May 25, 2012


We are combining Friday and Saturday fall ratings projections into one post.  The two least-watched nights of television have relatively little value to advertisers (there are fewer people watching TV on these nights and the smaller audiences tend to be older and more downscale).  Consequently, the networks generally pay little attention to the two nights and don’t spend a lot of resources in terms of programming budgets or marketing support for them.  There is one exception this year: FOX’s shift to sports programming on Saturday nights could actually have a positive impact on its weekly average.  But first, Friday.

CBS should remain the top network on Friday.  The only network with three hours of original scripted programs on the night, CBS pays a lot for a 1.6 average rating with Adults 18-49 from 8-11 pm, only 14% ahead of second-place ABC.  CSI: New York returns on the night, sliding down from 9 to 8 pm.  Last fall, CSI: NY averaged a 1.7 rating for originals between

September and December, and the move to 8 pm (with its even lower viewing levels) should reduce the potential for the series.  We project a 1.5 rating this fall, still enough to win the hour.  At 9 pm, the new drama Made in Jersey joins the CBS family.  This is the most routine-looking of the new CBS dramas, a legal procedural about a Working Girl-type young lawyer from Joisey (played, ironically, by the British Janet Montgomery) who has to do battle with the stuffed-shirt lawyers in her firm as well as with opposing counsel; viewers who tune in could be excused for thinking they’d clicked on USA Network instead.  It should hold its lead-in but not much more, a 1.5 rating at 9 pm giving CBS a disappointing third-place finish in the hour.  However, the gains at 8 pm (CSI New York replacing last fall’s true disappointment A Gifted Man) should slightly outweigh the yearly decline at 9 pm.  At 10 pm, Blue Bloods returns, most likely with a 1.7 rating (down one tenth from last fall but still easily #1 in the hour leading into local news).  On balance across the night, a very similar performance to last fall, down only 1%.




ABC is trying comedy at 8 pm (along with NBC), with the reliable Shark Tank as a back stop at 9 pm.  Tim Allen opened big last year Wednesday at 8 (a 3.6 rating for the premiere and a 3.1 the second week), but Last Man Standing was soon around a 2.5 for most of the fall, then around a 2.2 in February before finishing the season consistently under a 2 in April and May.  The show is just not very funny, but there might be enough Tim Allen fans on the older end of the 18-49 continuum to slightly improve the time period over Extreme Home Makeover‘s 1.1 last fall in the hour.  We are projecting a 1.2 rating from 8:00-8:30, but ABC could very well see signs of life from the new comedy Malibu County at 8:30.  Reba McEntire is the star and reason for the show’s existence (although Lily Tomlin as her mother isn’t chopped liver), and what we’ve seen so far looks like it’ll appeal to her fan base.    Perfectly suited for a Friday night audience, Malibu County should build on its lead-in to a 1.4 rating, with possible upside.  At 9 pm, Shark Tank should be able to keep building audience for ABC, most likely to a 1.6 rating (a decent upgrade from the 1.4 rating for the second hour of Extreme Home Makeover).  At 10 pm, a combination of 20/20 and Primetime: What Would You Do? should hold last fall’s 1.3 rating.  From 8-11 pm, ABC should average a second-place 1.4, up a significant 9% from last fall.

NBC will have a more difficult time with its comedy hour.  Whitney is, well, Whitney.  And the well-written Community is losing its creator/showrunner/guiding spirit.  Even if there were no changes behind the scenes at Community and if the show produced its most brilliant season, Friday at 8 is a tough place for upscale programs.  The two comedies should slightly underperform Chuck originals in the hour.  Nonetheless, Grimm could shake off the reduced lead-in and match its fall average (1.7 rating for originals).  If only Grimm had a stronger lead-in, it might even have been able to grow a tenth or two in its sophomore year.  Dateline became extremely wobbly last year, and with ABC’s What Would You Do? in the time period many weeks, Dateline could suffer a decline of a tenth of a rating point or more to a 1.3 rating.  Overall, the night looks like a 1.3 rating from 8-11 pm, a slight decline of 4% from last fall and a third place finish.

FOX should tie NBC for third place, down a somewhat more significant 7% from last fall.  Touch moves from American Idol lead-ins to starting a night on its own at 8 pm.  As the spring wore on, Touch moved from a 3+ rating to around a 2 (a few times plunging below a 2) Thursdays at 9 pm.  The show is trending in the wrong direction and moving to a weaker night with no lead-in will take it down even more — most likely a 1.3 rating (and that might be generous) and definitely below the 1.5 rating Kitchen Nightmares averaged in the hour last fall.  If Touch is closer to a 1.0, Gordon Ramsey will always be ready to ride to the rescue in the time period.  Fringe somehow managed to garner one last 13-episode season.  We are giving it the same 1.2 rating for fall originals that it averaged last year.  The night nets out to a 1.3 rating (actually a 1.25, but we’ll give them the rounding), down 7% from last fall.  


SATURDAY‘s schedules are very similar to last fall on ABC, CBS and NBC.  The college football games on ABC should rate very close to last year’s package, while the uninspired but cost-effective repeats on CBS and NBC should be down about one tenth of a rating point due to general network audience erosion.  FOX, however, is making a significant change by cancelling Cops (which premiered shortly after FOX’s launch, almost a quarter-century ago).  FOX’s Saturday night is now basically an extension of the Saturday afternoon sports time period with various sports rotating throughout the year.  Depending on the quality of the teams playing or the fighters in the ring, weekly ratings will vary widely.  But on average the two-hour time period could average a mid- to high-1 rating, representing a substantial 74% increase over last fall, albeit with programming probably more costly than Cops had been.  (9 pm will see the biggest increase as it had been driven down to a 0.8 rating last fall with mostly repeats of Terra Nova.)   




Just one night to go — Sunday night, which we will examine tomorrow in our final post in this series.




Please keep in mind that these estimates for the new shows are based on the trailers produced for the advertiser upfront presentations.  As the actual pilots become available and the networks start their marketing campaigns for the new shows, we reserve the right to adjust our projections here and there.     

Check out ratings predictions for each night of the week this fall: Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday

About the Author

Mitch Metcalf
MITCH METCALF has been tracking every US film release of over 500 screens (over 2300 movies and counting) since the storied weekend of May 20, 1994, when Maverick and Beverly Hills Cop 3 inspired countless aficionados to devote their lives to the art of cinema. Prior to that, he studied Politics and Economics at Princeton in order to prepare for his dream of working in television. He has been Head of West Coast Research at ABC, then moved to NBC in 2000 and became Head of Scheduling for 11 years.