Strong new TV season full of surprises… so far
October 23, 2013 | Chris Daniels | Comments
Fall season stymied analysts. Media buyers weigh in on winners and losers
The fall TV season has so far witnessed two fatalities, Lucky 7 and We Are Men, and while others are likely to follow in the coming weeks, broadcast TV buyers are pleasantly surprised by the small number of cancellations and encouraging number of early full-season pick-ups.
“Usually we see a lot more cancellations by now, so it is good for Canadian networks because they don’t have to worry as much about filling schedule gaps,” says Theo Sevier, MediaCom’s executive broadcast director. “I’d say the fall launch has been pretty successful.”
Still, it hasn’t panned out the way many analysts predicted, and so we went to some of Canada’s top media buying agencies for their take on the new fall season’s winners and losers.
Buzzy shows that delivered
The Blacklist was expected to be the closest thing to a surefire hit this season on Sunday nights, thanks to an interesting premise that works as a procedural and James Spader in a charmingly creepy performance.
“Global heavily promoted the show which encouraged people to give it a try,” says Brandi Bailey, vice-president, media director, Vancouver-based Taylor Made Media. “People love trying to put snippets of a character’s history together like puzzles, and The Blacklist writers do a great job of giving viewers a challenge to work with.”
The only other show more buzzed about than The Blacklist is Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on CTV Tuesday nights. “When we saw the upfronts in New York these were the two shows that we thought would be big, and that’s exactly what they’ve been. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had a huge premiere and, while it has dropped a bit, still so far pulls a bigger total audience than any other new show,” says Dorte Castel-Branco, group director, video for ZenithOptimedia.
She notes the Josh Whedon-created spin off of The Avengers movie has “a somewhat more younger male skew too, which is normally a hard demo to attract. It has been a very good addition to CTV’s schedule.”
Another retelling of Sleepy Hollow? Despite a premise that failed to excite most critics (and buyers interviewed for this article), and up against established hits Dancing with the Stars and The Voice on Monday nights, the modern-day retelling of the legend of Ichabod Crane on Global has proved smart counter-programming, a top 30 show in Canada, in addition to Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Blacklist.
“Sleepy Hollow is the biggest surprise in terms of the ratings it has done,” says Sevier. “But given its type of show there really wasn’t much competition.”
Still looking to replicate the performance of audience favourites like The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family, the networks debuted a slew of new comedies. While not performing as well in the U.S., Mom, starring Allison Janney and Anna Faris on City Monday nights, has emerged as the top new comedy in Canada in advertising-coveted demos in major markets.
“We thought some of the sitcoms with big names returning to TV like Robin Williams and Michael J. Fox would be the stronger shows, but it hasn’t turned out that way,” says Castel-Branco, noting in particular The Michael J. Fox Show, which is not performing poorly, but has definitely under-delivered.
“Mom is pulling bigger audiences than any of the other new comedies.”
On Sunday nights, the high society soap opera Betrayal looked to be the perfect companion to the hit Revenge on City, but viewers haven’t agreed. “Betrayal has a great lead-in with Revenge because they’re similar, but the former isn’t doing well at all,” says Carol Cummings, director of broadcast solutions, Media Experts.
In fact, after only its second episode, the show ranked last in the top 50 shows in the Toronto market, despite Revenge firmly in the top 20. “People seem to be switching over to The Good Wife,” Cummings says.
CTV’s Hostages is another major disappointment cited by all the execs. Despite a good pilot, respected cast (Toni Collette and Dermot Mulroney) and ample hype, the expected battle between it and The Blacklist fizzled out of the gate, with the latter now pulling in almost double the viewers.
“I think what people are doing is watching The Blacklist and PVRing Hostages,” says Cummings. “The overnights don’t catch playbacks so it will be interesting to see the numbers down the road once they do include them.”
CTV’s second hour comedy block on Tuesday nights – the 80s comedy The Goldbergs and Malin Akerman’s The Trophy Wife – have held their ground on one of the week’s most competitive nights. They’re up against Top 10 staple NCIS: Los Angeles on Global and City’s New Girl and The Mindy Project plus Crossing Lines with Donald Sutherland on CBC.
“Comedies usually have a tougher time establishing themselves. And even though they have targeted a younger 18-to-34-year-old demo than their competition, it’s still a fierce time period, and The Goldbergs and Trophy Wife are doing pretty well,” says Cummings. “It just blows me away.”
Home-grown programming has also delivered on their modest estimates, most particularly City’s Package Deal from proven showrunner Andrew Orenstein (Malcolm in the Middle, 3rd Rock from the Sun). “It’s pulled in some good numbers,” says Sevier. “It has a nice fit between How I Met Your Mother and 2 Broke Girls.”
Come November, however, because CBS has yanked We Are Men off the air, City will move the multi-cam comedy from its cushy Monday night slot to Thursdays, after the Robin Williams vehicle The Crazy Ones, starting Nov. 7.
Make no mistake: it’s still early, and there will no doubt be more shake-ups to the schedule. But beyond the usual middle-of-the-pack shows fighting for survival at this early stage in the season, there have emerged some clear winners and losers.