Monday, May 2, 2016

2016 Upfront Power Rankings: ABC


Welcome to the Upfront Power Rankings! This is the SHOW-centric half of the upfront preview, digging 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, rounded up, through Thursday, April 28.

Other Upfront Power Rankings: ABC | CBS | NBC | Fox | CW



Comedy

#
NameTrueHeatSkewMale
A18-49
y2yEps
The Big Three
1Modern Family2.17-6%41%42%2.41-21%7/19
2The Goldbergs1.93+3%39%41%1.96-6%7/21
3The Middle1.93-4%33%39%1.76-5%7/21

Despite some significant slippage from Modern Family, the first 90 minutes of Wednesday are one of the few things ABC can still boast about. And they are surprisingly tightly-knit True-wise. Basically the only "power move" ABC is capable of making in its current state would be moving one of these shows to another night, likely Tuesday.



#
NameTrueHeatSkewMale
A18-49
y2yEps
The Next Three
4Black-ish1.46+1%39%39%1.73-22%7/21
5Last Man Standing1.44-5%23%43%1.11-6%8/22
6Fresh Off the Boat1.39+2%39%43%1.21-20%7/20

Black-ish going to Tuesday would be far less powerful; while it's hurt a good bit by Empire, I still don't think it should be expected to do much better than Fresh Off the Boat has if it were on Tuesday. That said, compared with most of what ABC's had on Tuesday since the new year, Fresh Off the Boat looks pretty good, so getting more FOTB-esque ratings could be a significant improvement. A Black-ish move would protect the core of Wednesday while still putting a new show there.

Meanwhile, Last Man Standing sits in the clubhouse awaiting another round of negotiations between ABC and the Fox studio that produces it. It has grown year-to-year in A18-49+ yet again, and is now ABC's strongest occupant of this timeslot in the A18-49+ era, and its strongest Friday occupant of the whole era other than Shark Tank. On a network that has had a really disheartening season, it is a ratings slam dunk, and it'd be a bummer to see this one fall apart.



#
NameTrueHeatSkewMale
A18-49
y2yEps
The Newbies
7Dr. Ken1.25-4%27%41%0.998/22
8The Real O'Neals1.02-9%36%41%0.933/9

I haven't followed bubble talk as much as usual, but I always get the sense that people talk about Last Man Standing and Dr. Ken as if they're a package deal, that Ken is utterly doomed if Last Man falls apart. But I have to wonder if that should be the case. If ABC actually gets rid of Last Man, then they're gonna have to accept that they will not do as well here ratings-wise. But Dr. Ken still had worthy ratings, and it may not really be that attached to the hip to the Last Man audience; it skews a few points younger on average, and of course it held up extremely well in its airing after a Last Man repeat. The network doesn't have a lot of multi-cam in development, so that may be the deal-breaker, but I'm not sure how much better the network could really do than a Ken/newbie hour on Friday. Admittedly, they may have some unscripted option awaiting this contingency, and I just don't know what it is. We used to talk about Beyond the Tank as the Friday 8/7c heir apparent, but even if it improves majorly on Friday, I'm not sure it can produce anything like a full season of episodes.

By the way, if Last Man Standing does survive again, Dr. Ken should clearly be joining it. We've seen enough shows air after Last Man at this point to know that doing better than Ken is unlikely.

Also on the bubble (though still airing episodes) is The Real O'Neals, which has gotten some positive press for holding to 1.0 deep into the spring. I'm a bit of a seller on this one, and was even before the 0.8 with a repeat lead-in two weeks ago. If it were leading off the night with a 1.0, that'd be a different story, but dropping a couple tenths from Fresh Off the Boat in the higher-viewed slot just isn't that impressive. I'd much rather have Dr. Ken, which does the same kind of thing on a Friday. But admittedly, this is not really any worse than the mess of ABC dramas below. ABC can consider this as a piece if they add another comedy hour (which, FWIW, seems like a good idea). If not, space is gonna be tight and I'd rather take a whirl with another newbie.



