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The State of Broadcast Networks- Part II- FOX and ABC

You can check out part I clicking right here

Hello everybody! And welcome to the second part of “The State of Broadcast Networks”. First of all, I want to thank you all for the amazing feedback you gave me on Part I, and I hope you enjoy this one as much. And without further ado, let’s go into the article.

Last time we covered some basic ground talking about syndication of veteran shows, the Nielsen rating that networks expect to reach, an overview of last season’s ratings, and the state of CBS. Now we’re going to talk about two networks that have some of the most buzzed television shows, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into great ratings: FOX and ABC.

The thing with these two networks is that, over the year, both have mustered some of the biggest hits on television. ABC landed series like LOST, Dancing with the Stars, Grey’s Anatomy, The Bachelor/Bachelorette and that’s just to start. FOX landed on The Simpsons, House, American Idol and Glee. For quite a while both networks were mighty: FOX ruled as number 1 thanks to American Idol being huge almost every season, and while ABC wasn’t able to overthrown FOX (or CBS for that matter) it was always in quite a comfortable spot with its hits; even when ABC had some very low rated shows, its hits were so huge that it made up for any losses.

Over at ABC, the network was more than pleased in the 2011-2012 season with the breakout success of Once Upon a Time and Revenge; both freshman shows got good ratings (OUAT’s rating actually should be called great) and a great deal of buzz. The Middle grew, Suborgatory premiered well, Modern Family was up as well, and even Happy Endings enjoyed good ratings out of Modern Family. Wednesdays were all joy for ABC. Sundays had just one trouble: the 10PM timeslot, but hey! 2 out of 3 in a night are great! With OUAT and Desperate Housewives bringing great ratings, who cares? Or at least, that’s what I think the folks at ABC told themselves. Thursdays remained the same with Greys doing fine and Private Practice performing marginally well. Dancing with the Stars performed down, but still good. Last Man Standing did well. So almost everything looked great at ABC; some failed timeslots, some shows underperforming (Cougar Town for example, which moved to TBS), but aside from that, it was a good season for ABC. But everything changed this past season.

ABC: This season was kind of a disaster for ABC; on Mondays and Tuesdays Dancing with the Stars basically flopped; it luckily managed to hit mid 2s, while mostly delivering ratings around high 1s and low 2s. Considering this used to be one of the network’s behemoths it’s pretty sad the fall of its ratings, and that’s the reason why ABC will no longer broadcast it on Tuesdays. Castle at 10PM held its feet, but it did see a fall of 12% from the previous season (from 2.31 to 2.04), but nothing too serious; considering the show is in a 10PM timeslot, managing to be so solid is really good.

Now, Tuesdays were the true disaster: ABC bet that Dancing with the Stars would perform well and so it would lead to a healthy Happy Endings/Apt. 23 combo and the night would finish with a solid Private Practice. Sadly, this wasn’t the case: DWTS got “fine” ratings and so Happy Endings had not much to hold on to, and much less Apt. 23. Private Practice performance was so low that some people expected the show to be pulled from schedule. There was, however, a slight surprise: In midseason, Body of Proof, which started low, slowly rose to more decent ratings. But even then ABC decided that they had it with low rated Tuesdays, and so they canceled even the somewhat decent performer in order to reshape the whole night for next season.

Wednesday is another night in which ABC is probably still weeping about: after having an amazing season of Wednesday nights with their line up of The Middle/Suborgatory/Modern Family/Happy Endings and Revenge, ABC decided to shackle things a little bit, but that was a turn for the worst: the Revenge move to Sundays was understandable, still there was no reason to move Suborgatory after Modern Family (where it performed worse than last season), as the show performed surprisingly well after The Middle. Instead, The Neighbors got to follow the Hecks and while it never performed horribly, it never performed great either (thus now it goes to Fridays). The late in seasons inserts of Family Tools and How to live with your parents also failed, but in their defend we can argue the late premiere dates of both of them. Meanwhile, Nashville, at 10PM, was usually beaten up by CSI and Chicago Fire. It never achieved Revenge’s ratings. However, it was the only freshman drama that was kind of steady and delivered acceptable ratings, hence it got renewed.

I’m surprised ABC hasn’t given up on the Thursdays 8PM slot, which has caused them nothing but headaches over the years (FlashForward, Charlie’s Angels, Missing); Last Resort and Zero Hour were unable to compete with CBS’ monstrously high rated Big Bang Theory; it also didn’t help that X Factor/American Idol were there to make things worse, as both of those shows rate good. So, to patch things up, Wipe Out and Celebrity Wife Swap went there. Grey’s Anatomy kept performing amazingly (though down from the previous season), but the real breakout came from Scandal; premiering late in the 2011-2012 season, it never saw amazing ratings during its first season, but Scandal generated so much buzz over the course of its second season that people tuned in for the show. Soon a 2.0 became a 2.4, then a 2.7, and by the end of the season, an incredibly high 3.2, in a hard timeslot (10PM). So it’s no surprise that ABC chose Scandal as the show to brag about in their TCA.

