Friday, May 9, 2014

2014 Upfront Questions, The CW

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: CW True Power Rankings

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


2013-14 Schedule
8:00 - Hart of Dixie | Star-Crossed
9:00 - Beauty and the Beast | The Tomorrow People

Question: Does The Flash (or another newbie) have Originals/Arrow-style lead-off potential?

The CW should have enough pieces on the board this year to be able to make a real effort on Monday night, which is (as for Fox) some fertile ground due to the big networks being in comedy/reality. But I still think there's a chance the network could go ultra-conservative again on Monday, because Flash is not necessarily the slam dunk that The Originals was. If they believe Flash needs to go after its most compatible show, Arrow, they could mail it in with some combination of lower-tier sophomores (Reign/The 100) and/or lower-tier newbies, making absolutely sure that Tuesday and Wednesday are shored up. I'm not rooting for this to happen, but just throwing it out there.

Another note: "lead-off potential" doesn't necessarily mean actually leading off on Monday. The Big Bang Theory and Gotham might make for an even tougher pair to premiere against in October than what Originals had to deal with (Agents of SHIELD and NCIS). So the Monday newbie could go at 9/8c after Supernatural even if the network internally considers it on an Arrow/Originals level. If Bones or something returns to Monday, though, 8/7c is preferable. Worked well for those shows.


2013-14 Schedule
8:00 - The Originals
9:00 - Supernatural

Question: Across how many nights does the CW stretch its "Big Four"?

This was the CW's biggest scheduling question last year, and it seemed genuinely questionable, largely because The Originals hadn't even aired an episode yet. It's funny that Supernatural moving to a new night is considered so much more probable coming into this upfront, even though it's spreading the network even thinner than the 2013 move did. Guess it helps that it worked so well this year.

But to revisit my devil's advocate scenario: though the Monday schedule will largely be about how much the network loves The Flash, there are a couple other things beyond The Flash that might complicate this. The first, just a hypothetical when I first wrote this, is the surprisingly down reception to the Supernatural spin-off. It's now confirmed as the NCIS: Red of the 2014 upfront, and its demise is a surprise on that level. Another thing is The Originals' late-season struggles. I really hoped the 0.6 rating from a few weeks ago was a fluke, but it got back in that territory this week. This has been a really low-HUT week, so I'm not sure there's much stock being put in it, but it's still not good.

So can The Originals lead into a new drama next season? At the beginning of 2014, I'd have said, "Yes, absolutely." Now? Might be more like, "Yes, but preferably something pre-branded like the Supernatural spin-off." Now that the spin-off has fallen through completely? Hmm.


2013-14 Schedule
8:00 - Arrow
9:00 - The Tomorrow People | The 100

Question: Will The 100 stay put?

It's very early in this show's run, but The 100 at least looks like a potential long-term player, though not necessarily much more than that. It's possible to do better in the post-Arrow slot, but it's also highly possible to do worse. This decision is probably more of a referendum on the third new drama than anything, but it can also be seen as another test of the importance of running up episode counts for syndication in CW land. Will this known decent quantity get 13 in the fall with an option for 9-11 more, or will they keep it in "limited" mode (possibly helping it creatively)?


2013-14 Schedule
8:00 - The Vampire Diaries
9:00 - Reign

Question: Will Reign stay put?

If the terrible development scenario comes to pass, it might go to Monday. If they like development but are really worried about The Originals, I guess maybe it ends up on Tuesday, opening up the post-TVD slot again. But it's not like TVD has been doing well at this time of year either. So stability is better than "wasting" the slightly better lead-in on Reign, and it should stay put.


2013-14 Schedule
8:00 - The Carrie Diaries | Whose Line Is It Anyway?
9:00 - America's Next Top Model | Nikita | Hart of Dixie

Question: How much Friday filler does the CW need out of the low-priority crowd?

Well, this was a lot more interesting before the CDub made all its renewal decisions yesterday! I was wrong here, but I'm gonna post what I had written 24 hours ago anyway and add to it.
Presumably the network will want to power through Friday in about the same way as this season: with approximately a full season of unscripted/repeats in one hour and approximately a full season of scripted originals in the other. In 2013-14, the network aired 28 scripted original hours: 13 The Carrie Diaries + 6 Nikita + 9 Hart of Dixie.

