November 15, 2012



We’re now mid-way through November sweeps, and it’s time to ask once again:  What do we know now about this TV season that we didn’t know before?

THERE WERE NO NEW BREAKOUT HITS THIS FALL.  Despite all the marketing, all the hype, and in some cases even the good reviews, the fall of REVOLUTION to a 2.6 this week (still very good, especially for a 10PM show, but with its 4th down airing in a row, now a success rather than a blockbuster) makes it official.  The networks may claim this or that show is a new smash, but the truth is there aren’t any.  Most of the back-ordered new series are hovering in the 1.5-2.0 neighborhood, where property values aren’t very high, and none is higher than the mid-2s.

TUESDAY 9PM LOOKED LIKE A SUICIDE PACT… AND IT WAS.  The combined ratings for NEW GIRL, GO ON and HAPPY ENDINGS on Tuesday night were 5.8, a tremendous audience for sophisticated single-camera comedy.  But because that number was split between 3 networks offering variations of the same show, none scored higher than a mediocre 2.2.  The happiest network in the hour, of course, was CBS, which owns the entire drama audience with NCIS LA.

MARKETING TV SHOWS IS DIFFERENT THAN MARKETING MOVIES.  Because movies make the bulk of their boxoffice in their first 10 days of release, there isn’t much downside to a misleading marketing campaign, because by the time word of mouth starts to circulate, the multiplexes are on to their next release.  But TV requires fans to tune in and then come back every week, and if if they don’t get the show they feel they were promised, they’re not sticking around.  Case in point:  NASHVILLE, a very good drama that has hardly at all been about the rivalry between older, established country star Connie Britton and ruthless newcomer Hayden Panettiere.  Those characters are at the center of the show, all right (with Claire Bowen’s innocent novice), but they have little interaction, in a series that so far has been structured around 3 mostly separate storylines.  Promoting the show like it’s Dallas when it’s actually more like Treme was a risky move, and one that hasn’t paid off for the network thus far.

THE UPFRONTS ARE GOING TO BE A BLOODBATH.  Not because so many shows will be canceled–although given the constantly dropping level of “acceptable” ratings, there may be an unprecedented number of bubble shows next spring–but because it’s increasingly critical that the networks convince advertisers to pay on the basis of accumulated viewers over a full week, rather than the 3 day period that’s currently used.  As DVR use increases and the numbers for initial airings continue to drop, the economics of the networks can’t keep up if they don’t expand the pot of viewers for whom they can charge.  Of course, from the advertisers’ point of view, the system isn’t broken, so it doesn’t need to be fixed–their ad campaigns are intended to be seen when a show airs, not a week later.  This could get ugly.

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."