May 9, 2015

NIELSENWAR Full Season Network Report Cards: NBC


Has there ever been a #1 network as screwed up as this year’s edition of NBC?

Full Season To Date (through May 3) 18-49 Rating Average:  2.04 (#1), Down 13.7% From Last Season

Season Grade:  D+

What Happened: 

Sunday:  NBC is at the top of the broadcast networks for one and a half reasons.  The reason, of course, is Sunday Night Football, which gives the network 3 hours of huge ratings every week all fall, and this year was topped with the Super Bowl.  Unfortunately for the network, the massive license fees payable to the NFL for these games removes virtually all profit from the broadcasts, making its average misleading in terms of actual success.  We can see just how important those games are to NBC by comparing the 2.04 full season average to the network’s average for the January-May period of the season and excluding the February Super Bowl:  it plummets to 1.39, putting it in last place among the networks (other than CW) for the 2d half of the season.  Furthermore, without football the network’s Sunday collapsed with the underperforming AD: The Bible Continues and the disastrous American Odyssey.

Monday:  The half-reason for NBC’s purported success is The Voice, which is still a significant hit, but not nearly the overwhelming force it once was.  The Spring cycle of the show only hit a 4 rating once, and it went as low as 1.9 in morning ratings for a recent episode (gaining 0.1 in final numbers for the night).  The 10PM slot, of course, was part of the story of The Worst Scheduling Move By Any Network All Season And Actually For Quite A Few Seasons:  the transfer of hit drama The Blacklist to Thursdays, where it lost half its rating, leaving the critical post-Voice slot for the flop State of Affairs and the meh (although renewed in some capacity) one-time summer drama The Night Shift.

Tuesday:  The Voice still holds down 8PM, although not as strongly as it once did, but 3 of the 4 sitcoms that followed (Marry Me, About A Boy, One Big Happy) are gone, and the 2015-16 incarnation of Undateable will be a stunt-driven thing that will air live every week, even though last week’s live 1-hour event only gave the show a modest ratings bump.  Chicago Fire is more than mediocre only when it’s part of a crossover event with the other Dick Wolf dramas, and could be in trouble if ABC ever figures out how to program that hour.

Wednesday:  Make no mistake, although The Mysteries of Laura has been renewed (because something introduced this season had to be), it was far from a success, nosing a 1.0 rating in 18-49s and only finding crowds of 50+ viewers.  SVU is an expensive, elderly show that, like Chicago PD, really perks audience interest only when a crossover event is going on.

Thursday:  Did somebody start playing “Taps”?  The Blacklist is badly broken, unable to fend for itself without The Voice as support, and it seems unlikely to recover from its current coma unless the network moves it back to a post-Voice slot.  (And even then, the viewers may not come back now that they’ve left.)  Every other show this season that aired on what was once NBC’s most triumphant night is dead.

Friday:  The decision to move Grimm to 8PM has been a failure, pushing that modest success down to the 1.0 rating neighborhood, and the fall choice to pair it (at the time, still at 9PM) with Constantine didn’t work.  Dateline did what Dateline does.

What’s Coming:

Nothing, at least on paper, to get excited about.  Yet another Dick WolfLand show, this time Chicago Med, and another medical show on top of that one (and Night Shift), Heartbreaker.  A variation on The Blacklist called Blindspot, with a mysterious woman whose crime-related tattoos must be solved to unfold a larger mythology.  The Player, a Las Vegas-set thriller with Wesley Snipes, and Shades of Blue, a cop show with Jennifer Lopez.  Game of Silence, about old friends who reunite to resolve a dark secret from their past, sounds like the only remotely ambitious swing, but it lacks stars and a strong hook.  On the comedy side, a family sitcom (Crowded), a friends sitcom (People Are Talking), a workplace sitcom (Superstore) and Telenovela, a straight-to-series order Eva Longoria that sounds like a more farcial Jane the Virgin.  Also, the return of Coach!  And Heroes!  And yet another live musical, this time The Wiz!  And have they mentioned The Olympics?

What’s Likely:  This is why networks pay the big bucks for football.



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."