Does that mean the network could order more than a full season out of the five bottom shows still not renewed or cancelled? Seems doubtful. They will surely factor in the probability that something (a newbie, or maybe even Reign or The 100) will get the same de-prioritization treatment Hart did this season (as well as The Tomorrow People in its move to Monday). Since they may have no obvious surrender night from Monday-Thursday, that scenario is all the more likely for Friday.

Hart of Dixie does not have a strong first-run ratings case, but it seems to be the leader based on its high episode count and eligibility for the CW's beloved "announced final season." I would expect this to be the only scripted series initially designated for Friday. But if its episode count is smaller than expected (low teens down to zero), that may open the door to other possibilities. It would be an interesting test of the network's preference among best A18-49 ratings (The Tomorrow People), best young female demos (The Carrie Diaries) and a pure studio/episode count-based reach (Beauty and the Beast), so I'd like to see what would happen.
The pure studio/episode count-based reach did happen, which definitely provides some real insight into how this relationship between the studios works. But how will two low-priority renewals play out from a scheduling perspective? There are actually several possibilities:
  • They're both really short orders like last season, thus fitting neatly into how I envisioned it;
  • They're planning on airing a lot more than the 28 Friday scripted hours from this season;
  • Some of these episodes are (like the remainder of BatB season two) specifically earmarked for summer as part of a year-round push;
  • The network really doesn't want to waste money on a lot of additional episodes of young shows only to de-prioritize them, as happened with The Tomorrow People, so they'll be more tightly focused on what airs on Friday this season.
We should learn more about this in the coming week.


Spot said...

Even with The CW's Spring woes, it's still a stronger network compared to last season since this year wasn't a minefield of megabombs. Maybe that's why I feel stumped about how to schedule the network in my head this year.

8:00 - The Flash
9:00 - Supernatural
For a show that was initially in "phase-out" mode on Fridays, Supernatural has emerged as the strongest player for the network; it's a hit(CW) utility player that has improved time slots for two seasons running. I still think that's worrisome as it's a show that's old than its current network, but them's the breaks. If The CW truly plays offense next season with Mondays, it's the best existing show to do it with. And since The Flash is the network's highest-profile new show, it's a perfect opportunity to recreate the Arrow/Supernatural pairing that worked so well in 2012-2013. The biggest swing would be Flash/iZombie and keeping Tuesdays as is, though.

8:00 - The Originals
9:00 - iZombie
While The CW was probably hoping The Originals would be a tick higher, the spin-off still came up Aces for them. With Tuesday's higher HUT levels and the hope of a sophomore bounce, I'd program something new here like iZombie. I recognize, though, that there's an outside possibility of moving Reign here. Even moreso than The Vampire Diaries, The Originals trades on history and family drama which is also embedded in Reign's DNA. If TVD has another stellar season ratings-wise it'd feel more likely to move. But that's not the case.

8:00 - Arrow
9:00 - The Messengers
While The Messengers sounds like a Tomorrow People/Resurrection hybrid based on its log line, I think The CW likes the idea of something superhero-ish on Wednesdays.

8:00 - The Vampire Diaries
9:00 - Reign
Keep as is. TVD isn't as potent as it was previously, and Thursday's lower HUT means there's less upside to try using its relative strength to launch something. Plus having a night of stability would help The CW market its Monday-Wednesday nights.

8:00 - America's Next Top Model
9:00 - Hart of Dixie
Admittedly this now feels more shaky since HoD has pulled a couple 0.2's. But they came at a time when everything on schedule was hitting lows. Whether it's a full-season order or something abbreviated to fit everything that was ordered/renewed is a question that'll be answered next week.

