Fall Premiere Week 2016
Every fall, the major TV networks air new episodes of their top primetime shows as well as release the new shows they’ve been promoting. All of this kicks off during “premiere week” in September; this way the shows’ finales can air during the November ratings period, hopefully helping the networks grab major ratings and, consequently, major ad dollars in the coming year.
Most years it’s pretty easy to tell, based off premiere week performance, which shows will last and which will get thrown on the chopping block. The higher the ratings, particularly in the A18-49 demo, the higher the likelihood a show will continue on air. I thought it would be fun to look at how some of this season’s new shows fared across the top networks.
NBC did pretty well for itself this premiere week. Premiere week’s highest rated new show premiere went to NBC’s “This Is Us”, a show about a group of seemingly random individuals whose lives end up intertwining in unexpected ways. “This Is Us” snagged itself a 2.8 rating Adults 18-49; it not only grabbed a top seated initial audience but set NBC records for viewership via DVR. NBC also fared well with “The Good Place”, a comedy starring Kristen Bell and Ted Danson. “The Good Place”, which concentrates on becoming a better person in the afterlife, ran on Thursday night (a night that once ran comedic juggernauts such as Friends and Seinfeld). That premiere pulled in over 5 million viewers; NBC Thursday night comedies have been pulling in the 3 million range in recent years, so this was good news for NBC.
FOX, on the other hand, didn’t do so well. Its big winner from last year, “Empire” (still broadcast TV’s top scripted show), dropped 37% this year for its season 2 premiere (last year it scored a 6.7 A18-49, this year a 4.2). Critically hailed “Pitch”, a drama about the first female to play Major League Baseball, did an underwhelming 1.1 in Adults 18-49. The award for most underwhelming new show premiere went to FOX’s “The Exorcist”. “The Exorcist”, based off the classic film of the same name, drew a mere 1.0 rating Adults 18-49. Overall, it grabbed about 2.9 million viewers – not a complete flop for a Friday night series, but also not nearly as positive a showing as FOX had hoped for. (My wife is crossing her fingers hoping this one, in particular, isn’t canceled. I told her chances are it will be, sadly.) Luckily for FOX, its Friday night premiere of “Lethal Weapon” (again, based off the movie of the same name), did much better, drawing 8 million viewers.
ABC saw mixed results during premiere week. Its new crime/legal drama, “Notorious”, opened in the slot that “Scandal” ran in last year; “Scandal” did a 3.3 A18-49 last year, while “Notorious” did a 1.2 A 18-49 this year. Not good news out of the gate, especially given the not so favorable reviews the show has received in addition to its poor initial showing. ABC’s Friday night lineup, though scoring them second place overall for the night, took some blows. “Dr. Ken” was down 40% from its series debut, and “Shark Tank” was down 35% from last fall’s premiere. On the plus side, ABC did well on Wednesday night in particular. Its comedy “Speechless”, grabbed a respectable 7.3 million viewers. Even better, the network seems to have a hit on its hands with its new political drama “Designated Survivor”. “Designated Survivor” snatched up 10 million viewers, and scored a full rating point higher than “Nashville” did in the same slot last year (Wednesday at 10pm EST). Tuesday night, ABC also saw over an 80% gain in viewership for its comic book inspirited show “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”, setting a live plus 3 (number of viewers watching the show live and up to three days after via DVR) series record.
And last but not least, CBS. CBS, like ABC, was handed a mixed bag, though CBS’s was a little sweeter. “The Big Bang Theory”, one of CBS’s top comedies, saw a 19% decline versus last year’s series opener, but still grabbed almost 16 million viewers. “NCIS”, one of the network’s most successful dramas, opened with a 2.2 rating A18-49 (a 14 year low) but still grabbed almost 16 million viewers as well. “NCIS” also helped pull in a larger audience for CBS’s new drama “Bull”, inspired by the early career of Dr. Phil McGraw. 15.6 million people stuck around to watch its premiere; CBS just needs to hope those folks continue to come back now. Thursday Night Football continued to prove a winner by holding strong with over 17 million viewers, but the real winner on the network was the reboot of “MacGyver”. Scoring a 1.7 rating A18-49, “MacGyver” put up the best rating for a Friday night scripted show in more than 2 years. “Amazing Race” ran in the same slot last year, and “MacGyver” saw an increase of 87% viewership over “Amazing Race” year over year. In Adults 19-49, “MacGyver” increased the rating by 42% year over year. “MacGyver’s” successful premiere carried over to CBS’s “Hawaii Five-O” as well, which runs right after. “Hawaii Five-0” was up 30% in Adults 18-49 and up 22% in viewers from last year’s season premiere.
It will be interesting to see which shows ultimately make the cut, and which ones don’t. We should know more in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!