Monday, April 30, 2018

2018 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 Friday, April 27 (using prelims for Friday).

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

The Favorite
The Blacklist72%

On NBC, there's a rather huge gap between the haves (including the not-yet renewed Chicagos and Law and Order: SVU) and the have-nots, which is pretty much everything else not yet renewed. The one show that is actually sort of in the middle is The Blacklist. For awhile I believed that any Live+SD strength it had shown was all due to the timeslot change; its delayed viewing gains have indeed dropped off, as is typical in the 10:00 -> 8:00 move. But it's actually seemed to get another notch stronger since the start of 2018. So I'm confident enough in saying that it deserves to be back. Whether it deserves another fall weeknight timeslot is more doubtful. Chicago Med probably should've gotten that spot last year and its case is even more compelling this year (whether it's Wednesday 8/7c or Tuesday 10/9c).

The High-End Pity Party
Good Girls56%0.970.970.95930%36%
A.P. Bio32%0.840.840.911235%44%

Since creating Renewology, I have become less interested in individual shows and more interested in how many total renewals a network will hand out. NBC is definitely an intriguing case this year because they were so generous last year, and yet that generosity was a major departure from previous seasons. Recent editions of NBC tended to clear out almost everything in "pity-renewal" territory, and even axe some more justifiable renewals (notably The Mysteries of Laura two years ago).

As I said back in September, I decided to kinda take the gamble that they will revert toward their prior behavior, simply because how they acted last year was so hard to explain. Like many decisions that seem odd at the time, in retrospect maybe it just came down to not liking their development. They've had four new dramas and two new comedies in this entire regular season, which is really sparse, and even those few have almost completely stunk. But going forward, I can't see them feeling that good about the renewal-happy plan based on how Great News, Timeless and Taken have done.

Looking heavily at pre-2016-17 years, which is basically what Renewology is doing, you're talking about only 1-2 of the above three shows pulling through, plus another 0-1 of the next tier down. Adding up all the R% in these two tiers gets you 1.97 total renewals. But I get the sense some people think all three of the above will get there, and a couple of the really dire shows below will pull through as well. If that happens, it will probably be time to start looking at NBC as more generous, institutionally.

As for the individual shows: Good Girls took a troubling drop to 1.0 in week three, but it has held up pretty darn well since that point and finally inched back over the 50 R% threshold last week. It's still the kind of show NBC could cancel, and it's probably headed for a lower-priority timeslot even if renewed. But it's not really looking like a "bad" renewal ratings-wise anymore. And if it has a sweet Netflix deal as has been reported, it's probably a no-brainer.

Blindspot was a Renewology roller coaster last year, but has spent almost all of this season in light red territory. It's kind of weird that Blindspot seems to be getting more criticism with the 0.5's in the spring, when they are really not that different True-wise from the 0.6's and 0.7's earlier in the year. Even in the early season, it was unimpressive; for a good Friday comparison, it will finish a decent step below any of the six seasons of Grimm Plus-wise. I don't think it has a strong ratings case, but it's close enough that they could endure it if NBC gets a really sweet deal on license fees. Should be a good test of the "Third Season Rule," and I always welcome such tests from an academic standpoint!

And then there's A.P. Bio, which is angling for a pity renewal on the grounds that it's less weak than some other comedies. Its 0.9 back in mid-March was one of the real head-scratcher data points of the season... a show that had looked completely dead in early March suddenly put up a point that looked like a solid renewal favorite. It's not been able to sustain something on that level, but even the recent 0.6's don't seem quite as hopeless as those early weeks. I'm not gonna say it "should" be renewed, but it is the clear choice if they are determined to bring back one of Bio, Great News and Champions. It actually has a little bit of a delayed viewing audience (usually gets +0.4ish in Live+7), whereas Great News and Champions have been lucky to get more than a 0.2 boost.

The Low-End Pity Party
The Brave14%0.780.760.951326%44%
Law and Order True Crime14%0.770.770.95830%34%
Great News6%0.640.640.911332%38%

On the network that renewed Great News and Taken last year, maybe nothing should be counted out. But as I said above, Renewology is kinda gambling on a return to form for NBC, so it pretty much does count these shows out.

Timeless was not looking too bad in the opening weeks of the season, but the 0.5's are kinda hard to take. And for a show that had good DVR gains last year, am I crazy for thinking the gains this year should be a little higher, given how bad the timeslot is supposed to be? This was a show that was close to doubling its L+SD numbers even in a couple post-Voice episodes last year, and easily got 100% Live+7 gains for most of the winter episodes. This year, it didn't get a 100% gain in the first month, and barely got there for week 5. The 0.8 or 0.9 delayed viewing gain it was pulling off even at the end of season one is now like a 0.5 or 0.6. I guess you could argue it doesn't look much worse than it did at this time last year, but it was a razor-thin margin last year if the cancellation/un-cancellation was any indication.

The Brave and True Crime are the long-wrapped newbies from the fall with big lead-ins. Neither showed the delayed viewing spunk that even Timeless did last year. I said back in the fall that True Crime was my pick for likeliest renewal of the bunch because its anthology nature would allow it to be reinvented in a splashy way. But I also would caution against overreacting to that, along with its draw in the California tax credit lottery. It still did really poorly, and I would still want to be really impressed by the season two pitch before pulling the trigger. It has a chance, but we have no way of knowing what that second season would look like.

Rise is basically in the same boat as The Brave and True Crime. I just can't see a reason to bring this one back when Good Girls is such a clearly superior option among the spring dramas. The True formula does not like Rise because it has a great lead-in, great lead-out, and a high-viewed, relatively light competition timeslot. Is it really too much to ask for a 0.9 or 1.0 here? Guess we'll see...

And Great News and Champions are another level below even those three, bombs in Live+SD ratings with no real DVR interest either. Great News has one of the worst delayed viewing percentage gains on broadcast TV, and it's not like it's starting from a good Live+SD base! After Great News pulled through last year, I guess I shouldn't be too surprised, but I would still be pretty surprised if NBC tried to drag either or both of these through. As I said above, A.P. Bio is the much better choice, and even it is shaky at best.

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