Thursday, May 12, 2016

2016 Upfront Questions: CBS

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: CBS Power Rankings

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


fallSupergirlScorpionNCIS: Los Angeles1.65
winterSupergirlScorpionNCIS: Los Angeles1.68
springSupergirlScorpionNCIS: Los Angeles1.40

Question: Will comedies return to Monday night in 2016-17?

There are two parts to this. First, there's the early fall, where The Big Bang Theory has started on Mondays for the last two years before moving to Thursdays after the end of Thursday Night Football. It's not impossible this could end, in part because the Thursday entertainment lineup will come back a couple weeks earlier with the new TNF deal. My guess is it continues, partly because it seemed to hold up better this year and partly because of the second part of this question...

... which is the idea that comedies could return to Monday for even the full season. We're getting practically daily updates from Deadline about CBS' hesitation around the expensive Supergirl, and there will be few drama alternatives for the 8:00 hour with similar self-starting potential. If CBS actually goes with up to five new comedies, as has been rumored, there's probably gonna be an additional hour somewhere. CBS has gone back to a comedy-heavy mix on Monday for May sweeps, which may hint at plans for the future.


fallNCISNCIS: New OrleansLimitless1.80
winterNCISNCIS: New OrleansLimitless1.83
springNCISNCIS: New OrleansLimitless1.60

Question: Will CBS go more compatible at 10/9c?

The "true strength" of NCIS: New Orleans is debatable, but however it comes about its number, it still offers a pretty big lead-in to the 10/9c occupant. And Limitless just didn't seem like a fit demographically in 2015-16, skewing noticeably younger and more male than the NCIS twins. Many seem to be mentioning the new drama Bull for this timeslot, presumably because it features former NCIS lead Michael Weatherly. And don't totally rule out that tri-NCIS night, with Los Angeles sliding over by a day.


fallSurvivor FallCriminal MindsCode Black1.69
winter2 Broke GirlsMike and MollyCriminal MindsCode Black1.59
springSurvivor SpringCriminal MindsCriminal Minds: Beyond Borders1.74

Question: Has Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders done enough to return in the fall?

As of this writing, it's not a certainty that it even gets renewed. To quote last week's Power Rankings: "Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders has probably done enough to be back, but the margin isn't really that big." It's in the range where it has to sweat. Even if it pulls through, it could get thrown on the "not-about-first-run-ratings" track we saw with CSI: Cyber at the 2015 upfront. This is still a good timeslot, especially with Criminal Minds picking up some steam again in the second half of the season. But there are hours on Monday, Tuesday and maybe even Sunday that could house new dramas as well. The educated guess here is that Beyond Borders has a better chance of staying put than NCIS: LA or Limitless.


fallSports: Thursday Night Football KickoffSports: Thursday Night Football5.33
winterThe Big Bang TheoryLife in PiecesMomAngel from HellElementary1.86
springThe Big Bang TheoryThe Odd CoupleMom2 Broke GirlsRush Hour1.65

Question: Is Thursday in the late fall safe for a new series launch again?

The new Thursday Night Football arrangement makes Thursday a somewhat different landscape. CBS is back in the programming game two weeks earlier. Thanksgiving still exists, and CBS may dodge it this year since they don't have the late-afternoon Thanksgiving game. But that early December national preemption is also gone, now a part of the NBC package. CBS can now give a new series a solid month before Thanksgiving and another few uninterrupted weeks before the Christmas break. Even with the NBC games entering the mix starting on Thanksgiving, that seems like a smoother situation for the entertainment programs than last year. Is it smooth enough to actually start a new series? We'll see.

One thing worth noting is that CBS actually promised a late fall newbie launch even at the 2015 upfront (Angel from Hell), then backed out of it later and launched Angel in January. So they felt good enough to make the initial announcement last year, which means it may not be that big a leap to it actually happening this year.


fallThe Amazing Race FallHawaii Five-0Blue Bloods1.13
winterUndercover BossHawaii Five-0Blue Bloods1.27
springThe Amazing Race SpringHawaii Five-0Blue Bloods1.11

Question: Has The Amazing Race earned a third year of Friday action?

Hawaii Five-0 and Blue Bloods seemed stout enough to stay put in 2016-17, so it'd be a surprise to see movement in the last two hours. The closest thing to a question mark is once again the 8/7c hour, where CBS could opt to open up another hour for scripted programming. But The Amazing Race also held up well this year, and CBS doesn't have an obvious fit for the hour: the only reasonable choice that might actually be an upgrade would be NCIS: Los Angeles. And that show could go a couple other places as well. Maybe a very low-end old-skewing renewal like CSI: Cyber or Code Black could fit; but at that point, would the ratings actually justify jettisoning the Race?


fall60 MinutesMadam SecretaryThe Good WifeCSI: Cyber1.30
winterMadam SecretaryThe Good WifeCSI: Cyber1.02
springMadam SecretaryThe Good WifeElementary0.93

Question: What gets the inflated 60 Minutes lead-in in the fall?

Sunday is going to remain a CBS dumping ground for the most part. This is forgivable in the 9:00 and 10:00 hours, where there are NFL overrun irregularities, not much/any help from the NFL lead-in itself, and a ton of cable competition. But the 8:00 hour is still a potential opportunity, where the NFL lead-in actually does make a difference in the fall. The network could try for some gender compatibility with one of its male-leaning sophomores like Supergirl or Limitless, or go with something new. With The Good Wife gone, it'd be pretty rough to see Madam Secretary get this hour back.

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