-out bomb like Ready for Love, though, would mean there'd be no choice.

With NBC's impressive drama stable, maybe the network gives up on the 4 sitcom Thursday block and uses one of the existing dramas to help patch the night. NBC's already been raked over the entertainment press coals for disbanding Must See TV during the heady days of The Apprentice so it's not a sacrosanct programming strategy anymore. Assuming they get a second season, About a Boy/Growing Up Fisher/Parenthood/The Blacklist wouldn't be the worst lineup (though using The Blacklist to launch something at 10:00 is also a decent idea). To have three hours of comedies, cancel Revolution and put two on Wednesdays.

My gut tells me TBL goes back into midseason mode; NBC probably brought it back to the Fall schedule because they wanted to strike while the ratings iron was hot.

Spot said...

This season's TBL finale drew such a reaction that I really think it needs some time off the air to decontaminate the brand a little. Is seven months enough? Is eleven? Are there format tweaks? I wouldn't completely rule out a cancellation, although that's more hope than expectation.

Abandoning Thursday sitcoms is certainly *possible*. I wonder if they'd have used TNF to launch a serial in November to run with few repeats until May (something I've half-advocated for CBS, but NBC would've been a far better fit for the same strategy). As it stands... I think they give the once-unimaginable #sixseasonsandamovie to Community, with season 6 possibly being a handful of episodes and a two-hour series finale (dubbed "the movie") on a quiet Thursday somewhere, and Parks goes on to the fall schedule. Beyond that, we need to see what the post-Voice comedies do. Maybe we get a Community/Parks/About A Boy/newbie block, that transitions in midseason to Parks/newbie/About A Boy/newbie.

Spot said...

I'm of the mind that NBC should not air any completely unknown AND unproven show on Thursdays for 2014-2015. I think the network should use existing pieces on the night and give new shows slots that have a strong lead-in (i.e. post-Voice Monday or Tuesday) or where there is no overwhelming broadcast show (Wednesdays at 8:00). We've seen that Parks would be of little use to launching a new show, so why potentially hamper something promising with a low 1's lead-in?

I certainly see the point of using Community to take the hit against TBBT, but keep it in the back pocket to use in January if the fall option fails.

Spot said...

Revolution is probably dead. Chicago PD is clearly outrating it, plus everything's pointing to Parenthood being renewed. Likely for 13 episodes final season, and perhaps not for fall schedule. I mean, wouldn't NBC like if this fall they had reliable bench player ready to replace Ironside when it flopped? If nothing bombs next fall? NBC actually would be over the moon, and Parenthood would air in the midseason. If nowhere else, there's always room on post-NFL Sundays.

Other possibility is NBC puts Parenthood against Thursday Night Football in September, and then in November it to take a lengthy hiatus. I mean, I'm sure NBC won't put their most valuable properties against TNF. Quite contrary, I'd expect them to put there shows on the very last legs - like Parenthood or Parks&Recreation, Community if it is renewed. Maybe that Maya Rudolph variety show, probably it would get similar ratings wherever they put it, and surely that show is cheap. Maybe even The Biggest Loser or SVU, though I believe TBL goes to midseason (to make room for a comedy block) and that SVU stays at Wed 9 PM (to be reliable lead-in for The Blacklist).
Anyway, idea would be for them to start the season against TNF with Thursdays mainly/completely consisiting some not important / low expectations stuff, then in November and/or midseason replace it with something of a higher profile/hopes.

Spot said...

Yes, True nicely recognized change of competition.for Chicago PD.
A18-49: 2.00 -> 1.46 -> 1.62 -> 1.66.
True 2.10 -> 1.65 -> 1.54 -> 1.54.
That 1.46 was actually solid result against Duck Dynasty doubled up winter premiere (2 half-hours: 3.28 and 3.41), plus CSI and Nashville returning to originals at the very same day. The competition was less stiff for episodes 3 and 4, so up trajectory is

But what's interesting for me is NBC ordering 2 more episodes. I think it has profound consequences. First and obvious, that's de facto renewal. Second, it implicates NBC is going to try and drag CPD into syndication number of episodes in 4 seasons (like, 15 +
3*24 = 87). Third, it makes CPD a fixture for fall schedule. Before additional order there was possibility it would premiere in midseason again, and being on (rather optimistic) 13+13+22+22+18 syndication plan.

