Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Best Case/Worst Case: Criminal Minds, Code Black, Chicago PD

Best Case/Worst Case lays out possible scenarios for broadcast primetime TV seasons yet to premiere. Here's what's premiering tonight!

Criminal Minds
2.14 A18-49+True2014-15 Slot
127 2.13 Wednesday 9:00
y2y:-14% -4%

Timeslot OccupantsCriminal Minds
Avg Orig Avg
1.98 2.11 2.14 2.13

In a Nutshell: CBS' Wednesday centerpiece enters its second decade this fall. Like NCIS, it consistently picked up ground in A18-49+ across the second half of the aughts but seems to have hit its peak at the 2011-12 season. It's been down nearly 15% (or nearly 5% in Plus) each of the last three years.

Best Case: Criminal Minds will be boosted by an ever-healthy Survivor, and the addition of Aisha Tyler in tonight's premiere resonates. It's able to get back to low-2's for most of the season, averaging a 2.05 (down 4%).

Worst Case: The show has been losing ground to SVU for the last few years in the slot, and now it's got an even more intimidating competitor in Empire. The show ended the season in truly awful fashion, with a new low 1.8 in the penultimate week and only holding it for the finale. (That made the finale down a third year-to-year.) It doesn't really rally for the premiere and sticks in the high-1's before going mid-1's late in the season. Down 25% to a 1.60.

Likeliest: Because it'll get an even bigger dose of Empire, and because it ended last season on such a sour note with a couple 1.8's, I'm giving it a teeny bit bigger drop than it's had the last three years, but it should be in that general vicinity again. I still think it recovers from the finale woes a little bit to start, but it'll be back in that territory if not below by the second half of the season. -16% to a 1.80.

Code Black (NEW!)

Timeslot OccupantsStalker CSI: Cyber
Avg Orig Avg
1.48 1.55 1.54 1.55 1.44 1.56

In a Nutshell: CBS tries to crack the increasingly elusive medical drama nut with this new Marcia Gay Harden drama about the "busiest, most notorious ER in the nation."

Best Case: The reviews generally say this is something along the lines of "unimaginative but competent," which is actually a good place to be when you're a CBS drama. This show is a safe bet to hold viewers in an hour that gets a good lead-in and nothing special competition-wise. 1.75.

Worst Case: New medical dramas haven't had much luck in the recent past, and CBS has had particular troubles finding footing in the space. (Major eyesores like 3 Lbs. and Alex O'Loughlin's Three Rivers comes to mind.) This show just doesn't seem to have any real way of attracting viewers, and it becomes a surprisingly huge flop by CBS standards, with much of the Minds audience heading over to Chicago PD at 10:00. 0.90.

Likeliest: I just don't see what the hook is for this show. CBS promos mention Marcia Gay Harden a lot, but I don't see her being able to open a show singlehandedly, and I don't really think the grittiness/authenticity angle has that much appeal either. It has a pretty good timeslot, so I don't see it completely bombing, but I think it's gonna be another step down from even what Stalker did last year. 1.25, and it makes way for the Criminal Minds spinoff at midseason.

Chicago PD
1.58 A18-49+True2014-15 Slot
94 1.71 Wednesday 10:00
y2y:-5% +7%

Timeslot OccupantsChicago PD
Avg Orig Avg
1.42 1.58 1.57 1.69

In a Nutshell: Though NBC caught some flak for greenlighting a spin-off the already modest-rated Chicago Fire, Chicago PD has proven a legit entry in its first two seasons. It actually grew on its Law and Order: SVU lead-in on several occasions last year (mostly when SVU was head-to-head with Empire), and its season average was good enough for 7% growth in A18-49+.

Best Case: With Chicago Med joining the sked later this season, NBC is going even crazier than ever with spin-offs set in the Dick Wolf universe. ABC and CBS will be weaker in the hour than last year, setting up PD to post significant growth vs. its lead-in. It upticks in raw numbers to 1.68 and is without question one of TV's biggest successes in the 10:00 hour.

Worst Case: The biggest reason to sell PD is that its lead-in SVU is even more sell-worthy. SVU eventually gets lost against Empire, and PD doesn't have enough core audience to consistently build from it. Either Code Black or the midseason Criminal Minds spin-off is a significant upgrade on what CBS did here last year. Down over 25% to a 1.15.

Likeliest: Last year, I thought the big winner in broadcast's general complacency at Wednesday 10/9c would be Stalker, but it turned out to be Chicago PD. It's pretty hard not to feel that way here too, with Nashville staying put yet again and a potentially even less promising CBS entry in the hour. PD was frequently above its SVU lead-in last season, especially while Empire was on the air, and it'll have even more opportunities to do that this time. It holds just well enough to sneak past SVU's average for the full season, but because of SVU's regression it won't quite be able to match last year's -5%. It's more like a league average drop to a 1.42. If SVU exceeds my expectations yet again, PD should do even better.

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