Thursday, May 4, 2017

2017 Upfront Renewology: CBS

Welcome to Upfront Renewology! This is the SHOW-centric half of the upfront preview, digging into the merits of individual shows by network. The next round will be Upfront Questions, the SCHEDULE-centric look ahead to upfront week. The following week, the schedules come out, and with them come the Upfront Answers.

Averages up to date through Tuesday, May 2.

More Upfront Renewology: NBC | Fox | ABC | CBS | CW

The Comedies
2 Broke Girls74%
Man with a Plan70%
The Great Indoors69%
Superior Donuts63%

Is CBS done with comedy renewals, or are they looking for one more? The network has four comedies in the 60-75%ish range, including already renewed Man with a Plan and Superior Donuts. If the CBS Renewology target is correct, the most likely outcome is that another one survives, making for three renewals total. But two is second-most likely. All of the currently renewed shows seem like they should be back on the fall schedule. And last year, the network didn't have a single returnee comedy backup in a season of major expansion. CBS could be done.

If they want a backup this time, the stronger option of the two is 2 Broke Girls. It matched Man with a Plan and Superior Donuts while airing at 9:30, and had much bigger Live+3 gains (usually around 35% vs. 20%ish for the other two). But is it's an old show that may not be worth the expense.

Is there a scenario in which 2BG falls through and CBS is desperate enough for spackle to give The Great Indoors another shot? A few weeks ago, I might have said there were signs of improvement. It had a horrendous 1.3 out of a 3.1 in December and some other well-below-50%-retention points in the fall, so the 1.4's it has posted since DST might look legitimately better. However, I still kinda tend to believe that 8:30 Thursday comedies are bound to improve after the new year because a lot of people lock into watching football right after Big Bang is over. And its last few points have looked less promising.

I still don't really buy the idea MWAP and Donuts would be doing sooo much better after Big Bang. But that's more of a slap against the two renewed shows than an endorsement of Indoors. Live+3 interest is super-low for all three. Just because two have been renewed doesn't mean they need to renew everything at this level. If they didn't have any backups last year, they don't need to dig this deep this year. It's probably bound to be another The Odd Couple situation if it comes back.

The Dramas
Code Black68%
Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders53%

Like with the comedies, there are younger shows (Code Black and Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders) waiting in the wings to see if something gets worked out with the veteran (Elementary). Clearly Elementary does not have a first-run ratings case; it's just a question of whether its syndication gravy train is continuing. I don't have any way of knowing whether this is the case. The only thing I'll throw out there is that I'm surprised that it would be coming down to the wire like this if it was still a clear profit center due to WGN money. And I don't get at all why it would come down to the pilots, as trades have suggested. I can't believe it'd be fighting with a new show for preferred scheduling space.

Once again, it's a question of how much drama backup, if any, CBS wants. Much like the comedies, I'm not sure that any of the currently renewed dramas would be held as a backup. It'd probably be something out of NCIS: LA, NCIS: NO or Hawaii Five-0? But they all seem strong enough to keep going in the fall. On the other hand, Elementary (and Madam Secretary) do not seem like a fit for the spackle role.

That leaves us with Code Black and Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders. Renewology swung toward Code Black late in the season, as it held onto a 0.9 (and occasionally better) in the 10:00 hour. That seems stronger than Beyond Borders' late-season 0.8's, and Code Black is also one of the network's biggest DVR gainers. But the analysis in the trades always seems to imply it is one of the dreaded soft-rated-but-has-internal-support shows. It isn't softer than the alternatives, but that kind of language makes me think they are relatively down on its ratings. So maybe CBS wipes out its backups on the drama side as well?

Ransom is NBC's version of Taken, a co-production hoping it can somehow sneak through because it is very cheap. For that reason, I don't discount it completely.

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