January 3, 2015

NIELSENWAR Network Midterm Grades: NBC


We’re continuing with our examination of the broadcast networks as they near the launch of the midseason part of their schedules.  We’ve already assigned grades to ABC and CBS, and today it’s Peacock season.


Fall Primetime 18-49 Average (through December 28):  2.38, down 9.6% from Fall 2013

Grade:  C-minus

The Season So Far:  NBC was the #1 network of the fall, and it’s likely to hold that title as long as it airs Sunday Night Football, which is the biggest night on all of television (The Walking Dead sometimes outrates the game, but it only runs for a single hour), and very stable–down just 2% from last fall.  This year, in addition, NBC has the Super Bowl, which may allow it to hold onto the lead for the entire season.  However, the gaudy ratings that NFL games provide aren’t accompanied by profits, because of the enormous rights fees that have to be paid to the league.  More to the point, even with its strong Sunday, NBC’s 9.6% drop from Fall 2013 is the third-worst of the Big 4 networks.  The network’s real picture is better presented by its Monday-Friday record, and there things were far less pleasant, with double-digit losses on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.  The big worry for NBC, of course, is the steady decline of The Voice, which is down 20% from last fall and looking, if not vulnerable, definitely less than formidable.  The network’s Monday drop was worsened by the failure of the first part of its big Monday/Thursday gambit, replacing The Blacklist with the Katherine Heigl vehicle State of Affairs, which went down in flames.  (Those who believe NBC’s sudden discovery that it only had Heigl for 13 episodes and always intended to run most of them during the low-viewership months of December and January may want go go bridge-shopping in Brooklyn.)  The Tuesday drop for The Voice didn’t help Marry Me and About a Boy, although those shows were probably ill-fated anyway.  (They aren’t currently scheduled to air in the Spring, although the network says they’re returning.)  Wednesdays are steady (down 2%), but at a last-place 1.5 level, the network’s lowest night aside from Friday-Saturday, with The Mysteries of Laura adding to a line-up that’s overwhelmingly watched by viewers over 50.  For the first time in decades, NBC will be out of the Thursday comedy business after the deaths of Bad Judge and A To Z, and The Biggest Loser franchise may be done after its awful Thursday performance.  On Friday, Constantine failed as a companion to Grimm.  (Although the night was only down 5% and Constantine didn’t do appreciably worse than Dracula and Hannibal in the 10PM slot, those shows were international co-productions that came much more cheaply to NBC.)  On top of all that, network Entertainment President Robert Greenblatt had to endure the painful–and expensive–flop of his signature project Peter Pan Live, which erased the plaudits he received (in ratings, if not critically) for 2013’s Sound of Music.

Forecast:  Grim, With a Giant Question Mark At the CenterThe Blacklist will undoubtedly outperform the DOA sitcoms it’s replacing in the Thursday 9PM hour.  But will its own ratings be hurt by head-to-head competition with Scandal, and can it lift newcomers The Slap and Allegiance as its lead-in and lead-out?  The betting here is that there’s room at 9PM for both Scandal and Blacklist (although if the latter falters, look for NBC to beat a hasty retreat back to Mondays), but not enough to do much for The Slap, which even the network doesn’t seem to be talking about, or Allegiance (remember?  The Americans for dummies).  The Night Shift, a moderate success against summer competition, is no more than a placeholder in the Monday 10PM slot, and the same goes for the return of Undateable in the post-Voice slot on Tuesday.  It’s a sad commentary on NBC’s development that it had no better content for its marquee lead-in than this pair of summer retreads.  The end of the beloved but low-rated Parks & Recreation will come and go quickly, as the network burns off episodes 2 at a time, and the newlyweds-plus-lesbian-buddy sitcom One Big Happy doesn’t hold much promise.  The wild card for NBC’s midseason is A.D., the quasi-sequel to The Bible, which was a huge hit on cable.  It launches on Easter Sunday, and iff the network can draw that highly-motivated religious audience, the miniseries could boost the night through April and May, although it’s hard to see how that will help its lead-out, the incompatible and uncompelling conspiracy thriller Odyssey.

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."