Monday, May 1, 2017

2017 Upfront Renewology: NBC

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 Thursday, April 27.

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

Chicago Cancellation?
Chicago Fire99%1.601.621.061928%37%
Chicago PD98%1.481.501.061927%40%
Law and Order: SVU95%1.401.401.061630%37%
Chicago Med92%1.351.331.062124%37%
Chicago Justice52%

There was an eyebrow-raising line from Deadline a couple weeks ago that NBC might be considering the axe for one of the lesser Chicago series. Even if that is somehow true, it should absolutely not be Chicago Med, which has held up nicely after a rocky start to its Thursday season. The clear choice should be Chicago Justice. It has just not been able to bring itself off of the R% bubble even though it's always been assumed a lock. With a solid lead-in and still slightly weaker raw numbers than Chicago Med, it's the clear weak link of the franchise. And if it didn't have the Chicago name attached, there hasn't been much ratings-wise that makes it look like a slam dunk. The good news for Justice is it seems fairly suited to the situation it would get next season. (On Friday?) And the general healthiness of the Chicago brand may make it less prone than most to a sophomore slump.

Other Contending Dramas
The Blacklist62%
The Blacklist: Redemption38%

Someone can probably correct me on this, but as far as I know there are only two shows that have been in both dark green and dark red territory in R% within this season. With Quantico, maybe you can blame deficiencies in the True formula; it's had a lot of very different situations and perhaps I'm just not that good at adjusting for all of them. But the other one, Blindspot, can't blame different situations; it's been sitting at Wednesday 8/7c all season. There is simply no way to square the show that hit 1.3 (for three weeks!) in the fall with the show that was hitting 0.8's in the not-much-more-difficult February. That is a major collapse for a returning program, and it went right through the entire NBC spectrum. The 1.3's would be a lock on NBC, while 0.8's in the winter are seemingly dunzo.

The show has since thrown in another crazy plot twist, suddenly picking way back up in strength again with 0.9's after DST. It's only a tenth of a point, but growing by a tenth in a period when almost everything declines is significant movement. The late March version of Blindspot seems to equate more with what we were seeing with the very low-1's it was getting in the late fall. That version of the show would be a modest favorite for renewal. And it's done this four times now, so it can't be written off as a fluke anymore.

So what happens now? Did NBC write it off after the winter ugliness, and won't see the spring comeback (still only a tenth of a point in raw numbers) as sufficient to change the narrative? Another interesting point on Blindspot is that this March comeback has not been seen in the Live+3 numbers, which have continued to deteriorate. The March 29 and April 5 episodes were series lows in L+3 despite the same-day uptick. Maybe it was really getting hurt by Lethal Weapon...

Blindspot is giving it a run, but I'd still say the top entry in the uncertain list is The Blacklist. It has seemingly gotten a little weaker since the new year, but it's always worth noting what a crazy overachiever it is in ad rates, perhaps in part due to the delayed viewing. Its spinoff The Blacklist: Redemption did noticeably worse (and was also a much lower gainer than the mothership in delayed viewing) but wouldn't be the biggest reach in the world as a bridge if Blacklist gets another full-time timeslot.

Also hanging around are Monday Voice lead-outs Timeless and Taken. Timeless is, on a much smaller scale, another entry in the long tradition of shows in this timeslot that have a huge Voice lead-in as well as a major audience in delayed viewing. It's definitely a cautionary tale about simply taking lead-in retention as a measure of what a show's true audience is. But will it be enough for Timeless? I thought the show's low-1's when airing after The Voice were a bit underrated, but it became a bit overrated when it held onto 0.9's in January. True-wise, the perception of the show itself didn't really change much with the January 0.9's. It dropped in R% over that time largely because the perception of the network improved so much, with The Wall and This Is Us helping the network weather The Voice hiatus even better than last year. I would've bought it as a real bubble show if it had held onto 0.9 throughout, but the 0.6 and 0.7 in February were really tough to stomach. So I still see it as a modest underdog, but not out of the mix. It's a show Fox and ABC would probably like to have, but the bar may be just a touch too high on NBC.

Taken has not continued that tradition of big delayed audience in the 10/9c hour. Instead of Timeless' 60%ish bumps in Live+3 for post-Voice episodes, Taken is usually barely over twenty percent. So it seems a lot more certain that this one is a ratings flop. But it still can't be ignored because the co-production factor could mean that it costs peanuts. I'm not gonna say it should be saved for a summer 2018 run, but it could.

The Comedy Bubble
Trial and Error47%
Great News19%1.030.771.01230%39%

At this time of year, it's hard to find a more favorable timeslot than what Great News got for its series premiere: great lead-in, great lead-out, and all fractional competition (including ABC/CBS repeats) in a high-viewed timeslot. That led to a pretty harsh take from the True formula. I'm a little uncomfortable with it going as low as 19% but it needs to hold up fairly well just to stay on the same level as Trial and Error, and even that is not solid ground. It should get a bit less True hate with the returns of Bull and Fresh Off the Boat going forward.

To T&E's credit, after getting absolutely rocked in its second week in the 9:00 hour, it never really got any weaker after that point, and if you squint maybe it got a little stronger. It wouldn't be too much of a reach if NBC really wants one of the 2017 comedy newbies to survive. Its biggest obstacle at this point may be the prospect of Great News doing better.

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