Thursday, May 1, 2014

Fox True Power Rankings, May 2014

The upfront extravaganza is finally here! Every weekday for the next three weeks, this blog will have a meaty piece of coverage surrounding the annual schedule releases. It starts this week with the season's final edition of the True Power Rankings, the SHOW-centric half of the upfront preview, digging deep into the merits of individual shows by network. Next week come the Upfront Questions, the SCHEDULE-centric look ahead to upfront week. The following week, the schedules come out, and with them come the Upfront Answers.

The True/A18-49 averages cover the last one-third of aired episodes this season through April 27, rounded up.

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

Fox ComediesTrueA18-49Skewy2yCounted Eps
The Anchors... Right?
1Family Guy2.172.2063%-14%6
2The Simpsons1.821.8257%-10%6
3New Girl1.641.3664%-27%7

Cosmos marked a very rare departure from an 8:00-10:00 cartoon block on Sunday, but I don't think it's the beginning of a trend. Two big reasons: 1) Fox has a somewhat shockingly high volume of animated stuff in development. Presumably at least one of them should be able to make it to the fall. And more importantly, 2) for all the talk about declines for The Simpsons and Family Guy, they're not declining markedly more than primetime in general. Fox, as a network, definitely is declining markedly more than primetime in general. So the two-hour cartoon lineup becomes increasingly valuable to Fox with the rest of the week such a dumpster fire.

Just a few weeks ago, I'd have been 100% confident that New Girl would return as the Tuesday 9/8c anchor. But man, this is really getting ugly, capped off by a plummet to 1.1 this week. It was in the low 2's at this time last year, and we thought that was bad! As always, it's a much more valuable show than 18-49 ratings indicate, and it's not like Fox is brimming with alternatives, so it still probably stays. Just don't think anyone's gonna be happy about it.

Fox ComediesTrueA18-49Skewy2yCounted Eps
The Settled Secondary
4American Dad!1.391.2862%-18%6
5Brooklyn Nine-Nine1.381.2655%7
6The Mindy Project1.291.0964%-20%7
9Bob's Burgers1.060.9358%-22%6

With New Girl crumbling before our eyes, the real impact may be felt on the even weaker renewed shows in the Tuesday lineup. For most of the season, this felt like a different ballgame than it does now; I figured there would be an 8:00 hour with Brooklyn Nine-Nine and a male-skewing newbie, then a 9:00 hour with New Girl and a female-skewing newbie. The Mindy Project would sit out initially and replace the weaker newbie.

Now, as New Girl is at about half the ratings it was pulling a year ago, it feels like there's no point in even trying to mix new shows among this mess. So maybe this ends up becoming a "quarantine zone" or "surrender night" full of weak returnees, much like what NBC did on Thursday with the final seasons of The Office and 30 Rock in fall 2012. New Girl, Brooklyn and Mindy could all return to Tuesday in the fall in this scenario. Maybe Fox is considering going completely all-in with this idea, and that's why sources think Dads is actually a part of the internal discussion???

Quick housekeeping note: I've kinda neglected this over the years because nobody really cares about most Sunday 7:00 shows. But it's clear seeing Bob's Burgers actually move to 7/6c that the local programming lead-in is weaker on Sunday (and on Saturday) than it is for the five-night Monday-to-Friday stripped stuff. Bob's should definitely be at least somewhat higher in True. Not sure I could get it all the way to its normal numbers, but expect that to be adjusted in the off-season.

Fox ComediesTrueA18-49Skewy2yCounted Eps
The Long Shots
8Surviving Jack1.031.0033%2
11Raising Hope0.880.5442%-59%8

Actions speak louder than words, and Fox has taken some kind of tangible action against all of these. Aside from the obvious (Raising Hope being cancelled), there was the slashing of Dads' order toward the end of the season, the slashing of Surviving Jack's order before it even started airing, and the premiering of Enlisted on Friday and its recent removal from the schedule. If one of these shows actually makes it, as some buzz has suggested is possible, just know that it would be Fox significantly changing course. And none of these shows pulled ratings that would beg for that. It would be a move totally born out of the network's desperation.