#
NameTrueHeatSkewMale
A18-49
y2yEps
The Dunzo
9The Muppets0.81-44%40%44%0.855/15
10Galavant0.64+9%33%43%0.55-52%2/5

I had Galavant in the "dunzo" category last year. So maybe it should be rephrased the "really, really should be dunzo"; after all, there's a lot of buzz that The Muppets will somehow come back. But these shows are not renewal-worthy. The Muppets may have set a record for lowest Heat ever! While I'm not big on Real O'Neals, its 1.0's post-DST are still significantly better than The Muppets' fractional numbers pre-DST. ABC really tried, but it's time to move on. The rejection of Muppets' "reboot" was pretty decisive, and I dunno why another one would be any different. Even using it as a bridge series... I mean, aren't disastrous bridges a big part of what got Paul Lee fired to begin with?



Drama

#
NameTrueHeatSkewMale
A18-49
y2yEps
The TGIT
1Grey's Anatomy2.28+0%35%27%2.11-5%7/20
2How to Get Away with Murder1.44-20%38%27%1.44-37%5/15
3Scandal1.43-26%37%25%1.63-30%7/19

Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder are still relatively strong players, but their considerable erosion has left ABC incapable of using them to make a "power move" on another night. That doesn't mean it's 100% impossible these three get split up; if there was another Shondaland newbie with Murder season one-esque appeal, I could see one of them getting moved or, probably more likely, bumped for winter/spring. Something to watch in the coming weeks is how much ABC likes Still Star-Crossed in development...



#
NameTrueHeatSkewMale
A18-49
y2yEps
The Sunday Sandwich
4Once Upon a Time1.24-17%40%36%1.13-38%6/18
5Quantico1.19-25%36%37%1.017/19

The True formula has always been pretty high on Quantico. Maybe it was a little bit too high in the fall, since it always got massive competition bonuses from both facing football and being in the 10:00 hour. But it is a major DVR all-star (all but a few episodes have doubled or more in L+7), which would seem to suggest it is in a timeslot that is not conducive to live ratings. Even in its diminished spring state, it is matching the year-ago occupant (Revenge) while its lead-in is doing barely half of last year's ratings. There are a lot of 1.0ish ABC shows right now, but I think this one should be seen as a small cut above.



#
NameTrueHeatSkewMale
A18-49
y2yEps
The ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
6Castle1.03+1%22%33%1.09-33%7/19
7The Catch0.99-6%26%28%0.952/6
8Agents of SHIELD0.95-16%44%54%0.95-25%6/18
9Nashville0.95-2%29%31%0.87-29%6/17
10Blood and Oil0.91-7%31%35%0.854/10
11American Crime0.91-5%32%37%0.85-21%4/10
12The Family0.80+11%32%33%0.803/9

Beyond the top five, there is a large morass of similar-rated stuff, none of which particularly seems particularly fall schedule-worthy. But the outcomes will vary wildly; at least a few will get the axe, and at least one (maybe more) will probably make the fall sked.

My favorite of this group as far as getting on the fall schedule would be Agents of SHIELD, simply because it stands out so much in the sub-demos: it's the youngest and malest show on the network. I just think its demos make it a stronger ad draw, and it'll also be streaming-friendly. I don't buy that it will do anything in traditional syndication, but if that's a thing, that's all the more reason for 22 eps. That said, it needs to be downgraded from the favorable Tuesday 9/8c terrain.

Castle, The Catch and Nashville can all be put in pretty much the same boat: low-rated and old/female-skewing. Nashville has the worst raw numbers, but it makes up a lot of the gap in True because it's not compatible with the comedies. I don't really see a passionate ratings argument for any of them (especially with Castle losing its female lead), but at least one probably gets through to fill up some space. The Catch's main argument is potential upside; it has held up OK after a weak premiere, perhaps a poor man's version of what Scandal did in season one. Castle and Nashville, if renewed, should both be giving up their cushy fall slots.