And most important is it makes their fall schedule much less unpredictable, at least to me. I think it's going to be something like:
Mon: Voice 2-hours / new drama
Tue: Voice / Chicago Fire / Chicago PD
Wed: new comedy (Cosby?) + new comedy (or About a Boy) / L&O: SVU / Blacklist

Obviously, Monday 10 PM is a new drama, they need their sole great lead-in for launching new shows. That means The Blacklist moves to Wednesday. Not to Tuesday, because recent 3-episodes test showed Blacklist is quite resilient to Voicelessness - if they're any smart, they'll use Tuesday's Voice edition to help something else. And not to Thursday because of NFL on CBS. For same reason, other 2 shows they trying to get to
syndication (hint: both have Chicago in title) won't go to Thursday.

Next, Chicago Fire stays on Tuesday. No way they're gonna deny The Voice help to a show entering into critical 3rd season. It's only question if it's 9 PM or 10 PM. The reason I think it's 9 PM: Chicago PD, and especially The Blacklist are 10 PM shows - no way either could air at 8 PM, and each would need toning down a bit to air at 9 PM. But why would NBC ask producers to do so, when my above schedule allows both shows to air at
10 PM?

Wednesday 8PM and 9 PM I admit I'm not completely sold I got it right. But I do believe they finally realized it's not worth sticking with 2 repeatedly failing comedy blocks on Thursday just for the sake of tradition. In fact, TNF on CBS makes the way out easier to them. On the other hand, I can't imagine them cutting back to only 1 comedy block - that would be humiliating admitting of an utter defeat. That, plus my Monday and Tuesday schedule occupied by The Voice and shows needing its help = one of comedy blocks would be relocated to Wednesday. If so, then I think it's 8 PM, mainly for the fact it's easier to go against The Middle than against Modern Family.

Wednesday 9 PM could be a new drama, but I doubt NBC would even consider all new Wednesday leading into Blacklist. Maybe The Biggest Loser, but it would be kinda
unnatural timeslot for it, so I think they will rather push TBL to the midseason. SVU looks like the best choice anyway. It has some built-in audience, so it shouldn't badly suffer if 8 PM comedies would flop. I mean, SVU is on Wednesday for few seasons now, and it survived quite a variety of lousy lead-ins. See Spot's "Schedules Plus, NBC Wednesday"
for the proof.

Spot said...

I'm not entirely sold on The Blacklist (and ChiPD for that matter) remaining at 10PM due to content concerns. I mean, Criminal Minds airs at Wed 9PM. If CBS can do it, why can't NBC?

I think that NBC sees The Blacklist's resilience to Voicelessness as proof that it can help fix Thursdays. Thurs @ 9 may have football and Scandal (most probable assumption, unless ABC shows its cluelessness again), but I think that the Wed @ 9 shows (Criminal Minds & Modern Family) have more overlap with it. I mean, The Blacklist already survived airing against Monday Night Football, why can't it do so VS a Thursday edition (I'm not too sure though how big it'll be on CBS given that the NFL Network also has those 8 games). Criminal Minds is like a stronger version of Castle, while Modern Family is more of a big tent kind of show than Scandal.

Spot said...

I don't understand what Criminal Minds and Modern Family has to do with anything. That's Wednesday 9 PM, and for Wed 9 PM I said they should leave SVU there. It didn't exactly died against those. TB Wed 10 PM.

As for "If CBS can do it, why can't NBC"? Why would they? Why would they put unnecessary effort in fixing something that ain't broken. But that's NBC ... so who knows.

Against combined 6.0 to 7.0 ratings that TNF and Scandal will produce, I presume, I'd put something of a "Rock Center with Brian Williams" profile. Certainly wouldn't put my strongest drama there to suffer unnecessary ratings decline.

