Early hits and misses of new TV season

30 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Lessons Learned From The First Week Of The New Fall TV Season.

Several strong series premieres and a monster return by Fox’s “Empire” highlighted the opening week of a 2015-16 television season in which the networks did their best to defy ratings gravity. Analysts have begun to get bearish on traditional TV as the emphasis moves toward streaming, but for now the traditional model plays a big role in the markets.“Blindspot” followed at 10 p.m. (2.6/8 in 18-49, 9.1 million viewers overall), down 16% from its strong premiere of last week and again dominating against the veteran ABC and CBS drama competition in the hour.

On the heels of a summer that saw the vast majority of established broadcast and cable series take a tumble in the ratings, it was not surprising that the Big Four networks came back softer as well. Because of the usual minute-long Big Bang overrun, it is likely that the veteran comedy would be adjusted up and newbie Life In Pieces would be adjusted down a tenth.

With the exception of a handful of shows like ABC’s “The Middle” and “The Goldbergs” and CBS’ “The Amazing Race” and “Blue Bloods,” every other returning series on ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox were down from their year-ago premieres in same-day ratings estimates from Nielsen. The second half of the iHeartRadio Music Festival (CW at 8) airs, featuring performances by Janet Jackson, the Weeknd, Blake Shelton, Nick Jonas, Fall Out Boy and others. The 2014 comedy concert film “The Fluffy Movie: Unity Through Laughter” (Fuse at 8:30) follows comedian Gabriel Iglesias (Fluffy) on his sold-out tour.

It’s not only that there’s more product available on more screens than ever before, but fewer people in general are watching primetime television on a nightly basis. SERIES PREMIERE: Marcia Gay Harden and Luis Guzmán star in “Code Black” (CBS at 10), a drama about the busiest emergency room in the United States. Snapchat co-founder Evan Spiegel, TV host John Oliver and singer-songwriter Bill Withers are on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” (CBS at 11:30). Of course, producers also recently admitted that live ratings are now the least of their concerns, while the Live+3 and Live+7 (which include time shifted viewing on demand, on Hulu, and on DVR) are the new deciding factor, so take all of this with a grain of salt. “Empire” came back to the Fox lineup with a flourish, while NBC’s thriller “Blindspot” looks to be one of the season’s hottest new shows.

For example, while roughly 54% of adults 55 and older were watching primetime during the first four nights of the season (a mere 1% decline from last year), the percentage of adults 18-49 watching (30.2%) was down from 7.6% from last year (32.7%). So far ABC (NYSE:DIS), CBS (NYSE:CBS), NBC (NASDAQ:CMCSA) (NASDAQ:CMCSK) and Fox (NASDAQ:FOX) (NASDAQ:FOXA) can lay claim to at least one solid (if not strong) launch for a rookie series. And this may help shows that opened low — including Fox’s “Minority Report” and NBC’s “The Player” — hang around longer than might be expected. Most nights for the networks were down vs. last year in same-night viewership, but there were instances of the ratings picture brightening in “live plus-3.” ABC’s Wednesday, for example, was down 13% vs. last year in same-night numbers (thanks in part to tough competition from “Empire”) but that deficit was trimmed to 8% in year-over-year L3 comparisons. From a network standpoint, NBC took Premiere Week in adults 18-49 for a fourth straight year and extended its overall winning streak to 12 weeks — the longest stretch for any network since Fox’s “American Idol” heyday in 2009.

Remember last year NBC opted to start the season with The Blacklist in that slot before giving it to State of Affairs, while the James Spader hit transitioned to Thursdays. It will take a few weeks to see where the networks settle in, as sports and other vagaries of the schedule make it hard to make too much of year-over-year comparisons during Premiere Week.

Again, we still have to see how week two does but I’m confident in its chances (a nine-episode script order ahead of its second episode is also positive). ABC’s “The Muppets” and “Quantico” looked good out of the gate, while CBS’ “Limitless” showed some spark on Tuesday and half-hour “Life in Pieces” opened OK. Another of the net’s new shows, Tuesday night’s “Scream Queens,” had a lackluster bow but jumped in delayed viewing and seems to be a good example of how much of a show’s audience can come after its linear premiere. However, I’d argue the biggest winner just may be Fox’s Rosewood, which didn’t receive anywhere near the level of press Fox gave to rookies like Scream Queens and Minority Report, but so far it has the highest numbers of the three.

And on Thursday, “Heroes Reborn” (2.0/6, 6.09 million) matched the network’s highest-rated drama premiere on the night since “Southland” in 2009. The first is Scream Queens which got more play than any Fox series over the summer and had a big flashy cast led by Emma Roberts and Jaime Lee Curtis. Player was strategically placed here to benefit from The Blacklist as a lead in, but instead it had to debut with support from the tepidly viewed Heroes Reborn (6.1 million viewers, 2.0 demo) and against a NFL Thursday Night Game. However POI also did slip over the season and while it started with 10.7 million viewers and 1.8 demo, it ended with 8.2 million viewers and a 1.2 demo. Yes, we also have a few clear misses as well, but remember it took the networks a record number of weeks to claim the first victim of the new fall season in 2014.

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