Fridays were a nice breathe of air for ABC this season. Shark Tank reined as Fridays n°1 show, 20/20 ended the night with good ratings, and Last Man Standing performed surprisingly strong, usually winning its timeslot. But there are failures here; even though at first it looked mighty, Reba’s comedy Malibu Country lost momentum kind of fast, and let’s not talk about the embarrassing double shots of Happy Endings late in the season; the promotion was bad, the ratings were bad, and that’s sad. As a fan of Happy Endings I was crossing my fingers for the USA pick up, but you know how that turned out… anyway.

And now, I know many of you have been waiting for this: Sunday nights. Probably one of the most commented nights of the season for ABC.
Once Upon a Time proved to be a powerhouse on its first season and Revenge was one of the most talked about/buzzed shows, so the pairing made a lot of sense. When both shows premiered they did it to a 3.9 (for OUAT) and a 3.2 (for Revenge). Pretty nice, right? They were amazingly promoted, people tuned in and from September to November the network enjoyed nice ratings for both shows… and then January came, and so the AFC championship and the Grammys, which hurt both Once Upon a Time and Revenge quite badly. OUAT hit as low as 2.0 for the first time late in the season and Revenge hit a 1.4 against the Grammys. Soon OUAT would settle in the 2.2 range and Revenge in the 1.7, way away from their glory days when their sophomore seasons began. Now, is it all ABC’s fault? I do think ABC shouldn’t have aired episode against such a huge competition, but I can’t deny that there are many fans that complains about the writing in both Once Upon a Time and Revenge; wherever it was the writing or the schedule, we can’t be too sure, but I do think both factors combined hurt them. And 10PM performers… ABC still doesn’t find something there that can work; 666 Park Avenue didn’t make it, the bizarre Happy Endings/ Apt. 23 input was a complete failure, and Red Widow never managed to impress.

Now, let’s see the season average for the scripted shows:

Network scripted shows average:
Drama average: 1.85
Comedy average: 1.825
Network average: 1.78

State of the network: ABC was badly hurt, coming from a season that got a 2.4 average and falling into 1.8 is something that surely hurt their pride. In order to rebuild the network, ABC is hopping Agents of Shield can rebuild Tuesdays night, and that Once Upon a Time in Wonderland on Thursdays at 8PM change things around for the timeslot. They are also praying to get OUAT’s and Revenge’s momentum back. We’ll see how that goes.

Should those averages carry over next season and considering ratings alone (i.e no syndication, production costs, etc), and should ABC be willing to renew performers over 80%, these would be the bottom lines:

Bottom line for renewing a drama: 1.48
Bottom line for renewing a comedy: 1.46

Looks like NBC, doesn’t it? (Just wait for Fox). We’re not sure ABC is going that low; should their strategy work, their average will go higher, but this points out that something has to be worked out.

Moving on to Fox, when did things started to get complicated? That’s surely the 2011-2012 season:
That season FOX had a massive disappointment with X Factor, which had good ratings, but not nearly as huge as they expected. The surprise came from New Girl, which drew even bigger ratings than Glee (which performed well, but down from the previous season), but then deflated and managed to get more down to earth ratings. Terra Nova made them money, but it was so incredibly expensive that they opted to retire while they still made money. House ratings went down the toilet, Fringe which had good (or at least acceptable) ratings on Fridays on its 3rd season couldn’t follow those ratings onto the 4th and they started to lose money on it. Alcatraz flopped over time too. But what hurt them the most is this: American Idol started losing a lot of audience, constantly being beaten by CBS’ Big Bang Theory. Touch premiered huge, but even airing after American Idol didn’t avoid the rating bleeding. Things were looking bleak, but hey! They were still at the top; they managed to be the number network yet again... but that reign would end pretty soon.

FOX: If someone hurt worse than ABC this season, it’s FOX! I would dare to say this is FOX’s worst season ever.

On Mondays, the premiere of The Mob Doctor was almost a joke; many tv fans can’t understand why it aired its 13 episodes instead of being pulled out of schedule ala Lone Star. They both rated very similar, but Mob Doctor remained there. And it’s not like they didn’t have replacement: They could have put Touch there, Kitchen Nightmares, and even some people suggested putting Fringe there, as it had only one season left and so ratings really didn’t matter. But even so, FOX stuck with The Mob Doctor until The Following came around. Why? My guess is that they wanted to hold Touch for midseason (which they did), and so Kitchen Nightmares was put behind Fringe, thus leaving no possible replacement for it until The Following came. Speaking of The Following, that show calmed any ratings pains that came from Mob Doctor; it premiered to huge ratings, and it even boosted Bones, which was doing just about fine! The Bones/Following combo made their Monday pains go away.

