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The State of Broadcast Networks- Part III (Final)- The CW and NBC

You can check out part I clicking right here
And you can check out part II clicking right here

Hi everyone! Welcome to the final part of my article; first of all, sorry for the delay, I’ve been very busy at college, so I didn’t have the chance to finish the article earlier. I want to thank you for sticking with me! I know many of you love rating discussions, so I decided to leave these two juicy networks for the last; rating wise they are both at the bottom and they both have some very popular shows which are underrated, you already know what I’m talking about (well, because of the title, sure): it’s The CW and NBC!

First, let’s take a look to the 2011-2012 season on The CW: Things started out promising: The Vampire Diaries was still hot, Supernatural rated ok on Fridays, and both Ringer and The Secret Circle started out strong and kept the good ratings for some weeks to come. 90210 also did good, Hart of Dixie performed ok, the troubles came with America’s Next Top Model losing momentum, Gossip Girl performing dreadful and Nikita was… an acceptable performer for Friday night. If that was it, then the season would have been rather good for The CW, but that wasn’t the case; by midseason Ringer’s rating collapsed, and so The Secret Circle’s. Hart of Dixie was borderline too, but steady enough to get a renewal. Nikita’s rating also went down (though slightly) and the only performers that only looked good were The Vampire Diaries, Supernatural and One Tree Hill, which was ending. So, with no real breakout hits, that season was really grim for The CW. Prospects for the next season weren’t really good, considering no new shows managed to be a hit. You see, for networks it is really important to land freshmen hits, because aging shows have to end eventually. It doesn’t matter if you have a high rated show if the show is 7 years old, because at some points old shows start get expensive. The networks needs new hits every season in order to ensure their survival; the breakout show is needed in order to replace those old hits that must end eventually; for instance, 2 Broke Girls was that for CBS that same season, and New Girl was that as well for FOX, and both seemed like seeds that could anchor their respective nights for the next season, and even if they went down rating wise, they still rate pretty good for their networks. So, at the end of that season, The CW failed to find something like that. But that all changed this season.

The CW: First of all we need to understand that The CW ratings work quite different than the rest of the broadcast networks; remember how in Part I, I stated that a 2.0 is a good rating? Well, in The CW 0.7 is considered a good rating, and something above that can be considered a hit. This is because their shows are way cheaper than the rest of the networks and thus, even with such low ratings, they are affordable. They have shows that have had hit 2.0 at some point (Supernatural, Gossip Girl, The Vampire Diaries), but the reality of the network is that they stay below the 2s range, and slowly they have sunk even below 1s average. With time, if their shows rise above 1s, they could start taking chances and start with some budgets upgrades for their shows, and rise as a major network someday. That doesn’t seem possible as of right now, but it’s not crazy to think that, with the right moves, The CW could muster eventually shows with acceptable ratings. Now, let’s talk about this season.

Rating wise, this wasn’t really a good season for The CW, they were more or less in pair with the 2011-2012 season, which isn’t that good, but they landed on something that gives them hope to rebuild their network: Arrow.

Supernatural, which did ok in Fridays was paired with Arrow in Wednesday; that combo gave The CW their best Wednesday night in years. Arrow premiered to a 1.3 and stayed in the 1s for most of the season, going just as low as 0.9, which is still a hit for CW’s standards. The show averaged 1.05 and Supernatural a 0.92, scoring 1s multiple times. So things looked very bright on that night. The others nights were… not so good. Let’s check it night by night.

Mondays: 90210 performed well on Tuesdays on the 2011-2012 season, and so The CW thought that the show could lift the night leading into the final season of Gossip Girl. They were dead wrong; 90210 premiered to a very low rated 0.4 and by midseason it went all the way down to 02. Gossip Girl performed equally poorly, and only its finale shined with a 0.8.
This didn’t get better by midseason with the premiere of The Carrie Diaries, which started slow with a 0.6. And it went as low as 0.3, but mostly it managed to stay in the 0.4s. Even though it didn’t rate good, it was renewed as reportedly it did good online, but not good enough to be renewed for a full season; so it’s unclear wherever the show will outlive that second season; should the ratings rise, sure! But now, will they? Only time can tell.

