Sunday, September 20, 2015

Best Case/Worst Case, Premiere Sunday Vets: Once Upon a Time, Brooklyn 9-9 and more!

The acclaimed season preview Best Case/Worst Case is back for a fourth season, laying out possible scenarios for broadcast primetime TV seasons yet to premiere. This year, each show will be previewed on the day it premieres... with the exception of this week, when we're knocking out some of the numerous premiere week predictions a week early. Most of these posts will preview only premiere week veteran series today, with rookies and sophomores coming next week. Unless otherwise indicated, all shows previewed this week premiere exactly one week after the day of the post.

Once Upon a Time
2.18 A18-49+True2014-15 Slot
130 2.32 Sunday 8:00
y2y:-0% +12%

Timeslot OccupantsOnce Upon a Time Galavant
Avg Orig Avg
2.16 2.04 2.18 2.32 1.33 1.45

In a Nutshell: Season four of Once Upon a Time began with the introduction of characters from the huge animated film Frozen, sparking the drama to its highest historical-adjusted episodes ever early in the fall. But once those characters departed, the show crumbled to its lowest historical-adjusted half-season ever. Overall, it averaged a 2.52 for the fall and a 1.82 for the spring. (Or 150 vs. 108 in Plus!)

Best Case: Sure, the show vastly overachieved in the first half of the season, but it also underachieved in the second half. It should be able to bounce back in the fall with an appealing storyline and some buzzy new dramas accompanying it on the night. And then it goes even or better year-to-year in the second half if it can find some other brand name to attract some outside interest. It barely clings to an even 2.00 average, down just 8%.

Worst Case: It's a veteran serialized drama, and those declines get out of control fast. The comparisons with last year's Frozen-boosted ratings are gonna be absolutely brutal. The upper 1's from the spring are the best Once can hope for in the fall, and it'll dip into the low 1's by the end of the fall and into the spring. Down 36% to a 1.40, and season six is an announced final one.

Likeliest: The end of season four struck me as something that will be interesting to the hardcore fans but not a draw for outside casual viewers. But this show is built to reinvent itself. I'm guessing one of the half-seasons is about on par with or slightly below the 108 average from last spring, while the other half-season finds a way to overachieve somewhat. That puts it about on par with the season three Plus: 1.71. It's down by 21%, but that'd be a solid performance given how bad the early comparisons will be.

Bob's Burgers
1.23 A18-49+True2014-15 Slot
73 1.38 Sun 7:30, Sun 9:30
y2y:-16% -6%

Timeslot OccupantsBob's Burgers
Avg Orig Avg
2.21 1.05 1.16 1.47

In a Nutshell: The veteran utility player in Fox's Sunday comedy lineup split time between 7:30 and 9:30 thanks to the quick failure of fall newbie Mulaney. It averaged a 1.16 at 7:30 and a 1.29 at 9:30.

Best Case: This show's 7:30 average was more impressive than the 9:30 one, and the 7:30 one would've been even better if it had gotten more fall airings. The Last Man on Earth and Bordertown both do OK enough to keep Bob's at 7:30, where it slightly exceeds last season's 7:30 average at a 1.18.

Worst Case: Fox Sunday is tanking in general, and Bob's Burgers gets horrible 7:00 lead-ins because Fox decides to burn off some massive comedy failure there again. (A Tuesday comedy? Bordertown?) Down just over 25% to a 0.86.

Likeliest: This show may well be better off if it gets to stay at 7:30 all season, since it'll have scheduling stability and (if it stays there through the fall) some regional NFL overrun lead-ins. I think this show will be one of the steadier entries in this slowly declining block, with a slightly less than average decline from last year's 7:30 average to a 1.06. These predictions are only for 7:30 airings!

The Simpsons
2.15 A18-49+True2014-15 Slot
128 1.96 Sunday 8:00
y2y:-3% +8%

Timeslot OccupantsThe Simpsons
Avg Orig Avg
1.88 2.16 2.15 1.96

In a Nutshell: It had some help from the NFL and a crossover with Family Guy, but the oldest scripted show in primetime still turned back the clock in 2014-15 with its highest A18-49+ since the 2002-03 season. It also beat its fellow animated anchor Family Guy's seasonal average for the first time in nearly a decade.