Fox DramasTrueA18-49Skewy2yCounted Eps
The Only 2015-16 Possibilities
1Sleepy Hollow2.172.2444%5
4The Following1.611.4043%-32%5

Back in the fall, it seemed like Fox's drama development was starting to figure it out. They were fresh off of The Following being the only new hit of the 2012-13 season, and then Sleepy Hollow started so sensationally. Where are we now? Well, the Fox drama department is again in bad shape, and it could soon get even worse.

Sleepy Hollow fell a lot over the course of season one, and Fox is just praying it doesn't pull a The Following in season two. As I've said before, I'm worried about this for all "limited series". But at this point in the Fox meltdown, it'd probably have to take an even bigger decline than The Following not to get to season three. The larger question is not about season three but about whether it's a viable decent player over the longer term than that. Fingers crossed. It should be a virtual lock to return to Monday in the fall.

Tack on The Following's finale and season two was 33% below season one. Throw out the premiere in both seasons (since it had a huge NFL boost this year) and it's -40%. This is not the kind of show that will suddenly turn it around going forward. So getting to season four will be a struggle.

That leaves old reliable Bones, which will be going into season ten and has had some rumors about ending next year. And even it's in pretty bad shape right now! It seemed when Bones returned to Monday that Fox was in panic mode over The Following's poor start to the season. I guess you could argue it kinda stabilized The Following, which was pretty steady in the back half of its season, but I'm skeptical that it really would've gotten much worse if Almost Human or something had stayed there. Serialized dramas aren't that lead-in dependent.

To solidify these minor-if-anything gains for The Following, Fox had to create another huge mess for itself: go completely off the ratings map on Friday, and also jerk Bones around again. It seems it was one move too many, because a Bones season that was solid for 15 episodes has fallen apart. It has done lower numbers on Monday in the spring than on Friday in the winter, and down close to 30% from the Monday spring episodes last year. And it probably has to move again so Fox can put a new drama on its best drama night. Maybe it's Friday or maybe Wednesday/Thursday, depending on what unscripted options Fox has for those nights. Either way, it's another move. If Bones had stayed on Friday and led into Kitchen Nightmares, not only would the network have been nearly a point stronger on Friday in the winter, but they wouldn't even need to move it yet again. Instead, a weakened Bones will hope not to weaken anymore in another move next fall.

Fox DramasTrueA18-49Skewy2yCounted Eps
The Dunzo (This Year or Next)
3Almost Human1.641.6638%5

If piecing all the half-hour comedies together into a viable schedule is a tough task for Fox, dealing with Glee is even tougher. Any weeknight scheduling would feel like a bad move for the network. Even if it is (like New Girl) much more valuable than its 18-49 ratings suggest, being much more valuable than an enormous flop probably still isn't "good." And yet, trying to make a weak and young-skewing show work on a weekend will probably be a massive disaster ratings-wise and really bad for PR. My only suggestion: maybe if it casts enough Glee stars, they can count the live production of Grease against Glee's episode order...?

It's a women 18-34 draw, so I can't completely rule out Fox putting it back on a Tuesday "surrender night," but it doesn't even seem to be helping New Girl and Mindy. The shows cast a big enough tent a couple years ago that the pairing worked, but just because both have solid W18-34 ratings doesn't mean they're "compatible." Glee's audience is a mix of teens and W18-34, while New Girl's audience is more like W18-34 and W35-49, hence the much higher 18-49 skew.

I wasn't gonna say much about it here anyway, since I said my piece in February, but Almost Human went and got cancelled on Tuesday. It seemed like there were some mixed signals coming out of Fox land on this one, so it'd be interesting to know if it legitimately got back into the conversation. As always, I'd have brought it back, but there was probably nothing that significantly helped its situation since its run ended; though the rest of the network has imploded, it's pretty reasonable to assume Almost Human would've dropped some more as well if it'd kept airing. And there have been suggestions that good drama development worked against it.