Tuesdays: Hart of Dixie is one of The CW’s most steady performers: it doesn’t rate great, it doesn’t rate bad, it just… rates ok. The key factor to this show survival is that it has managed to deliver almost the exact same audience for the past 2 seasons, so it’s a show The CW knows it can count on to deliver acceptable ratings. These kinds of shows are always needed, because they are the ultimate hole fixers in schedule and they tend to have such passionate fanbases that you just know that, wherever you put it, fans will follow (which is why it will now perform in Mondays). Hart of Dixie mostly delivers 0.5s and sometimes a 0.6, and so I won’t be surprised if the shows manages to stay on the air for 5 or 6 seasons. The real issue here is the 9PM timeslot.

Emily Owens premiered to a 0.5 and mostly delivered 0.3s and 0.4s, averaging a 0.37 for its 13 episodes. Cult performed even worse, premiering to a 0.3, and then it was moved to Fridays where it went as low as 0.1s. I mean, that is sad. The network hasn't found anything that can work in that timeslot. However, Supernatural moves there this season, so I expect a major rating turn around.

Thursdays nights were another night with some kind of issue: The Vampire Diaries is the number 1 show on the network in key demos, averaging 1.24 this season (amazing ratings for The CW!), but those demos don’t carry over to the following program. Sure, Supernatural did good when it followed The Vampire Diaries, but then it got moved to Fridays so something else could benefit from the huge lead. And so it came Nikita, which was also moved to Fridays as the ratings kept going down. Then The Secret Circle came, and at first it seemed like a good fit… until the ratings plummeted by midseason.

And this season we had Beauty & The Beast, which started promising with a 1.2, but by episode 2 it already fell to a 0.7. Most of the season it delivered 0.5s, while sometimes rising to 0.6 or even 0.7, but it never performed as well as the network executives expected. While some people expected it to have a similar fate to The Secret Circle, the thing is that with so many shows on The CW performing poorly, Beauty & The Beast’s renewal ended up being a no-brainer. I mean, if you have a bunch of shows performing to 0.3s, how couldn’t you renew the one delivering 0.5s? And so now the show will live up to a 2nd season after Hart of Dixie on Mondays.

Fridays were lead by Nikita and America’s Next Top Model: ANTM mostly performed around 0.6 and 0.4, which is not that bad for Fridays. Nikita, on the other hand… wasn’t as steady… in fact, it was quite weird; it premiered to a 0.3, and went as low as 0.2, and then out of the blue it rose to 0.5 by midseason to then go back down to 0.2 and end the season with a 0.4. Sometimes it rates very low and the next second it rates average… and the weirdest thing of all is that, as it was on its 3rd season (with 66 episodes by the end of it), a 4th season renewal was mandatory for syndication. And even though it got that 4th season, instead of being a full season of 22 episodes… it only has 6 episodes. It makes no sense whatsoever; while I understand that The CW might not want to waste too much money on a show that makes little income, it still puzzles me: CW is co-owned by CBS and Warner Bros, and Nikita is produced by WB, which means syndication gains would also benefit in some ways The CW, so… why? Why leave the show at 72 episodes, when they could have made up for any losses in syndication with 88 episodes? I can’t really make sense of that, but Nikita fans should rejoice anyway that they have 6 episodes to close any loose end, which is better than most tv fans get.

As I said before, rating wise, this wasn’t a good season for The CW, but the breakout success of Arrow is the glimpse of hope they needed in order to save the network; genre shows are what are working for them, and for that reason every single new show on The CW is a genre show. The Tomorrow People seems very compatible with Arrow, and as such it should launch well. The Originals should attract most of The Vampire Diaries audiences and it could make a very good pair with Supernatural in Tuesdays. And Reign, worst case scenario, will perform average as it has CW’s best lead in. Mondays night will be held by steady performer Hart of Dixie and then followed by Beauty & The Beast. Fridays will continue to air America’s Next Top Model and hope that it gives The Carrie Diaries the boost it needs to survive. But even if it doesn’t, most of The CW’s nights looks promising for next season. Arrow success allowed them to embrace a new kind of programming for the network, and it seems like it’s going to work.

