May 12, 2015

NIELSENWAR Full Season Network Report Cards: CBS


Other Nielsenwar Network Report Cards:  ABC, FOX, NBC

Tried and True is starting to look more tried.

Full Season To Date (thru May 3) 18-49 Rating Average:  1.81 (down 4.1% from last season)–note, however, that last season didn’t include Thursday Night Football.

Grade:  B

What Happened:

Sunday:  Madam Secretary and The Good Wife are both coming back, and they’re certainly compatible (and Good Wife is the best show on network TV), but they’ll keep the network running behind for the night.  Whatever is filling the Battle Creek slot will have to contend with a very quiet lead-in.

Monday:  CBS’s problem in recent years hasn’t been a lack of success, but a lack of big success, and Monday is a microcosm of its situation.  Leaving aside the month or so when The Big Bang Theory flew in to anchor the night because of Thursday Night Football, the 8PM hour has taken a hit with the loss of How I Met Your Mother–but it’s doing OK.  The same could be said of Scorpion, a tidy success that certainly deserved to be renewed, but is just another procedural in the ratings.  The move of NCIS LA from Tuesday has also been modestly successful, certainly much better than the flops that were in that hour last season, but not much more than a nose ahead of the competition.

Tuesday:  NCIS is still more than pulling its weight, but its numbers are receding, and it’s an expensive show to produce at this point in its history.  The introduction of LA and New Orleans suggests an endgame may come into play at some point.  NCIS New Orleans was another OK procedural for the network, just a piece of business.  The word is that Person Of Interest will be getting a short, and probably final, order, the victim not so much of terrible ratings (it’s often neck-and-neck with Chicago Fire, and easily beats ABC), but rising costs and the fact that CBS has no ownership interest in the show.

Wednesday:  Survivor has accomplished what American Idol couldn’t, finding a floor once it ceased to be a powerhouse and subsisting nicely at a moderate level, with limited yearly erosion.  Criminal Minds is falling more steeply, and the decision to launch a spin-off may be racing the clock before it starts to look subpar.  Neither Stalker (canceled) nor CSI: Cyber (renewed) did much with the 10PM slot.

Thursday:   Because the NFL wants to build the Thursday Night Football franchise (and not incidentally, its own NFL Network, which partners with CBS on the games), reportedly the license fee for the games was relatively reasonable–much lower than the league charges for Sunday Night Football–making it a great deal for CBS, which got solid ratings without mortgaging all profits, and was able to move The Big Bang Theory temporarily to Monday to support that night.  Big Bang itself is still the biggest comedy on television, unmatched among other things in the strength of its reruns.  But there’s no getting around the fact that it’s started to drop, and while it will continue to be a valuable piece of merchandise on CBS’s shelves, it’s extremely expensive, CBS doesn’t own it, and in a couple of seasons it may not be able to do what it did again this season, support a weaker show in its lead-out spot (this year, The Odd Couple) that probably couldn’t survive on its own.  The good news for the night was that Mom has caught on, and no longer needs a big lead-in to do solid numbers.  Elementary doesn’t have much fuel left in the tank.

Friday:  The network’s island of international/syndication sale hits continues to be a home for Hawaii 5-0 and Blue Bloods.  The move of The Amazing Race seems to have accelerated that show’s decline, and it’ll be interesting to see if the network keeps it in the lowly Friday 8PM slot.

What’s Coming:

Even with the understanding that every network wants to be in the comic book action business, the choice of Supergirl comes as a shock.  It’s not clear where on the CBS schedule a young-skewing fantasy like it can fit, but we’ll find out soon enough.  The rest of the newcomers are more at the CBS norm, variations on procedurals like the sci-fi-ish Limitless, the lighter Rush Hour, medical Code Black and of course Criminal Minds:  Beyond Borders.  Any of them could be plopped just about anywhere in the line-up.  It’s interesting that both new sitcoms are multi-camera, although Angel From Hell (with Jane Lynch) sounds like it’s as broad as 2 Broke GirlsLife In Pieces has an extremely strong cast (Betsy Brandt, Thomas Sadoski, Dianne Wiest, James Brolin, Colin Hanks), and let’s all try to forget that the last time that was true of a CBS comedy, the result was The Millers.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."