American Crime was the least disappointing of Paul Lee's sophomore "bridge" series, and by a pretty wide margin. Combine that with its fairly legitimate awards potential and it seems like a good choice for the filler role again. It actually doesn't sound good for renewal in recent buzz, though.

The Family gets into this category only for "Heat" reasons; it was in massive black hole territory when it hit a 0.6 on Easter, but getting from there back to a consistent 0.8 is a bit noteworthy. Maybe it's debatable whether the formula gives it enough credit in the high-viewed but high-competition hour, but I think a 0.8 is still a pretty clear failure here. However, the Heat at least opens up the possibility that it could rise more and get into less clear territory. Problem is it only has like one more week, if it's lucky, to make the case. So it's a real long shot.



#
NameTrueHeatSkewMale
A18-49
y2yEps
The Dunzo
13Agent Carter0.75+1%38%45%0.74-47%3/7
14Of Kings and Prophets0.6929%46%0.501/2
15Wicked City0.56-32%34%40%0.401/3

Might seem a bit aggressive to slot Agent Carter in the dunzo category when its raw numbers are only like a tenth below most of the stuff in the above tier. But it had a really favorable time of year, so it's a fair amount behind them all in True. Another thing to note is its weirdly bland demographic makeup. When you look at the Skew and the Male on Agents of SHIELD, you can see its value to the network. Though perhaps the raw ratings level was disappointing, it has fulfilled what the idea was behind the ABC/Marvel partnership: bringing a younger and more male audience to the most female-skewing network. Carter hasn't really done that... not only is a flop in A18-49, but it's a flop to pretty much the same degree in all demos. SHIELD can at least call itself an above-average draw in the male demos:





Unscripted

#
NameTrueHeatSkewMale
A18-49
y2yEps
1The Bachelor2.33+17%38%27%2.54+1%4/12
2Dancing with the Stars Fall1.91+12%20%27%2.08-11%4/12
3Dancing with the Stars Spring1.64-7%19%30%1.70-15%2/6
4Shark Tank1.46-5%31%45%1.32-22%9/25
520/201.24+2%28%39%1.04-13%10/29
6America's Funniest Home Videos1.20+33%24%45%1.11-24%7/20
7The Great Christmas Light Fight1.16+12%29%38%1.20-20%1/3
8The Great Holiday Baking Show1.10+18%33%32%1.002/4
9Bachelor Live0.80+2%31%24%1.002/5
10What Would You Do?0.72-13%36%40%0.60-43%1/3
11My Diet is Better Than Yours0.71+7%37%35%0.652/4
12Beyond the Tank0.67-29%32%44%0.50-50%4/11

Most of this is pretty clear-cut. 1 to 6 are the network staples, and they all seem very unlikely to change timeslots next year. I will say, while I doubt it'll happen, that it may be worth re-opening the debate about whether the network should shift to two Bachelor/ette seasons within the regular season. The gap between Bachelor and DWTS just keeps widening. Meanwhile, the Great shows at #7 and #8 seemed strong enough to return in the same holiday filler role occupied last year.

However, the bottom third get a little more interesting. It'd be easy to say that Bachelor Live is probably really cheap and could come back to the same role. But it did pretty bad, to be honest, and The Bachelor will likely be the biggest lead-in on the entire network next season. They really ought to be using that lead-in a little more aggressively. It would be a disappointment if we see it next season, especially in the Monday 10/9c hour.

This was not a good year for "emergency spackle" like What Would You Do? and Beyond the Tank, both of which flopped to a pretty epic degree in the network's long-troubled Tuesday 10/9c hour. (The quiet Sunday 10/9c run for NBC's Hollywood Game Night was another noteworthy example.) Maybe the moral of the story is that you can't just throw something on anywhere with little to no promotion nowadays and expect results; after all, BTT was a pretty respectable piece of filler just a couple months previous, leading off Thursday during the TGIT hiatus. It does seem unlikely that the concept was so massively rejected all of a sudden, but it adds some interest to BTT's upcoming Friday 8/7c run. How markedly will it improve there?

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