Fall TV winners and losers
Your votes are in, and we have winners — and losers.
But before we get to the fall 2016 broadcast network standouts (and stand-downs), some observations. As falls go, the current one is uninspired; each of the major broadcast networks is down again among young adult viewers. The trend continues.
But, except for The CW, each network also has a new hit, or two. Meanwhile, playback viewing — or that so-called “Live-plus-7-day” rating — continues to grow in importance, yielding some surprising results.
This analysis is based on viewing figures from each night in October, and — where possible — L+7 figures, too. In order of success ...
1. “This Is Us” (NBC) From the network’s point of view, “This” does two things supremely well. Foremost, it holds onto “The Voice” audience, and it even beat “The Voice” among young adults Oct. 11. That other thing: “This Is Us” is a monster in the video-on-demand world. In the seven days after the Oct. 18 episode, for example, another 5 million viewers watched the show on platforms like Hulu. Total audience for that episode: 14.6 million.
2. “Bull” (CBS) You already know “Bull” is a hit. What you may not know is how well it performs in “Live-plus-7,” picking up about 4 million or so viewers after airing. Only “The Big Bang Theory” among CBS series does better than that. “Bull” has also held on to the “NCIS” audience, so, while Michael Weatherly may be gone from that show, he’s clearly not been forgotten.
3. “Designated Survivor” (ABC) ABC would have us believe “DS” is the hottest new series of the fall, but I don’t quite buy that. Reason: Most or much of the viewing action is days after air, which indicates that the audience has better things to do Wednesdays at 10. The Live-plus-7 viewing numbers however are certainly impressive — adding anywhere from 5 million to 6 million views per episode, making it ABC’s most watched Wednesday series, and the biggest L+7 performer in all of network television.
4. “Kevin Can Wait” (CBS) Launched behind “The Big Bang Theory,” “Kevin” had a solid early run (as expected), and when called upon to hold down the 8 p.m. time period, the run continued. “Kevin” is best described however as a decent performer, as opposed to a major hit. The young adult audience is only average, while it picks up only about 2 million or so viewers seven days after — modest even by CBS standards.
5. “Lethal Weapon” (Fox) Here’s one of the surprises. For Fox, “Weapon” is without doubt a hit. Yes, “Empire” — which airs after — is easily the bigger hit, but with that precious L+7 added to its total, “Weapon” is probably the network’s second best overall performer.
6. “Speechless”/“American Housewife” (ABC) A tie. “Speechless” has averaged around 6 million viewers on Wednesdays, ABC’s most important night (where dancing does not happen). That’s a good number, but its young adult audience is just about the same as the rest of the lineup — a lineup that does happen to include “Modern Family.” Then, there’s “Housewife:” The audience size here not only matches “The Middle’s” (which airs before on Tuesdays), but the show gets a solid boost in the days after, by some 40 percent.
7. “Timeless” (NBC) Admittedly a tossup, but I’ll put in the winner column for now. “Timeless’” problems are in the so-called “live” telecasts Mondays at 10. “This Is Us” has held on to the audience from “The Voice” on Tuesdays; “Timeless” has squandered it. But here’s the shocker: Millions of people tune in later, and I do mean “millions.” The show’s mid-October episode, for example was boosted by 4 million in the L+7, second only to “This Is Us.”
8. “The Good Place” (NBC) Another solid player in a ridiculously hard time period — squeezed on one side by “Grey’s Anatomy,” on the other by football — “The Good Place” does appear to be in a good place. The show’s young adult audience size is virtually identical to “Superstore’s” — which NBC believes is its best comedy — while a couple million more viewers tune in the days following.
1. “Notorious” (ABC) Your “loser” winner, and pretty much no contest. The show blows off half the audience that watched “Grey’s Anatomy” and has done so with regularity since launch. It picks up some business later in the week, but not enough to compensate.
2. “The Exorcist” (Fox) The end is near. No one is watching (under 2 million viewers) and no one is watching in the days following.
3. “Pure Genius” (CBS) Sure, this is too early to call, and there was even a critic out there who sort of liked the Oct. 27 launch (me), but this one has the word “doom” already attached, like some sort of scarlet letter-y word. The show mustered only 6 million at launch. We’ll see about the Live-plus-7, but ...
4. “Pitch” (Fox) This is probably one of those too-soon-to-tell stories, with the outcome uncertain and that Thursday time period not getting any easier. But, “Pitch” is still a major disappointment for Fox.
5. “MacGyver” (CBS) If I had to bet, CBS will hand this reboot a full season. The ratings aren’t bad, and probably exactly what the network expected all along. But a keen disappointment (for CBS): The Live-plus-7 rating is anemic by network TV standards.
6. “Conviction” (ABC) ABC gave “Conviction” a gift — the audience from “Dancing With the Stars” — which “Conviction” declined to open. But “Conviction” (averaging around 4 million total viewers) does well in that L+7 column. ABC is watching, waiting, hoping.