Wednesday, May 7, 2014

2014 Upfront Questions, ABC


Part two of the upfront preview is the SCHEDULE-centric portion, examining the big-picture scheduling questions each network faces on each night in the final week before its upfront. I've always favored laying out the possibilities rather than creating an actual mock schedule; this seems to set up better to review the schedule next week without making it all about how my own prediction/recommendation did. But you can probably get some sense of which way I'm leaning.

Last week's Power Rankings were the SHOW-centric portion, in which I drilled more into the merits of individual shows: ABC True Power Rankings

Other Upfront Questions: NBC | Fox | ABC | CBS | CW




MONDAY

2013-14 Schedule
8:00 - Dancing with the Stars | The Bachelor | Dancing with the Stars
10:00 - Castle

Question: Has the Monday 10/9c hour once again become ripe for a newbie?

The more I think about ABC moving Castle, the more it makes sense. People always wanted ABC to send Castle elsewhere in its early seasons, and though it seemed possible, I was always a seller on the idea for three reasons. 1) DWTS and Castle made up one of those symbiotic, "good not great" pairings that networks love to leave together because the whole might be greater than the sum of the parts. 2) While DWTS was a great potential launch-pad back in the day, especially for a procedural, the network still had an alternative launch-pad with a similar audience: the Tuesday results show. And 3) Castle was still quite early in its run, and moving it might put a rare syndication gold mine opportunity for ABC Studios at risk.

Approaching the fall 2014 upfront, reason #1 is still there. And though the DWTS ship has been steadied, it's still not the huge lead-in opportunity that it once was. However, #2 is now gone and almost certainly not coming back. If ABC feels there's a potential old-skewing/procedural franchise in development, there's nowhere else on the schedule remotely as enticing as this slot. And #3 is not as much of a concern. With Castle entrenched in syndication and going into season seven, doing right by that show should not be as high on the priority list.

All of this is easy to say, but it still probably won't happen unless ABC has the right match with DWTS in development. If they do, go for it. I'd certainly prefer Monday 10/9c for something procedural-ish over a slot like Wednesday 10/9c, where it could get really ugly if ABC inevitably screws up the 9:30 half-hour again.



TUESDAY

2013-14 Schedule
8:00 - Agents of SHIELD
9:00 - The Goldbergs
9:30 - Trophy Wife
10:00 - Lucky 7 | Primetime: What Would You Do? | Killer Women | Mind Games | Celebrity Wife Swap (exhale!)

Question: Does ABC have more compatible pieces around Agents of SHIELD?

We said in this space last year that ABC needed to revamp Tuesday, making the most of what seemed like tremendous upside with SHIELD. Three new hours was indeed pretty aggressive, but after potential SHIELD companion Big Thunder fell through, it was not a particularly cohesive lineup. Yet they got 90 highly renewable minutes out of it, which is far from the worst they could have done. While Agents of SHIELD may not appear to have the A18-49 ratings of a scheduling centerpiece, it's given the network something of a foothold with that always elusive young male set. If there's another show in that vein, it'd probably make for a logical pairing.

Of course, Marvel's Agent Carter is the most obvious companion, but ABC seems to be eyeing that one for the original Once Upon a Time in Wonderland plan - that is, filler during the hiatus of the established show. If the ABC execs have as much of a crush on Hayley Atwell as I did after Captain America, they may be tempted to put it in the fall, but they seem genuinely remorseful over what happened with Wonderland. So probably not. Maybe alien invasion drama The Whispers?

Ideally, I'd put this two-hour block at 9/8c with comedies at 8, but if ABC doesn't have the comedies for a four-hour setup, they might opt to keep SHIELD put and go with yet another doomed newbie (or maybe Castle) at 10/9c. There might also just not be a SHIELD companion, leading to a night like what we got last fall.



WEDNESDAY

2013-14 Schedule
8:00 - The Middle
8:30 - Back in the Game | Suburgatory
9:00 - Modern Family
9:30 - Super Fun Night | Mixology
10:00 - Nashville

Question: Will Modern Family actually get a new family comedy lead-out in the fall?

Maddeningly, ABC has been hell-bent on not doing this over the years. I guess they think of Modern as much younger-skewing than a typical "traditional" family comedy, despite one like How to Live with Your Parents premiering rather nicely even though it was April and ABC didn't like the show that much. There's really no way to know whether this will be the year ABC wises up. Part of me thinks ABC might see something like the fairytale comedy Galavant as some huge swing for the fences that needs the most possible lead-in eyeballs. Not saying I'd do it (though I may watch the show). Just saying, once again: don't count out ABC continuing to out-think themselves here.

