Broadcast’s big hurt this fall: Dramas
The top shows are aging, the new ones aren't catching on
November 16, 2012
Only two dramas rank among the top 10 shows on TV this fall, and just three dramas are among fall’s top 10 scripted shows.
This issue should sound familiar. After all, comedy went through a similar down cycle a few years ago before the success of "Modern Family," "2 Broke Girls" and "New Girl" helped revive the genre.
In fact, this sort of cycle has been seen for decades. Dramas and comedies seem to alternate ups and downs, while other genres like reality, sci fi or game shows pop in occasionally.
It only takes a couple of hits to turn the cycle around.
Dramas' problem seems to be a combination of aging dramas whose ratings are naturally eroding, a lack of compelling new dramas to take their place, and increased competition from cable.
ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” and CBS’s “NCIS,” both at least nine years old, are the top dramas on broadcast this fall, tied for No. 9 overall with a 3.6 adults 18-49 rating apiece, according to Nielsen live-plus-same-day-DVR-playback data.
By comparison, the top scripted show on TV, the ABC sitcom “Modern Family,” is averaging a 4.8.
Just one new drama ranks in the top 20, NBC’s “Revolution,” which is drawing a 3.2 rating.
A number of other new dramas are struggling. ABC’s “666 Park Avenue” and “Last Resort,” for example, are averaging just 1.7.
CBS already canceled one of its three new dramas, “Made in Jersey,” which drew a 0.8 in its second of just two episodes.
And some new dramas, including ABC’s “Nashville” and CBS’s “Elementary,” have not lived up to their preseason hype.
No less worrisome for the networks is the number of aging dramas on broadcast. Aging shows’ audiences naturally decline, and these shows take up a lot of primetime real estate. Fifteen dramas on the Big Five are in their fifth season or later.
Finally, these shows are facing more competition than ever on cable, where storylines and language are often more graphic and thus, to some viewers, more appealing.
AMC’s zombie drama “The Walking Dead” is the No. 1 drama this fall among 18-49s on broadcast or cable, the first time a cable show has achieved that feat during the regular season. And shows like FX’s “American Horror Story” and Showtime’s “Homeland” have seen big viewership gains.
Still, there’s some small hope for broadcast that midseason will bring a bump for dramas. Fox has the highly anticipated new drama “The Following,” and CBS will air “Elementary” behind the Super Bowl, which is sure to give the program a kick.
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