Midseason: The 100, Beauty & the Beast, Jane the Virgin, Whose Line is it Anyway
I'd argue that now that The CW has renewed Beauty and the Beast there's almost no upfront surprise that they could pull off (unless it includes putting Beauty and the Beast back on the schedule for Fall). If there was a low-priority brand that The CW was going to renew, I would have picked The Carrie Diaries. Perhaps recreating the 80s is more expensive than makeup and special effects for BatB. Regardless, I'd earmark this for either Fridays or summer 2014-2015 for the year-round programming effort. I don't understand picking up Jane the Virgin unless it's a hint about Reign's future as those shows seem like the most natural pairing. And keep The 100 on standby again; having an existing show that performs well in the reserve is an asset.

Spot said...

So you want to lauch the Flash, Sheldon's favorite hero on the Big Bang Theory, against it next falll?

Spot said...

They can air Flash on Wednesday in October, and move it to Monday only in November. Yes, Wednesday newbie would be pushed for 4 weeks (CW premieres are in early October), but they did similar with The Originals this season. TO was at Thursday initially, and consequently Reign premiered 2 weeks later than the rest of their lineup.
But that was 2 weeks only, and this probably would mean 4 weeks of delay for Wednesday newbie, so for that reason I'm not sure. On the other hand, with late premiere it would enjoy focused CW promotional effort.

Spot said...

CW 2014-15 schedule

The Originals

The Flash

The Vampire Diaries
The Messenger

America's Next Top Model
Hart of Dixie

Launching a comic related show against TBBT is risky, but I really want Flash and Arrow together and iZombie doesn't fit with the Vampires, Royalty, or Fashion. Since I think Gotham will be at 9, iZombie should stay at 8 with Supernatural providing a good lead out
The Originals is a spin off the Vampire Diaries, so it should work well with Reign too
I think The Flash can premiere huge. Flash is a founding member of the Justice League! Not Batman or Superman level, but still top tear. The premiere is the only thing I can see breaking a 2.0. It should be able to self start and give Arrow a boost after a Sophomore Slump

I think it would be a crime to keep Reign after TVD when Reign seems stable alone. The Messenger seems like something that could work with it and not be decovoured by Grey's

Top Model isn't much of a lead in, so Hart of Dixie going all syndication factory here isn't a bad idea

Keep the 100 in the wings. I feel like it could easily replace iZombie if needed, or the Flash (which I doubt). Jane the Virgin midseason too. Everything about it sounds DOA, but they may need to replace the Messenger. Beauty and the Beast to replace Top Model midseason. Bring back the low rated Dixie Beast pair.


Silvio usually has some sort of insight

Spot said...

It's funny how people used to insult Carrie Diary and Tomorrow People fans by saying Beauty and the Beast had a better chance, and then it actually did. Beauty and the Beast must be the biggest reach renewal ever in plus, even for the CW

Spot said...

If Arrow and The Flash are paired together, I'd rather see your arrangement. Because the 9:00 is more challenging, I'd rather have Flash have the easier go of it and use that initial sampling to try boosting Arrow.

And I initially thought of pairing iZombie with Supernatural on Mondays, but if The CW wants to really go hard at Mondays I think The Flash is a better candidate for it.

Spot said...

Silvio has a decent idea with starting The Flash on Wednesdays and then moving to Mondays in November. A Flash/Arrow combo gives Arrow an extra few weeks to get second/third-chance sampling from high-profile Flash. Then put Arrow back at 8:00 leading into Messengers. During those two or so weeks on Mondays, reair the Arrow eps with Flash from this season at 8:00 and/or rerun Flash itself. I say all of this because The CW has kept Supernatural a 9:00 show for its run so far and I don't see that changing.

But either way, The CW shouldn't program its whole season based on a temporary move of TBBT. Now if Fox puts Gotham at 8:00, then I'd change my mind.

Spot said...

Deadline said it was political, that CBS wanted more CBS TVD shows on the air. With the ratings at that low level, it's basically a wash, so I guess CBS wants it to get a syndication deal

Spot said...

My idea is not without flaws, some of which you explained to me few weeks ago:
1. Messengers (it actually will be iZombie, but let's humor you) would have Arrow repeat as lead-in for 4 times. Reign had TVD repeat lead-in for 2 times this season, and most of CW newbies had never had repeat lead-in.