The 8:30 and 10:00 slots are also interesting. The Goldbergs seems like one of the few true toss-ups of upfront week; I could easily see it stay on Tuesday or go to Wednesday 8:30. As for 10:00: I'm really cooling on putting new dramas after comedy blocks, especially one like this in which the network continually screws up at 9:30. So I'd like to see Castle here, but it'll depend on whether there's a good newbie fit for Monday.



THURSDAY

2013-14 Schedule
8:00 - Once Upon a Time in Wonderland | The Taste | Once Upon a Time in Wonderland
9:00 - Grey's Anatomy | The Taste | Grey's Anatomy
10:00 - Scandal | The Assets | Scandal

Question: Does How To Get Away With Murder have enough potential to warrant messing with the power hours?

I said last week that I would talk about this a lot more, but in retrospect I really said my piece in the Power Rankings, and breaking down what form the "messing with" takes isn't that interesting until we know what it is. Grey's Anatomy is in a truly sweet spot here. The shows you really want to "mess with" are either young shows that have enough cultural heat to hold up (Grey's circa 2006, The Big Bang Theory circa 2010), or shows being put out to pasture. Grey's would certainly be in "put out to pasture" mode if it were a half point weaker, but instead it's still quite the strong franchise.

Keeping this pair together would be a borderline no-brainer other years, including last year. Said it best in last year's Upfront Questions: "So unless there is some really compelling reason, I'd leave this one alone for another year and see what happens." And yet, it might be a legitimately interesting debate this year because How To Get Away With Murder exists. Not only has it seemingly risen to the top of ABC's drama development heap, but it's got that all-important Shonda Rhimes name attached. And if not on Thursday, where would the show have anywhere near that chance of success? Shonda's already bombed on Wednesday at 10/9c with Off the Map a few years ago.

Because of that, I'm inclined to think a big Thursday shake-up is a very real possibility. If Seth MacFarlane had enough clout to get Animation Domination torn apart in favor of Cosmos, this could really happen too. But it's enough of an awkward situation for Grey's that the best prediction may be the power hours staying put. They've gotta be really in love with How To Get Away for it to happen.

Why has ABC been so weak at 8/7c over the years? A major part of it is ABC incompetence, to be sure. But one of the fringe benefits of Grey's Anatomy is its lack of lead-in dependence. ABC just doesn't have that much incentive to put really high-priority stuff in the hour, since Grey's will be OK regardless (and won't benefit a ton from a success). It's why I hated the possibility of SHIELD here last year and why I would hate something like Shark Tank this year. If the power hours stay put, they may well phone it in again rather than overdo it with three Shonda shows on one night.



FRIDAY

2013-14 Schedule
8:00 - Last Man Standing
8:30 - The Neighbors
9:00 - Shark Tank
10:00 - 20/20

Question: Is there a better way to make use of Shark Tank?

As stated last week: probably not on another night. Unless there's a two-hour chunk of real estate ABC can carve out for Tank to lead into a new reality series on a weeknight (Tuesday is probably the only remote possibility), there's no way it could possibly benefit a weeknight as much as its departure hurts Friday.

How about within the framework of this winning Friday lineup? Much like with the Thursday lineup, it would require some serious re-jiggering. The most obvious solution is to can the Friday comedy hour, put Tank at 8/7c and a new reality series at 9/8c. If they really don't want to hurt Shark Tank by moving it to a lower-viewed hour, they could keep the comedy hour but put it on hiatus in the spring, moving 20/20 to 8/7c and the newbie at 10/9c. (This seems drastic, but it would probably still be more justifiable than the last block for which they made that move: Women's Murder Club and Men in Trees in fall 2007.)

I don't really expect any of this to happen, at least not this year. Last Man Standing repeats well, so it doesn't fall that neatly into the "put on hiatus" model. And with at least three multi-camera comedies in development supposedly looking strong, it'd be pretty sad if they once again emerged without a companion for that show.



SUNDAY

2013-14 Schedule
7:00 - America's Funniest Home Videos
8:00 - Once Upon a Time
9:00 - Revenge | Resurrection
10:00 - Betrayal | Revenge

Question: Can ABC do any better than what they've already got?