Best Case: This has become the scripted version of 60 Minutes, a show that will consistently rise in A18-49+ because of the football-inflated episodes early in the season. Maybe the premiere last year was a fluke, but it was just one episode, and the season-long trend was not a fluke. -1% to a 2.13.

Worst Case: This show really fell hard in May, putting up some low-1's at the end of the season. The NFL will perk it back up, but the non-NFL weeks will see another slew of shockingly low stinkers. Down 25% to a 1.61.

Likeliest: It was inflated last season, but unlike Family Guy: 1) it didn't get that much inflation from just the one premiere rating; and 2) most of the inflation it did get will still be there, since the NFL ain't going away. And event season is going to be easier this year, with no SNL40 and no Sunday Grammys. I still think it's down a touch in Plus just because it isn't gonna get back to that huge premiere rating in the fall. But it'll be up a bit for the fall and that will cancel out most of the modest losses in the spring. -11% to a 1.92.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine
1.70 A18-49+True2014-15 Slot
101 1.66 Sunday 8:30
y2y:+13% +26%

Timeslot OccupantsBrooklyn Nine-Nine
Avg Orig Avg
1.54 1.68 1.70 1.66

In a Nutshell: After a tough season one as part of the sinking Tuesday comedy lineup, Brooklyn Nine-Nine got a nice sophomore bounce when it joined the Sunday mix. It had a ratings performance comparable to second-tier animated comedies of the past, which was a nice win considering the risk of mixing live-action with cartoon.

Best Case: It was somewhat lost in the general struggles of Fox Sunday, but Brooklyn Nine-Nine actually had full retention of its original Simpsons lead-ins on several occasions in the spring. That retention continues to improve as more people discover the younger 9-9, with the show only dipping noticeably from Simpsons on NFL nights. 1.75, slightly up in raw numbers.

Worst Case: Fox Sunday is a sinking ship. The low-1's from the spring start showing up even in the fall when there's not an NFL overrun, and it's fractional in spring 2016. 1.25, down over 25%.

Likeliest: It is younger, but I still think it trends a touch worse than The Simpsons just because it's 30 minutes farther away from the NFL. Still, I didn't see any real reason to believe this was becoming a less worthy occupant as the season wore on. So it's in a pretty close step with Simpsons, down 12% to a 1.49.

Family Guy
2.13 A18-49+True2014-15 Slot
127 2.08 Sunday 9:00
y2y:-9% +2%

Timeslot OccupantsFamily Guy
Avg Orig Avg
1.71 1.96 2.17 2.09

In a Nutshell: One of the biggest splashes in the fall 2014 premiere week came from Family Guy, whose one-hour crossover with The Simpsons (4.6) exploded to the biggest Family Guy Plus number since at least the show's resurrection in 2005. Though that was a huge boon to the FG season average, most points beyond the premiere were pretty ugly year-to-year. It was regularly down at least 20% in the spring.

Best Case: Yes, Family Guy's average got a lot of help from the premiere, but much of that was offset because the show had to air a bunch of repeats during the higher-rated fall period. Once the spring rolled around, it established itself as the highest-rated show in the block, and this time it'll have enough fall airings to re-take that crown from The Simpsons. 1.95, down just 8%.

Worst Case: The premiere inflated Family Guy's full season average by three tenths of a point! Just throwing out the last two premieres, that -9% above becomes a -21%. That'll be the normal year-to-year trend for most episodes again this year, and the premiere-vs.-premiere comparison will be so ugly that it's driven all the way down to a 1.47, down over 30%.

Likeliest: Even if it's close to even in Plus on a weekly basis, that pesky premiere comparison is going to drive Family Guy's full season average down by 20% or more. And that's pretty much what I see happening here; I actually don't have it dropping as much for most episodes as it did last year, especially with a more manageable event season. But it's still going to be down 20% to a 1.70.

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