Network scripted shows average (as the network has only dramas and no comedies, there is only one average): 0.6

State of the network: Almost flat with the 2011-2012, but with real promise to rise next season. By embracing genre programming, which has worked great for them, they have presented a solid schedule that may finally allow them to go up instead of down.

Now, let’s talk about one of the most discussed networks. I saved the juiciest for the last: NBC.

Now, many of you know that NBC was the network behind hits as huge as Seinfeld, Friends, ER, The Office, and that’s just to name a few. For some years Heroes was kind of the equivalent to ABC’s Lost (in the early years, of course), and shows like 30 Rock and Parks & Recreation performed quite solid. They also had Law & Order and Law & Order SVU. They were a mighty network, very highly rated… until recent years.

When did NBC started falling? I think it became really notorious in the 2010-2011 season. Freshmen shows like the Law & Order Los Angeles and Outsourced failed to impress, 30 Rock ratings declined, Steve Carrel left The Office by the end of the season and so the show’s great ratings, Community was struggling against The Big Bang Theory, Trauma performed badly, The Event started great and then went really low, Chuck also suffered rating wise and almost everything seemed quite grim. By the end of the season, a 1.6 seemed like a good rating to renew a show.

By the 2011-2012 season things got worse. The Office still rated good, but it was declining; Community kept falling, Parks and Recreation barely managed to be steady, 30 Rock underperformed against The Big Bang Theory and so on. The freshmen Whitney and Up all Night seemed to be the ratings saviors, but as their seasons went on they lost a lot of their ratings along the way. Dramas like The Play Boy Club just failed, reality shows like The Biggest Loser also fell hard, and midseason drama Awake failed to make an impression. The only thing that was actually performing great was The Voice, which led to Smash. Back when it premiered, Smash looked like the show that could save NBC, but as its season went on it just kept losing ratings, even though they were decent (and often lifted by The Voice). So, by the end of the season, NBC decided that they had it with dramas: they didn’t perform as well as they hoped, and as such their bet for this season was on the comedy side, hoping to find a new Whitney and Up all Night, which could hopefully not lose as much ratings… no such luck.

Even while this season didn’t see terrible drops, we can’t say that flat is actually good either, but after falling season by season, NBC must have been relieved. Their strategy was to put new show around big events like the Olympic Games and after The Voice. At first, Go On scored a 5.4, Animal Practice a 4.1, The New Normal a 2.5 and Revolution a 4.1; those were some of the best ratings the network have seen in years. However, that wouldn’t last. Let’s take a look at each night:

Mondays: This should be called “The Voice” night, as from 8PM to 10PM The Voice airs, delivering huge ratings, in the 4-5 range, which is huge in any network. This often lifted Revolution’s ratings. At first Revolution delivered ratings strong enough to believe it could live without The Voice’s life support; by the midseason finale the show even raised from 2.6 to 2.9, which was a really good sign. Then winter came and ratings pain came back: The Biggest Loser kept the night together, performing over 2 and even ending the season with a promising 2.7. But Deception was a total let down; while it started ok with a 2.0, it quickly fell as low to 1.1, thus it was no surprise it got cancelled. Mondays lost a lot of momentum, but The Voice and Revolution came back! The rating pains were eased…! Sort of: Revolution’s rating kept falling, it went as low 1.8 and it managed to a 2.0 for the finale. Now, for the NBC that is a hit, but it’s not really a good sign when the lead in doubles the show’s ratings. Even though there is no indication that Revolution will perform as good in Wednesday, it should at least perform better than NBC comedies there, because comedies this season were awfully rated on NBC.

Tuesdays: Another night lifted thanks to The Voice. Airing from 8PM to 9PM it lead to the Go On/ The New Normal combo, which rated quite good on the fall. Go On was even able to take on FOX’s New Girl and The New Normal usually outperformed The Mindy Project. Parenthood at 10PM rated excellent, usually in the 1.9-2.0s range, even outperforming The New Normal. The troubles came in midseason when The Voice left: Betty White performed ok, but it wasn’t enough to lift Go On, which dropped quite fast without The Voice support, and The New Normal fell even harder. After Parenthood ended, Smash started and it crashed and burned; premiering to 1.2 and going below 1 on the following week, it’s no surprise it got burned off on Saturday nights. When The Voice finally returned, Ready for Love premiered poorly and so it was quickly removed from schedule, being replaced by Grimm, which brought more stable ratings.