Fox UnscriptedTrueA18-49Skewy2yCounted Eps
1American Idol Wed2.362.0833%-30%6
2American Idol Thu2.201.8233%-33%5
3Hell's Kitchen1.991.6044%-15%3
4Kitchen Nightmares1.521.1046%-3%2
5Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey1.511.3749%3
6MasterChef Junior1.511.3544%2
7The X Factor Wed1.461.4339%-38%4
8The X Factor Thu1.401.2837%-42%4

With the American Idol implosion now taking it out of big hit territory, should it be on the chopping block for next season? Nah, not just yet. With The X Factor, Fox was absolutely required to stop the bleeding or it'd be at pull-me-now levels. Even another absolute worst-case Idol season probably stays above the league average as a whole, so there's some cushion to work with. And as ABC can attest with The Bachelor and Dancing with the Stars, it's a lot easier to orchestrate a miracle turnaround with this kind of show than with a scripted series, even if it feels like a long shot right now. Still, there could be a scenario in which it could be on their radar. But in case you skipped the rest of this post... it's not like they have anything else to air!


Spot said...

Ha. We had the same thought about Tuesdays. And unless Fox thinks there's a huge shared audience between Junior MasterChef and Glee, it most likely stays on Tuesdays simply because there's more upside to putting newbies (or Bones) on Wednesdays and Thursdays than something that's deteriorated to this point. Glee was a flame-out in the making; the heat was simply turned up after moving away from Grey's Anatomy to face The Voice.

If Tuesdays become a Surrender Night, then Fox should at least try to salvage Brooklyn 9-9 from it. Keeping Glee on the night actually makes that easier to envision as there'd be no room for it anyway amongst it, New Girl, and The Mindy Project. Otherwise, can anyone picture any live-action comedy currently on Fox's schedule making it to 2015-2016? The Mindy Project's not owned by Fox's sister studio, so there's little incentive to drag it to the "proper" syndication finish line. (Can't wait to see The Mindy Project with 5 smileys on TVBTN's R/C Index next season.)

The main reason I thought Almost Human stood a chance was the idea of Fox wanting a balance between "limited run" and "full season" dramas. Continually launching new limited run shows has to hit the tipping point of being too expensive than full season shows sooner or later.

I still don't understand why Bob's Burgers got the weaker 7:00 half hour instead of American Dad's 7:30 half. Why coddle a show that's moving to a cable network instead of the one you've already renewed for next season? Now I have to think the possibility exists that Fox picks up two new animated shows for the :30 slots and gives Bob's Burgers the The Cleveland Show/Futurama/King of the Hill treatment.

Part of what hurts Sunday 7:00 shows is the lack of consistent lead-ins. Sometimes it's sports, sometimes local affiliates sub in alternate programming, sometimes it's the weekend version of the network's evening news franchise. I'm curious what the HUT disparity is between 7:00 PM shows on Sundays versus the same time on Monday through Friday and how much Sunday at 8:00 shows benefit, if at all, from not having to "self-start." (Hard to imagine that 60 Minutes and AFV really assist The Amazing Race and Once Upon a Time, respectively, in a statistically meaningful way but it's possible.) Of all the networks, ABC probably makes for the best control group for the season as it's the only network that consistently starts at 7:00 instead of having football distort its schedule.

Spot said...

Almost Human vs The Following. It seems they always intended to renew only one of two, and I think AH simply was the victim of what ratio Fox wants between procedural and serialized dramas.
Almost Human was all the time very likely cancellation in my book, never even near the bubble. But I thought there's some 5-10% chance Fox would need it as a 13-episodes spackle. However, now they're developing even more new dramas (Empire; Red Band Society...), so probably they like those as a backups more than AH.

Mindy / Glee / New Girl all have W18-34 ratings way above their A18-49, so all those are very justified renewals. I mean, this season's New Girl revenue is close to the one by Fox No1 drama Sleepy Hollow. Other two don't earn so much, obviously - but are on par with their other renewed dramas, if not above it. But this late season collapse of New Girl, and big drop of Glee are worrying.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine was a strange decision. Its ratings screams it would be bellow 1.0 sooner or later during Season 2, then being burn off on Friday or wherever.