Resurrection may not be a terribly long-term option for ABC, but it should get another chance in the fall, minimizing its time off the air. Revenge is not really pulling the kind of ratings you want on a fall schedule, but it's on the precipice of the seemingly magic 88 episodes, and this is not a good place to launch a new show. Therefore, I don't see a good reason why this night would be anything other than the four-hour lineup from the spring.

The only conceivable way to aim higher would be moving Grey's Anatomy or something. If a Grey's move does happen, Sunday might be better than incompatible, SHIELD-centric Tuesday, but... meh.

21 comments:

Spot said...

Do you think ABC should move Grey's Anatomy from Thursday? What about a Shonda Rhimes Thursday with Grey's Anatomy at 8, Scandal at 9, and How To Get Away With Murder at 10? Grey's Anatomy would be be able to hold its audience at 8, while Scandal could potentially grow more at 9 and be a good launching pad for How To Get Away With Murder.


Based on history, though, I would predict that ABC is going to leave Grey's Anatomy and Scandal where they are, and unfortunately launch another new drama in the 8pm death slot.


Thoughts?

Spot said...

Second try!
201-15 tv schedule

Sunday:
AFV
Dancing with the Stars
Ressurection

Monday:
Dancing results
New Drama
Castle

Tuesday:
Once Upon a Time
Agents of Shield
Agent Carter

Wednesday:
The Middle
Suburgatory
Modern Family
The Goldbergs
Revenge

Thursday:
Grey's Anatomy
Scandal
How to...

Friday:
Last Man Standing
New multicam
Shark Tank
20/20

Spot said...

I fear that ABC could move Scandal to Sundays instead of Grey's Anatomy. And while I get the logic (female-skewing soap against male-leaning football and cartoons) and that it'd post an improvement over Revenge's numbers, it'd overly damage the show. I don't mind Grey's moving to Sundays, but then ABC would most likely have Thursdays bookended with two new shows. I'd try to fix Thursdays at 8:00 for a few seasons.

Spot said...

If the judges on Dancing with the Stars are also doing Strictly Come Dancing in the UK on Saturdays/Sundays, then there's no logistical way they can make it back to the States by Sunday evening to do the ABC version in the Fall. So you'd have to put The Bachelor there instead or hire different judges, a very remote possibility since so many other changes have happened (new co-host, new "band," different showrunner starting next season). Either way, it feels unlikely because ABC likes the DWTS/Bachelor/DWTS/Bachelorette wheel that carries them year-round.

Spot said...

What happened last night? Was there some sport on or something?

Spot said...

If we're speaking about season 2014-15, then: There is absolutely no reason to move Grey's (or Scandal) to Sunday (or any other day). What would they gain on Sunday, they would lose on Thursday. At least, as there's risk of losing even more. The risk ABC don't need, and thus don't want to take. Plus there would be need to promote all those moves, that are unnecessary, at best. Schedule must be looked as a whole, not like: There's a weak night. Let's fix it by moving strong shows there, who cares if other night(s) are hurt in a process.

I'm all for all-Shonda Thursday. But I think it wouldn't be justified to move two hit dramas to accommodate new drama. Though, in my opinion, they should move one veteran to help chances of a newbie a bit. As Grey's is obviously more suitable for 8 PM airing than Scandal is: my vote goes to: Grey's Anatomy at 8, How To Get Away With Murder at 9, Scandal at 10.

Spot said...

While I see reasons behind some of your moves, this schedule is not viable.

1. No network would move 11 renewed shows into new time or day, with only 6 remaining in same timeslot (and only 3 Sun-Thu). Especially not moves afraid ABC.

2. I'm pretty much sure ABC will have more than 4 new shows as you're proposing, while I'm absolutely sure they'll have more than 1 new comedy in fall (2 to 4, and I think 3).

Plus, you made some illogical decisions.
1. I doubt they'll give Modern Family lead-in to very mediocre rated show. I think they'll try to produce comedy hit there again, doesn't matter they utterly failed in it so far.

2. I doubt they'll move Revenge to weekday. It's renewed for syndication reasons only, so why give it more favorable timeslot?

3. Similar OUAT. True, unlike Revenge, it's ratings are OK, but why move it to a weekday, when it probably has no more than 2 seasons in it?

4. Why move two Thursday hit dramas to accommodate new drama? Kinda overkill, if you ask me.

Plus one remark:
It's rumored Agent Carter will be used as a bridge between two half-seasons of S.H.I.E.L.D. Probably airing in January/February, and definitely not in fall schedule. Then again, they initially said same for OUAT in Wonderland, and later changed their mind.

