New Shows May Gain From Strike
Less Competition Means a Clearer Shot
Due to the writers strike, key upcoming broadcast premieres look as if they’re going to get a clearer shot than usual this winter at finding viewers.
Last week CBS and NBC announced their revised midseason schedules, joining Fox, which set its slate last month. While ABC’s unannounced lineup is a key unknown and highly competitive factor, the current grid shows that many originals have gained some competitive breathing room.
The Writers Guild of America strike is dragging into its sixth week and few signs of accord with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers are emerging. That’s forcing a scheduling scramble.
By the time “Jericho” returns to CBS on Feb. 12 in the network’s “death slot” of Tuesdays at 10 p.m., the show likely won’t have to face originals from time-period ruler “Law & Order: SVU.”
Likewise, when it returns Jan. 7, NBC’s “Medium” will face only a few originals of time-period-dominating “CSI: Miami” before the CBS procedural runs dry.
As of now, NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice” is merely up against Fox’s modest-performing “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” and perhaps only a couple of “CSI” originals when it lands in the formerly ultra-competitive Thursday 9 p.m. slot.
Fox’s “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” doesn’t have to worry about NBC’s “Heroes” when it premieres in its regular time period Jan. 14, just “Deal or No Deal” and CBS comedies.
Of course, any of these blue-sky time periods could be clouded by ABC dropping its eight-episode “Lost” bomb.
ABC plans to return “Lost” to the air in February, but has not yet said where it will land. The network prefers a 9 p.m. period to ensure higher viewership, while affiliates prefer a 10 p.m. slot to better drive viewers into local news.
ABC also has dramas “Cashmere Mafia” and “Eli Stone,” comedy “Miss/Guided” and reality shows “Oprah’s Big Give,” “Dance Machine,” “Wanna Bet,” “Supernanny” and “Wife Swap” to schedule.
One time period that’s crowded with originals: Monday at 8 p.m. There ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” spinoff “Dance Wars” will go against NBC’s “American Gladiators,” about five new episodes of Fox’s “Prison Break” and CBS’ repeat/original combination of “How I Met Your Mother” and original new comedy “The Captain.”
With the reduced number of scripted originals, competitors are at least finding it easy to avoid Fox’s “American Idol.” CBS and NBC scheduled inexpensive unscripted fare such as “Deal or No Deal” and “The Power of 10,” along with “NCIS” repeats.
Though these dramatic changes are hitting soon, so far ratings have remained surprisingly typical despite the strike.
An examination of the fall season shows an 8% decline through early November, mainly blamed on increased DVR penetration. For the last three weeks—when the strike began to impact network schedules—ratings are down about 9%.
After the November sweeps, noted ratings analysts, most networks tend to pepper their schedules with repeats and holiday specials anyway.
Still, a few lineups have been impacted. Without originals of “The Office” on Thursdays, NBC’s other comedies have declined in recent weeks. CBS had briefly taken the lead on Wednesdays, but last week fell back to third place while bogged down with two hours of repeats.