2. CW would have less data collected at the moment they need to decide if Messengers deserves back 9 order.

3. All of Flash / Arrow / Messengers would move in November, so they'd have more total moves to promote (more money spent on it), than if they would simply put all shows in their "real" timeslot already in October.

4. With November move Flash and Arrow might temporary lose some viewers not aware of a move.

All those factors (plus some that I might forgot) combined might just as well nullify benefit of avoiding TBBT. Probably not, but it CW might see it as too much trouble for second to none gain.

Spot said...

Honestly, I wouldn't go through all of that trouble; I'd just have The Flash stare down at TBBT for a few weeks. I just wanted to lay out a plausible route.

Spot said...

You have compatible pairings, and that alone makes it better than 99% of mock schedules I saw.

I like how you find the way for Supernatural to stay at 9PM. iZombie can go directly against Gotham, it's not superhero show. Unless both are DC Comics, then they probably would prohibit it.
I still would rather have Flash on Monday. Not because I think it must be with SPN. No, not all. Just because I'd really seriously attack Monday.

Reign / Messengers / Jane the Virgin are really interchangeable. Except for Reign being fixture for fall due to 22 episodes order, of course. So your guess where CW would place those is as good as anybody's. It's important you correctly paired it with other girly shows.

I don't like BatB in the regular season schedule, but that's nitpicking.

Spot said...

This is basically the first and last defense of a renewal that bad.

Spot said...

Mondays - Flash and Supernatural would be my pairing, but I like the wednesday start idea, avoids TBBT and gives Arrow audience time to get on the boat. TTP was rejected because it was like an Arrow B-Side (similar to TVD-TSC) but Flash can pick its own viwers like TO.

Tuesdays - it could be The Originals and The Messengers, but TVD is still CW's strongest show and tuesdays at 9 before SPN was a hard slot (Cult, Ringer, Emily Owens) for them, put Reign in there, it's not going to be canceled anyway (CBS politcs demands it).

Wednesdays - Arrow and Flash, late start for iZombie.

Thursdays - TVD and Messengers, Reign is not a bad idea considering how TVD has failed.

Fridays - HOD and BATB on fall (starting in november because of ANTM and pilot repeats) them lowest rated drama + repeats or whose line on midseason to make room for The 100.

Spot said...

My final CW mock schedule

I'm going with Flash / Supernatural on Tuesday. I don't like Flash to Monday anymore. I never considered 8 PM, because I always suspected Gotham would be there. And with Scorpion at 9 PM, on top of Sleepy Hollow and MNF, I like 9 PM less than before. I still would put Flash on Mon 9 PM, but news about S.H.I.E.L.D. moving to 9 PM, opened nice spot for it at Tue 8 PM. In addition, it allows Supernatural to remain in its usual 9 PM, no toning down is needed. Finally, on Tuesday Flash avoids TBBT Monday stint. Deal.
Pedowitz might still have SPN / Flash on Monday. That is, if he thinks my combo (The Originals / Jane the Virgin) affiliates might see as only halfassed attempt to attack Monday.

Now I even more believe The 100 is 13 episodes order for midseason. I'm reading tea leaves this way: If it was for 22 episodes, then why they would wait for last week to announce renewal? If it was for full season, then I suppose CW would announce it earlier. If for nothing, for PR reasons.

Other reasoning I gave in some other too (long) comment.

The Originals / Jane the Virgin

Flash / Supernatural

Arrow / iZombie

The Vampire Diaries / Reign

Hart of Dixie / ANTM
Let HoD get proper ending with around 10 episodes. Not more with horrible recent ratings.
ANTM premiere in mid-August (or early September), with season finale mid-November (or mid-December). Repeats in 9 PM slot until midseason schedule is on.

For the worst performing among 4 not-big (3 newbies + Reign) - CW won't order back 9, effectively cancelling it (burn off last 9 episodes in summer if it's Reign).
The second worst from this group - give it back 9, but put it at Friday 9 PM after "Whose Line" at 8 PM.
That opens 2 Mon-Thu timeslots for return of The 100, and premiere of Messengers.

Beauty and the Beast and other low-rated crap.

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