Spot said...

As a fan of Community, I like this Growing Up Fisher 1.2 much. But, honestly, ratings wise, I'd cancel both.
However, Spot recently said, paraphrasing: "There's more than 50% NBC will renew one of two, but less 50% they'll renew both". I tend to believe him more than myself on such things, especially if I didn't analyze the matter at all, as the case is here.


Anyway, if it's truly one of two, then I think Community is in slight advantage...
because we know for fact Sony is ready to give some concessions for it to be on air. Otherwise why would it be renewed for Season 5 after averaging paltry 1.23 A18-49 during season 4? It was rumored it was as part of the deal landing The Blacklist on NBC, and not elsewhere. In any case, Sony gave something, while for comedy with 13 episodes like GuF I never heard studio was willing to give discount to a network.

Spot said...

When creating an ABC schedule, we can assume Dancing With The Stars isn't moving (if it was then it would have happened last year), The Middle and Modern Family are staying as Wednesday comedy anchors, AFHV and Once will remain where they are on Sunday and Shark Tank is probably saying on Friday. Everything else is up for grabs.

Monday:
8:00 - Dancing With The Stars
10:00 - Castle

What I'd really like to do is move DWTS to 9-11 and put comedies at 8. DWTS would strengthen the 10pm hour, it would move it partially away from The Voice, plus CBS's Monday comedy block looks vulnerable and no-one is in a position to attack it. ABC doesn't have the comedy pieces to do that, though, so might as well hold pat for another season.

Tuesday:
8:00 - SHIELD
9:00 - Scandal
10:00 - New Drama

SHIELD and Scandal are not compatible, but the benefit of moving Scandal into an anchor slot outweighs any compatibility issues.

Wednesday:
8:00 - The Middle
8:30 - Suburgatory
9:00 - Modern Family
9:30 - New Comedy
10:00 - New Drama

Suburgatory is a good retainer of The Middle. Get some stability in the comedy block.

Thursday:
8:00 - Revenge
9:00 - Grey's Anatomy
10:00 - New Drama

Let the death slot kill a shows that is already on death's door.

Friday:
8:00 - Last Man Standing
8:30 - The Neighbors
9:00 - Shark Tank
10:00 - 20/20

ABC is winning Friday, The Neighbors is their most viable in-house production and Last Man Standing isn't doing well enough to launch something new.

Sunday:
8:00 - Once Upon A Time
9:00 - New Comedy (Galavant)
9:30 - The Goldbergs
10:00 - Resurrection

Counterprogramme those pesky cable dramas with family comedies.

Yes, this means only 5 new fall shows. This allows ABC's new shows to be adequately promoted and have decent lead-ins.

Spot said...

Monday

8:00 - Dancing with the Stars
10:00 - Castle

Tuesday

8:00 - New Comedy
9:00 - New Comedy
9:30 - Agents of SHILED
10:00 - New Drama

Wednesday

8:00 - The Middle
8:30 - The Goldbergs
9:00 - Modern Family
9:30 - New Comedy (single camera family comedy)
10:00 - New Drama

Thursday

8:00 - Grey's Anatomy
9:00 - Scandal
10:00 - New drama (How To Get Away With Murder)

Friday

8:00 - Last Man Standing
8:30 - New Comedy (multi-camera family comedy)
9:00 - Shark Tank
10:00 - 20/20

Sunday

7:00 - America's Funniest Home Videos
8:00 - Once Upon a Time
9:00 - Resurrection
10:00- Revenge

Spot said...

Tough to truly answer the "should" question without knowing how good Murder is. But if it is as good as ABC seems to think, then they probably should do something.



Grey's / Scandal / Murder seems the most likely arrangement. My only thing about Thursday is that I'm always paranoid about three consecutive hours of the same thing. I think two is the limit for a lot of people, meaning one hour (Grey's or Murder) inevitably disappoints severely. We always see this with the 10:00 show on CBS' all-procedural Tuesday underperforming.



I don't hate Grey's to Sunday in theory, but as Silvio notes, it requires a ton of re-arranging. I think the optimal lineups would be...
Thursday: Revenge? / Scandal / Murder
Sunday: Once / Grey's / Resurrection
And that's four moves!

Spot said...