Spot said...

Silvio, what do you think they will do regarding Thursdays and midseason Sundays? Great input!

Spot said...

I have no idea. But I would like they'd put low expectations stuff and dying shows (Parenthood, P&R, Community) there. I mean, both Thursday fall and Sunday midseason. Then in midseason (or already in November when TNF goes away) try something more ambitious on Thursday.

Because I think their priorities should be in this order:
1. Nurse dramas having a shot on syndication. That would be 2 Chicago shows and The Blacklist. Well, TB surely will last for 4 seasons, but why not aim for more than it? Then let them start preparing ground for it already next fall.
2. Build some comedy block. Doesn't have to be 2 hits, but something respectable. Anywhere, but please not try at Thursday again, NBC.
3. Fix Thursday. At least partially.

I think they should address first 2 items on my list in the fall, and the 3rd in the midseason. With the rest of the problems they can (and should) deal with in 2015-16. In 2014-15 they can half-assed try and solve those by throwing shows against a wall and see if something sticks.

Because it's OK to be ambitious, but there is only so much battles one can fight simultaneously. It would be miracle if the network would be able to solve all 3 items from my list in one season. Now, try to fix midseason Sundays or whatever else at the same time ... that would be insanely ambitious.

Spot said...

Especially as TBBT doesn't go in that slot until November anyway. (If at all? Do CBS move it back to Monday?)

Spot said...

I'd renew all three of Parks (22 episodes), Community (13) and Parenthood (13) but hold them for mid-season, penciling them in for Sunday but using them as spackle as and when required.

It would give them a lot of scheduling flexibility and it's hard to imagine a situation where NBC does so well that scheduling them becomes a real problem. Even if NBC has a spectacular season where everything works, which is a problem NBC would love to have, then they can air Parenthood on Sunday, double-pump episodes of Community between Voice cycles (before airing the remaining episodes on Sunday), and double-pump Parks on Sunday. That's far from a bad schedule.

It finally looks like NBC has enough depth to fill their schedule without having huge schedule holes, which has required them to premiere a ton of new shows each season and throw cheap low-rate filler all over their schedule. It's basically taken them four years to fill the giant crater left by The Jay Leno Show debacle. I just hope that NBC execs appreciate that fact before swinging the cancellation axe at a bunch of stable, if poorly-rated, veterans.

Spot said...

He's saying that Blacklist is no more violent or sexual than Criminal Minds, which has always aired at 9 PM with no trouble.

Spot said...

Oh that's a *sneaky* way to use post-football Sundays. I like it!

Spot said...

It's funny. I remember hearing media outlets saying that because Leno was taking up a full hour in primetime every night, NBC wouldn't have to rely on reality shows like Howie Do It and Superstars of Dance or marginal shows like Southland and Medium. That meant that what was left from 8-10 would be either more popular or of better quality. Guess that didn't pan out.

Spot said...

I don't want to speculate on NBC's 2014-2015 schedule.

I plan to laugh at whatever NBC decides in May. Like I do every year.

Spot said...

Well, when you have to triage whole days like Wednesday, Thursday and spring Sundays, there's only so much you can do. The CW built themselves back one night at a time. Thursdays with Vampire Diaries. Wednesdays with Arrow. Tuesdays with The Originals. Supernatural's audience following it everywhere is impossible to reproduce. What helps is that they don't have to program 10 PM.

Spot said...

I am not convinced that NBC is as strong as you make them out to be, Spot. Blacklist is big now, not denying that. Still not quite sold on the Chicago family. ChiFi seems to have a ceiling in the low-2s and The Voice's lead-in didn't seem to help it too much outside of the first couple episodes. We still have to see how well it holds up when behind two rookie single-cams that are going against FOX's single-cams.

Spot said...

Yes, the most hilarious part is that NBC continues to fail to triage those days by repeating its mistakes. Also: Ironside.
Spot, more episodes of Welcome to the Family are on Hulu.

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