Wednesday, May 11, 2016

2016 Upfront Questions: ABC

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.

On each night, you can see the network's average 2015-16 ratings with its most frequent occupant in three different sub-sections of the year: "fall" (premiere week through December 31), "winter" (January 1 to the beginning of Daylight Saving Time) and "spring" (the start of DST through Thursday, May 5). You can also switch from the A18-49 ratings to the True ratings, which should make the comparisons across nights and across the season a bit more fair.

Last week's Power Rankings were the SHOW-centric portion, drilling more into the merits of individual shows: ABC Power Rankings

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


fallDancing with the Stars FallCastle1.61
winterThe BachelorBachelor Live1.85
springDancing with the Stars SpringCastle1.53

Question: Is it finally time for Castle to leave?

Yes. Yes it is. I do want to walk back what I said last week a bit, though; it would not necessarily be the worst thing in the world if it gets a short final season order and stays here for the fall, depending on what the rest of the sked looks like. The real crime would be airing either incompatible Castle or weak winter occupant Bachelor Live after The Bachelor, which may be the biggest lead-in on the whole network.


fallThe MuppetsFresh Off the BoatAgents of SHIELDShark Tank (R)1.24
winterFresh Off the BoatThe MuppetsAgent CarterWhat Would You Do?0.85
springFresh Off the BoatThe Real O'NealsAgents of SHIELDBeyond the Tank0.85

Question: How thoroughly will ABC revamp Thursday?

Tuesday was ABC's weakest night for most of last year, so it's really up for grabs. It seems almost certain that Fresh Off the Boat will return to the night. Beyond that, the craziest-case scenario would be axing The Real O'Neals, kicking Agents of SHIELD to the midseason/Sunday curb and launching 2.5 new hours. The most conservative scenario: returning FotB and Real O'Neals as is and launching just a single new hour. (Probably at 9/8c with SHIELD bumped to 10/9c.)

The reality will likely be somewhere in the middle, and should involve one of the Wednesday comedies joining the night to open up a newbie space. It could be a new drama with one comedy hour, or the addition of a second comedy hour. If they're just looking for a Fresh Off the Boat companion in a single hour, anything including Black-ish would be fine. If it's a second comedy hour, ABC could be more motivated to move one of its Wednesday big guns, The Middle or The Goldbergs. (If the network's really picking up "five or six" comedies, an additional comedy hour seems like a solid bet.)


fallThe MiddleThe GoldbergsModern FamilyBlack-ishNashville1.81
winterThe MiddleThe GoldbergsModern FamilyBlack-ishAmerican Crime1.71
springThe MiddleThe GoldbergsModern FamilyBlack-ishNashville1.56

Question: What takes over the 10/9c hour?

There should be a new drama and a new comedy on Wednesday. ABC took the ultra-conservative route on Wednesday last year, returning the whole night intact, but it seems less likely this time coming off of a far weaker season. Where the new comedy goes may depend more on the Tuesday schedule, and maybe to a small extent on where Fox places Empire. A transition in the 10/9c hour seems even more obvious, as Nashville wasn't able to duplicate the solid season three hold that bought it a fourth season on the night.

What kind of drama pairs best with the comedy night? Revenge did great here in season one, and Nashville was OK-ish for a few years. But the more somber American Crime also held up fine this winter (and may have had some synergy with Black-ish's African-American audience).


fallGrey's AnatomyScandalHow to Get Away with Murder2.34
winterGrey's AnatomyScandalHow to Get Away with Murder1.85
springGrey's AnatomyScandalThe Catch1.57

Question: With Scandal bumped to midseason, what inherits the 9/8c hour?

There are two general schools of thought here:

1. Put something with a short order (Secrets and Lies?) in the hour, fully intending to give it back to Scandal at midseason.
2. Put something with a back-nine option in the hour, and be willing to dump Scandal at 10/9c in the event that show is back nine-worthy.

In theory, #2 is best, especially with this lineup on the downturn of late. Scandal is not much above average anymore and it'll be tough to turn its decline around, so finding new long-term TGIT blood would be a good thing. And anyway, Scandal can always slide back into the 9/8c seat if that show fails. But it would take the right show, and it's not clear that show exists. The Shondaland entry Still Star-Crossed doesn't seem to be one of the top frontrunners.


fallLast Man StandingDr. KenShark Tank20/201.32
winterLast Man StandingDr. KenShark Tank20/201.21
springLast Man StandingDr. KenShark Tank20/201.13

Question: Will those 8:00 hour comedies pull through?

They should. And if they do, this night should absolutely stay intact. If not, it could be chaos, especially with Beyond the Tank putting up another poor result in its return to Friday last week. If the renewal of Last Man Standing blows up, don't completely rule out ABC trying to plow forward with comedies anyway, just because there are no other obvious options. Maybe a low-end drama renewal, or something from ABC's reality-heavy summer sked gets upgraded into the fall? Let's hope it doesn't come to this.


fallOnce Upon a TimeBlood and OilQuantico1.33
winterGalavantQuantico (R)0.46
springOnce Upon a TimeThe FamilyQuantico0.96

Question: Where and what is the network's third Sunday hour?

Perhaps there will be more insight not in what the new Sunday content is, but where it goes. It could really be in any of the three hours. If it's something ABC really likes, like perhaps the Kiefer Sutherland drama Designated Survivor or a comedy hour, it could get the 8/7c hour. It'd have to self-start but could benefit from less cable competition, while Once Upon a Time slides up to 9/8c. If it's a terrible year for ABC development, maybe Quantico slides to the higher-viewed 9/8c while the newbie goes to 10/9c. Or ABC minimizes timeslot moves, leaves both those shows as they are and keeps cycling stuff through the 9/8c hour.

There's also that small chance ABC really likes Quantico and tries to boost it on a better night. They did this with season two of Revenge wayyy back in 2012 when Sunday could actually be considered a "better night." Perhaps Tuesday alongside Designated Survivor or even Thursday after Grey's Anatomy? But I think finding even a success of Quantico's level in this hour will be tough moving forward, so I'd be very hesitant to risk bombing it out again.

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