Midseason-break-tv-hed-2016

After Last Year's Ratings Collapse, Networks Rethink Putting Shows on Mid-Season Hiatus

by Paige Albiniak  |  11.15.2016

As everyone knows, it’s hard to be a broadcast network these days.

Tried-and-true programming strategies no longer work — such as ordering 22 episodes and airing repeats the rest of the time — and networks have been trying to figure out a way around that new fact of life since the arrival of the digital video recorder (DVR).

One solution has been to schedule shows, especially non-procedural scripted dramas, in two parts, with a winter hiatus in between.

Last year, however, that plan backfired, reports Adweek.

ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder, in its second season last year, returned 20 percent down in the adults 18-49 demographic, and both ABC’s Quantico and NBC’s Blindspot failed to ever equal the performances of their mid-season finales. Moreover, both Quantico and Blindspot are down more than 50 percent among adults 18-49 in their second seasons.

To try to avoid those declines this season, broadcast networks are shortening their shows’ mid-winter breaks. Only five ABC dramas will have extended breaks, and those will be shorter than last year’s: both Grey’s Anatomy and How to Get Away With Murder will air their mid-season finales on Thursday and return in nine weeks. On Jan. 19, those two shows will reunite with their Shondaland sibling, Scandal, which returns to the air after star Kerry Washington took a break to give birth to her second child. 

On NBC, both Blindspot and rookie hit, This Is Us, will take short midseason breaks instead of the 14-week break that Blindspot took last year. In the second half of last season, the thriller was down nearly 40 percent among adults 18-49 from the first half, says Adweek.

One way to pull viewers back is to leave them with a giant cliffhanger, a tried-and-tested TV tactic. Dallas did it way back in the day with “Who Shot J.R.?” Game of Thrones did it just one season ago when it left Jon Snow for dead, and Scandal did it two years ago when Olivia Pope (Washington) was kidnapped in the season finale.

“It’s trying to get the creative right, to really resonate so people will [come back],” Andy Kubitz, ABC executive VP, program planning and scheduling, told Adweek.

READ MORE: Adweek

[Image courtesy of Adweek]

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