Wednesday: Now, this was a bit of a surprise for NBC. Not many people had faith on Chicago Fire, but this was the sole non Voice fueled hit the network got. Hit, of course, by the standards of NBC (averaging a 1.8): many times it got over 2s and sometimes it even outperformed Law and Order SVU, which was down from last season, but still proved to be a reliable performer in a troubled night. Now, the comedies at 8PM… man, Animal Practice did terrible! Premiering after the Olympics to a 4.1 I think nobody expected it would fall all the way on its 2nd episode to a 1.4! And it went quickly as low an 1.0! Even Arrow outperformed it. Guys with Kids didn’t do much better, neither Whitney when it replaced Animal Practice. Now, the 8PM slot will be covered by Revolution; as dramas have worked just fine this night, I’m a little bit optimistic about Revolution’s ratings, but we’ll have to wait to see.

Thursdays: This night should be called “the ultimate comedy killer”… though that name goes better for Tuesdays as it covers every network… anyway, here NBC filled the night with only comedies, of which only The Office and Parks and Recreation worked; 1600 Penn, Up all Night, 30 Rock and Community all performed poorly. 30 Rock rated low all season, but it went out on a high note, still that is because it was the series finale. Community premiered great, but the ratings quickly fell. 1600 Penn and Up all Night fell below the 1.0 range. Seemly, NBC has no plans to change this situation; they are hoping Parks can face TBBT, and they are premiering 3 new comedies! Ok, The Michael J Fox show should gather some ratings… so why is it premiering at 9:30 instead of anchoring the night at 9:00? I honestly don’t know.

Going back to last season, there was a brief glimpse of hope when Hannibal premiered in April with ok ratings in a tough timeslot (10PM), but they quickly collapsed after episode 4; now, Hannibal aired in a thin line between spring and summer, so it’s understandable that the ratings were lower. Also, the show is cheap to the network thanks to some co-production deal, so we’ll see a second season.

Fridays: While NBC doesn’t have really good performers for 8PM or 10PM, they are reality shows which are considerably cheaper than scripted television. Talking about scripted television, Grimm has proved to be the ultimate scripted show for Fridays nights; only Shark Tank rates better than Grimm on Fridays, and Grimm rates well enough to be renewed in any night of the week (for NBC standards), so it’s no surprise NBC has put it in almost every day of the week to test it. The ratings are almost always the same, it really doesn’t matter where you put Grimm on, but I think we can all agree that this show belongs on Fridays night.

Network scripted shows average:
Drama average: 1.5
Comedy average: 1.45
Network average: 1.47

State of the network: Just as with The CW, they are flat with last season. Considering CBS, ABC and FOX all fell rating wise, it’s not bad at all, but considering the low ratings the network gets, flat is not good enough; flat might be ok on CBS where their shows are still solidly rated, but here at NBC things must be shackled. It is a fact that this season dramas worked better than the comedies; if the average is close to the comedy one is because they consider extremely low rated Smash and Do No Harm, while comedies consider the highly inflated Go On and The New Normal; if you take those 4 out, there is a wide margin that separates both. So it’s not surprise NBC has gone all the way with dramas this season. Comedies have all been exiled to Thursdays night, which is the only thing about their schedule I still struggle to understand. However, the rest is quite well thought out: The Voice will be leading to a Following like drama "The Blacklist", Tuesdays will have The Biggest Loser-Voice-Chicago Fire combination, Revolution-L&O SVU-Ironside will hold Wednesday and on Fridays Dracula (and Crossbones at midseason) will lead in to Grimm (really well thought out as those shows are very compatible). I honestly think NBC has nowhere to go but up, and even though I might be just too optimistic, there is no indication that they won’t recover with this strategy.

And that’s it. This is what we know about last season; I can’t assure you that things will play out as I predicted, but I hope this will help you to make your own predictions: by knowing how last season worked out we will be able to understand more clearly what we will see when this new season starts.

All that’s left to say is thank you to you guys for reading my articles, and I hope you enjoy my upcoming reviews of How I Met Your Mother, Community and Once Upon a Time. Read you soon!
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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