Dads? Brooklyn Nine-Nine at least has some moderate A18-34 appeal, and Fox has hope it could get new live viewers thanks to awards and critical acclaim (false hope, I'd say). But Dads has really nothing. If renewed, it would be the strangest renewal of the season across all networks. If Fox would schedule old skewing show in between M18-34 Sunday shows, it would seriously disrupt the night. They could already see it on Tuesday, only regarding W18-34. Here's some W18-34 of New Girl from early 2014 when its lead-in changed frequently:
Date / NG W18-34 / lead-in
1/7/2014 2.3 Brooklyn Nine-Nine
1/14/2014 2.1 Brooklyn Nine-Nine
1/21/2014 2.4 Brooklyn Nine-Nine
2/4/2014 2.1 Brooklyn Nine-Nine (R)
2/11/2014 1.5 Dads (1 hour)
2/25/2014 2.0 Glee
3/4/2014 2.0 Glee
3/11/2014 1.8 Glee

More male-skewing B99 doesn't help NG, but at least it doesn't harm it. Same goes for more teenage skewing Glee, even when Glee bottomed at 0.9 A18-49 / 1.2 W18-34, NG managed to get 1.8 W18-34 out of such a poor lead-in. But Dads is simply a pest. I'm sure Fox is aware of it.

Spot said...

New Girl is a disaster. It has 2.9 to a 1.1 in the same slot across this season. If you discount the premiere you still have a 2.1 to 1.1 drop.

I think Bob's Burgers move was an attempt to see its anchoring power. It's already renewed, so ratings don't really matter (see Glee for proof). They are looking for something to replace the Simpsons. It sure won't be Bordertown. I'm surprised they never tried importing Archer. Anger Management proves they can import with relative ease and it would work well in a Simpsons/Bob's/Family/Archer night

Spot said...

Fox 2014-15 schedule

Bob's Burgers
Family Guy


New Girl
Mindy Project

Sleepy Hollow

Master Hell Kitchen Hotel (one of them)
Brooklyn 99
New Comedy

Masterchef Junior
Gotham (encores)

College Football

Idol takes over the Sleepy Hollow, Hieroglyph, and Gordon Ramsay slot.
The Following takes Gotham's place. If they bring back Cosmos they can use it on Friday to replace Junior

Spot said...

Anger Management airing on Fox last summer was a contractual thing because the show's ratings fell through a certain point on FX. Since getting out of the 10/90 agreement was too pricey, News Corp had to give Anger a bigger/more visible platform to remind people that it exists.

Archer is too cable-esque in terms of content, and Adam Reed is very unlikely to want to make 22 episodes per season of the show. Heck, he changed the premise for this season simply because he was bored.

Spot said...

I just feel like they could air it in the fall and premiere Bordertown midseason, perhaps after the Wildcard game. Don't get me wrong, Bordertown sounds terrible, but what else do they have?

Spot said...

"the idea of Fox wanting a balance between "limited run" and "full season" dramas"

How many full season shows would they really need, though? Sleepy Hollow and Hieroglyph on Mondays in the fall, then in the spring would be The Following (heh) and...Gotham? Backstrom? Tuesday might well be a surrender night as Glee, NG and TMP all need a place to go. Friday will be a mix of reality and Bones. The real wild card in this is Utopia. We don't know how long it will run or how many days it will air. If FOX wants it to plug in the two hours on Wednesday/one hour on Thursday role that XF and AI did, they could be in for a rude awakening.

Spot said...

They can't possibly show Glee on Tuesday next season. New Girl never dipped below a 1.6, (other than the genius decision to air it opposite the Olympics, which in turn has resulted in only having 3 new episodes to air over the last 8 weeks) and typically beat the Goldbergs before Glee took over at 8pm and started turning in sub-1 demos. Dads and Brooklyn 99 would still be a better option if they're not going to explore moving the entire comedy block to a new night. The shows will never hit 2s again, but in addition to the nice 18-34 numbers, Brooklyn 99 and New Girl at least have notable DVR boosts.

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