October 28, 2013

NIELSENWAR: Last Stop Before Sweeps


As we approach the start of November sweeps on Halloween night, most of the networks are locking in their back order/cancellation plans, with one conspicuous exception.

First, some big-picture numbers:

Network Weekly Averages  –  1st 5 Weeks of Season

NBC:  3.07/2.81/2.66/2.97/2.44

FOX:  2.16/1.75/2.42/1.85/3.26

CBS:  2.24/2.46/1.86/2.19/1.89

ABC:  2.29/2.08/1.81/1.90/1.75

CW:  0.27/0.53/0.68/0.77/0.67

(Note:  a fair amount of the week-to-week variation for NBC, FOX and CBS relates to football–which of the latter two have the late afternoon game on Sunday, and the quality of the primetime match-up on NBC.  In addition, FOX was affected last week by the World Series.)

5-Week Season-to-Date Network Averages (2013 vs 2012)

NBC2.79 vs. 2.72……+3%

FOX2.31 vs. 2.35……-2%

CBS2.13 vs. 2.27……-6%

ABC1.97 vs. 2.11…… -7%

CW0.58 vs. 0.56…….+5%

5-Net:   9.78 vs. 10.01…… -2%

FOX:  The World Series is going well, holding or exceeding last year’s Series ratings–and sure to go higher with at least 2 games left to play.  FOX seems to have decided that it’s going to live with its shaky Tuesday for the rest of the season, giving DADS, the night’s weakest link, a back order and scheduling SURVIVING JACK, which might have gone into that spot, as inhabitant of the newly-created half-hour after the truncated AMERICAN IDOL results show in the spring.  That means Tuesday remains a night where only NEW GIRL rates over a 1.5, and by spring, with the usual late-season erosion, even that may not be the case.  FOX’s Tuesday isn’t quite as dire at NBC’s Thursday, because its sitcoms rate well with younger viewers that get advertiser attention, but it’s still not a long-term play.  FOX’s other moves have been about using football to launch its remaining high-profile dramas, giving ALMOST HUMAN a premiere airing on a November Sunday, and then showcasing RAKE with a post-NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME berth in January before its regular airing on Thursday.

NBC:  The Peacock can breathe a sigh of relief that Fridays seem to be in good shape, with GRIMM premiering at the same level as last spring’s finale, and DRACULA proving quite compatible; even if the Count drops a normal 0.2-0.3 this week, it’ll be just fine.  Since Sunday-Tuesday are set (although NBC can’t be happy about the trajectory of CHICAGO FIRE on Tuesdays), that just leaves Wednesday and Thursday as problems–which admittedly is a bit like saying Russia is lovely except for Chernobyl.  With nothing in its midseason pocket that appears game-changing, those nights will probably stay more or less status quo, as the network hopes that THE BLACKLIST holds as its one non-VOICE hit.  (Not to be morbid, but at this time last season REVOLUTION was still a smash.)

CBS:  The good news for the Eye this week was on Tuesday, where AGENTS OF SHIELD is shrinking into the shadow of its own hype, the rest of the night has collapsed for ABC, and PERSON OF INTEREST is starting to pay off at 10PM.  Less good:  Monday and Thursday, which both have big 8PM starts and then a steady set of diminishing returns.  The network has given back orders to just about everything, but don’t be so sure any of the fall’s new sitcoms will be back next year (although 2 1/2 MEN is even more likely to go, since its ratings are equally mediocre and it costs far more than the rest).

ABC:  The clock is ticking very loudly now on ABC’s fall series, which will need to get back orders soon or fall out of continuous production (which means temporary shutdown and then a restart, all of which costs money).  BETRAYAL, THE GOLDBERGS, TROPHY WIFE, BACK IN THE GAME and SUPER FUN NIGHT are all unpromising or worse, with Goldbergs and Super Fun cosmetically above the rest strictly because of their lead-ins.  Some of them, at least, will be back in the Spring, and it’s time to decide which.  (ONCE UPON A TIME IN WONDERLAND seems to have been intended as a short order, or it would be on this list too–as it is, the Once Upon A Time spin-off experiment has been a clear failure.)

CW:  A little less feel-good than last week, as all the newcomers dropped from their premieres (although THE ORIGINALS was still quite strong), and THE CARRIE DIARIES in no way justified its renewal.

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."