How Each of the Big 5 Networks Can Win Fall TV

by Paige Albiniak  |  09.14.2016

It’s once again time for fall premieres, the time of year when networks roll out their new slates and hope springs anew that problems can be fixed and the next big hit is just around the corner.

Whether those hopes will be realized this year remains to be seen, but what is certain is that the major broadcast networks are having to find new ways to determine success in this ratings-challenged environment. Each of them faces their own set of challenges as fall TV prepares to launch next week. The Hollywood Reporter took some time to break this down.

“The Hollywood Reporter” teamed with Parrot Analytics to analyze digital engagement of new fall shows.


While ABC has quite a bit to brag about — Thursday night’s Shondaland shows, successfully launching Black-ish on Wednesday nights and overall commitment to diversity — the network also came in fourth for the 2015-16 among primetime’s key demographic of adults 18-49, a result ABC would like to change.

“The top priority for me is strengthening 10 p.m.,” ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey told THR.

To do that, ABC hopes that its new drama, Designated Survivor starring Kiefer Sutherland, is a hit out of the gate on Wednesdays at 10 p.m., and Dungey also says the network is excited about Conviction on Monday nights. ABC also has put quite a bit of marketing muscle behind its new comedy starring Minnie Driver, Speechless, airing Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m., and leading into stalwart Modern Family.


Last year was a rare one for CBS: after years of picking up almost all of its fall shows, it only renewed one half-hour, Monday night’s Life in Pieces.

This year, the Eye is doubling down on comedies, ordering three new ones and scheduling eight this fall. The three new shows — all top-lined by white men, as critics noted at summer TCA in August — are The Great Indoors starring Joel McHale, Kevin Can Wait starring Kevin James and Man with a Plan starring Matt LeBlanc.

What CBS really needs is something to replace mega-hit The Big Bang Theory when it finally ends its run. The cast is in the process of renewing their contracts, and the show is headed into its 10th season, already a very long run for any TV show.

CBS President Glenn Geller told THR he wants to rebuild Monday nights to the powerhouse it used to be when the network had Big Bang at 8 p.m. and Two and a Half Men at 9 p.m. While moving Big Bang to Thursdays shored up that all-important night, Mondays were never the same.

Still, CBS gets a nice ratings lift from Thursday Night Football, and it’s putting much of its marketing efforts behind two new dramas: Bull, based on the life of Dr. Phil McGraw and starring NCIS’ Michael Weatherly, and MacGyver, one of this fall’s many reboots.


Fox is the only broadcast network that’s had a huge scripted hit to brag about in the past two years: Empire remains broadcast TV’s highest-rated TV as it heads into season three.

Fox’s challenge, somewhat squandered last season, is to build on that momentum on the rest of the schedule.

To do that, Fox scheduled its best-testing pilot, Lethal Weapon, to lead in to Empire at 8 p.m. on Wednesdays. Last year, Fox tried that tactic with Rosewood, but the result was just so-so.

Fox also is putting a lot of effort into Pitch, about baseball’s first female major-league pitcher, teaming with Major League Baseball to promote the show headed into fall and the MLB playoffs and World Series, which not-so-coincidentally air on Fox. Fox hopes to take advantage of the fact that ABC’s Scandal is on break this fall, scheduling Pitch on Thursdays at 9 p.m.


Much like CBS wants to rebuild its Monday night powerhouse comedy block, NBC wants to bring back Must-See TV on Thursdays.

To start, it’s pairing its highly promoted new comedy, The Good Place, with Superstore at 8 and 8:30 pm on Thursdays. To give Superstore, starring America Ferrara, a boost, NBC this summer aired an Olympics-themed preview episode during the Summer Games in Rio.

NBC has a decent foundation on which to build back Thursday nights, which such solid performers as The Voice, Blindspot, The Blacklist and Dick Wolf’s Chicago series as well as TV’s biggest show, Sunday Night Football.


The little-network-that-could is probably in its most stable place in its 10-year history, filling its primetime with comic-book-based adventure hours and fun shows such as Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend that appeal to women and critics alike. This season, The CW renewed nearly all of its shows, and also brought Supergirl over from CBS. According to THR, the network’s research found that most of Supergirl’s viewers had never watched a CW show, so The CW is promoting it just like any other new offering.

The CW President Mark Pedowitz has been clear about his expectations for Supergirl: “If it pulls half of the CBS audience, it will be our number-one or number-two show. If it does less than that, I’d be extraordinarily disappointed.”

The CW also is launching comedy No Tomorrow and drama Frequency, based on the movie, this fall as well. Both shows offer strong female leads and some sci-fi or fantasy elements, making them appropriate companions to the rest of The CW’s primetime schedule, which includes Arrow, The Flash, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow and Supernatural.

READ MORE: The Hollywood Reporter

[Cube video created and produced by LaFern Cusack/PromaxBDA]

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