Five important takeaways from this TV season
At the top of the list: It's still possible to launch a hit show
November 21, 2016
It has never been more difficult for a new show to find an audience on broadcast.
With so much competition for viewers’ attention from social media, streaming services, cable and even, this fall, the presidential election, many wondered if the era of new broadcast hits was over.
The previous season had been a disappointment, and “Empire” is the only smash to launch in years.
That’s why all of broadcast, and not just NBC, is celebrating the success this fall TV season of “This Is Us,” the family drama that has quickly become one of broadcast’s top dramas.
That bring us to our takeaway:
1. Broadcast networks can still produce hit shows
“This Is Us” has proven not only that broadcast can still produce hits but also that people still watch shows live, if in lower numbers than five years ago.
That’s good news for the entire broadcast landscape. It gives the other networks hope.
In addition to broadcast’s continued ability to produce hit shows, here are four other key takeaways from this fall season so far.
2. Shows don’t get canceled anymore
It used to be that when a show had no hope of continued, it was canceled. These days, with the networks reluctant to yank shows too fast without seeing their DVR and online numbers, we see it happen less and less.
A network will decline to order new episodes or trim back an existing order (ABC has done this to “Conviction” and “Notorious”). But it seems nothing can get a new show outright canceled in this era of declining ratings.
3. The NFL is vulnerable
For many years, media people considered the NFL unassailable. While ratings for everything else on broadcast plunged, the NFL went up, up, up – until this season.
The well-documented decline in NFL ratings has been the story of the fall, and it will continue to be as the networks try to determine why this is happening. They probably won’t find a silver bullet, which makes the sudden about-face that much more frustrating.
4. DVRs gain (again) in importance
Every year, DVRs capture a bigger and bigger chunk of viewers’ TV time. But this year the device has crossed a threshold many were unsure it would ever hit.
More people are time-shifting a handful of shows (such as “Designated Survivor” and “Quantico) than watching them live, which is really incredible when you think about it – and means that overnight ratings will continue to matter less and less.
5. Brand has never been more important to networks
Look at the shows that have done well this season – CBS’s “Bull” and “Man With a Plan;” NBC’s “This Is Us” and “The Good Place;” ABC’s “American Housewife” and “Speechless;” Fox’s Lethal Weapon.”
All of them have one major thing in common, and that’s that they reflect the individual network’s brand very well. The ABC programs are comedies about flawed but loving families; the CBS programs are very traditional procedurals or comedies.
People look to networks for these sort of shows specifically. When they find them there, they’re unlikely to turn away.
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