The Voice now seems to be either tying or hitting new series and season lows with regularity which must have NBC suits a little nervous going into the Fall. The uptick in Chicago Fire was just plain weird. I suspect overall Spring viewing levels might have been down a bit more than usual last evening.

Spot said...

Nice weather, at least here in the Midwest and I believe some key NBA games were being played, in addition to "Stanley Cup" champions, the Chicago Blackhawks in a hockey playoff game.

Spot said...

The Voice always scores the highest ratings during first phase (Blind Auditions), goes down a bit in next phase (Battle Rounds), and even lower during Live Performances, then upticks for Season Finale. That's nothing new, each cycle followed such trajectory with almost each weeks being season low.

Spot said...

I thought Fisher had at least something of a case as the stronger show, which has not been the case when Community eked out other renewals. But based on these last couple weeks, I'm more inclined in the Community direction as well...

Spot said...

I only now noticed Chicago Fire got 1.9 out of 1.2 lead-in. Wow, it's almost as strong as recent Shark Tank score of 2.3 on Friday. Not so big raw number, but opens similar question. Should NBC
A. Give it a proper lead-in to make it even stronger? Whether it would be direct The Voice lead-in again, or Voice into drama into CF. Then later build some other night around CF.
B. Move it from Tuesday already this fall? Perhaps to Wednesday 8 PM like "My Name Is" suggested, and because it's now obvious CF is able to stand on its own feet. To some extent, at least.

Spot said...

They picked up Marry Me yesterday, and confirmed Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (FKA Tooken) pickup.
Then it could be The Kimmy Project / Parks in niche block, with Marry Me / About a Boy in more broad block.

Doesn't have to be, as they'll pick some more, if for nothing then for backups. Given their track record, they need something like 8 backup comedies for 4 timeslots. But, seriously, I'd say 3. Then perhaps:
10% - three more pickups
30% - Growing up Fisher + 2 newbies
60% - Community + 2 newbies.

Spot said...

Mindy is going to last more seasons than I thought, solid player on W18-34 and beat both New Girl and Glee.


New Girl's and 2 Broke Girls slumps have been hard, from 4.8 to 1.1 and from 7.1 to 2.0.


Well, Fisher will be canceled, my opinion is similar to Silvio's, ratings-wise, Community would be axed, but now it is ahed of Fisher on the race for renewal, unless NBC pulls another bloodbath, they'll bring it + AAB to join Parks and Rec.


Voice drops are expected, but they have been worrisome this season, I wonder if NBC will run it out airing two cylcles per year, but better airing a weaker voice averaging 3s than failed scripted content, which would shut down the network for every day not named sunday on fall.


Chicago Fire is a self starter, answering Silvio, I would keep it where it is and put PD at 9 PM, PD is the weakest among the strong, than, move it back to wednesdays with 3 full seasons, so the show could hit 100+ episodes.

Spot said...

Dads cancelled after all, Deadline reports. As good as it is source of the news, once again they showed utter ignorance when it comes to interpreting ratings, with nonsense like, I quote: "Dads performed as well or even better than the renewed Fox comedies — New Girl, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Mindy Project". Not literate enough to understand very simple numbers? Rewriting history to please... someone? Seth? I think neither, just plain stupid. They better restrain themselves to just reporting.

I'd expect both New Girl and Mindy both to return at 1.4 to 1.5 in A18-49 and around 2.0 W18-34 next fall. I mean for premiere (or 2nd episode if Fox does gimmick with premiere week before regular season again), then to drop somewhat. And I think it's anybody's guess which one fades faster. This season trend says New Girl would lose more viewers, but I'm not so sure. After losing so many viewers this year, maybe few remaining New Girl viewers are going to stick with it, just to see how it plays out. For example, when shows like Chuck, or Fringe dropped all the way down to The CW levels, they remained flat for relatively long time.

Spot said...

And NBC finally renewed Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

Smart decision. But that's bad news for renewal of Parenthood / Hannibal, and pickups of Clementine / The Mysteries of Laura. I think only 1 or 2 of those 4 are needed, more than it only if some is picked for summer. Math is: they already picked 3 new dramas yesterday, and there will be max 3 fall drama premieres. And NBC already before stockpiled 4 or 5 those mini/limited/whatever-series for midseason. I consider Dracula, and Revoultion pretty much dead from before, but who knows.

Spot said...

That 7.1 for 2 Broke Girls is basically like a post superbowl airing with a 10.7 lead in. Still, from a 4.4 to a 2.0 is bad!

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