But Tuesdays is another story; only New Girl rated well here, and for most of the season it only scored low 2s. Everything else underperformed. Raising Hope did reasonably well (for FOX standards this season) holding up to high 1s for most of the season, but freshmen Ben&Kate and The Mindy Project were disappointments. Ben&Kate went as low as 1.1 and Mindy as low as 1.3. Even in midseason, when Ben&Kate rose for a second to 1.4, it went immediately back down to 1.1 and FOX decided to pull the plug. The Mindy Project managed to raise to 1.7 just when FOX decided to do multiple pickups at the time, so Mindy was among them; sadly, after being renewed the ratings took a dive and it went back down to 1.3s.

Wednesday was all about X Factor/American Idol, and both reality shows fell really hard. X Factor went as low as 2.3, but luckily it managed to end the season with a 2.7. It suffered a 23% drop from the previous season. Then, American Idol… for the first time ever it went under 3, delivering a 2.9. The drop was of a 27%. Should the drop continue this season, we might soon see the end of what used to be one of the highest rated shows ever.

Following up to Thursdays, results shows for X Factor and American Idol rated as bad as their performance shows (bad for those shows standards, because their actual ratings were actually good). Here FOX also moans the fall Glee suffered; Glee used to be one of the flagship shows for FOX, one that performed so great on its second season (around 4s and 5s) that no one would have thought that season four ratings would be possible: Glee went under 2s four times in the past season, going as low as 1.5. The season averaged a 2.21, down 27% from the previous season (which did a 3.02). So, why a 2 season pick up? Even while Glee ratings essentially went down the toilet, they are still quite above the average of the network, so I think FOX hopes they can at least keep it for a couple of years as a wild card to say “hey! We have at least one decent performer!”.

Fridays have always been hard for FOX; they start well with Kitchen Nightmares at 8PM, but then at 9PM they haven’t found anything that works. Fringe did well enough on its 3rd season, averaging 1.5 on the timeslot that year, and even though season 4 kicked off with a 1.5, the ratings soon fell and as the show was about to reach 88 episodes many Fringe fans (including me) feared the worst. Still, it got a 5th and final season. Here I think FOX just sit back and said “we have until midseason to worry about Fridays” and just let Fringe air its final episodes. Now, in midseason, when Touch premiere started the nail biting; Touch premiered to a 1.1 and went as low as 0.5, so FOX didn’t think it twice: they cancelled the show and used the chance to call Kiefer for a new season of 24. Now, they hope Bones, Raising Hope and Enlisted can turn the night around for them… we’ll see.

There’s not much to say about Sundays; animation domination has worked really great for them. All of their animated comedies rate well, and perform even better in the 18-34 demographic, which is hard to reach. The only exception is Cleveland Show, which got to its 88 episodes for syndication and then FOX said “bye, bye”. This night might as well be the bright spot of FOX this past season alongside with the Bones/Following combo, but everything else is just a train wreck.

Network average for scripted programming:
Comedy average (not including animation or Glee): 1.7
Drama average (including Glee): 1.59
Animation average: 2.14
Network average: 1.93

Network state: If we take the animation comedies out of the equation, the network average gets as low as 1.63, which must be about half from the 2011-2012 season. But what’s even more alarming is that FOX is not doing much to change its current situation; it is moving Bones, a steady performer, to Fridays and plans to premiere two new shows on Monday, which is a bold choice to say the least, as both of them could fail in their timeslots. They keep New Girl and Mindy Project right where they are, hopping that Dads bring more viewers just because it has the Seth MacFarlane name on it. And even though X Factor and American Idol keep falling… they kept them there, almost as if they deny the past season happened. Whatever FOX is planning to do in order to surge I’m not really sure it’s going to work out. Just let cross our finger so that FOX gets out of this horrible situation, because- in my opinion- they have good programming. And should the ratings stay the same, just look at the 80% bottom line.

Bottom line for renewing a comedy: 1.36
Bottom line for renewing a drama: 1.27
Bottom line for renewing an animated comedy: 1.71

FOX really can't afford to go that low, if it does they'll need a miracle to survive. Just because they landed The Following this season doesn't mean that the show alone can carry the network, as it doesn't have huge ratings, just good ratings. Whatever FOX is thinking to do in order to rise, I can't really see it, but here's hopping they regain some momentum.

Stay tune for the final part of this article: I’ll tackle down both NBC and the CW!

I'm currently studying Psychology while also writing fantasy books (one already published in my home country, Chile, you can check it out on the facebook icon). I watch many different types of shows, including my favorites Revenge, Game of Thrones, Once Upon a Time and about 23 more. Currently writing articles and very soon some reviews too

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