Media Buyers Seek Trends, Pick Winners for the Fall TV Season

Sep 5, 2007  •  Post A Comment

With the new season just around the corner, media-buying agencies are weighing in with early views on how the networks and their shows will fare with viewers.
Steve Sternberg, executive VP of audience analysis for Magna Global, looked for a lesson for TV executives in what turned out to be the most successful shows of last year—NBC’s “Heroes,” CBS’ “Shark” and ABC’s “Ugly Betty” and “Brothers & Sisters.”
His conclusion: “Not only do they have nothing in common with one another, they are substantially different from anything else on the air.”
Mr. Sternberg said the networks and studios tend to think that if a type of show clicks, be it serialized dramas or science fiction, clones of that show should follow. But usually, audiences don’t follow the clones.
“What do viewers want? The same thing they always wanted: good characters that they look forward to seeing week after week, well-written shows, and maybe something they can watch with other household members (and with their kids in the room) that’s not just an inferior knockoff of something they’re currently watching,” he said.
In her new report, Shari Anne Brill, senior VP and director of programming at Carat, noted that only six new comedies will join the network schedules this fall. NBC has just four comedies, while Fox has six, the most of any network.
Ms. Brill said 16 new drams will be added to network lineups.
She grouped the new scripted shows by theme, with some overlap. Seven land in the category of sci-fi/supernatural/spiritual, five are about crime and punishment, eight are buddy/workplace series and four are about diversity and tolerance.
“The seemingly endless supply of attention-seekers will ensure a proliferation of new reality product,” she added.
Mr. Sternberg said the new shows getting the most buzz, as measured by discussion in chat rooms and on blogs, are ABC’s “Pushing Daisies,” CBS’ “Cane,” NBC’s “Chuck” and “Bionic Woman,” Fox’s “Back to You” and The CW’s “The Reaper” and “Gossip Girl.”
While some buzz-worthy shows do indeed become hits, it’s not a sure thing. Only two of last year’s six most-buzzed-about new shows—“Ugly Betty” and “Heroes”—could be called successful. (Two of the other buzzy shows, “Friday Night Lights” and “30 Rock,” were brought back by NBC despite low ratings.)
“All the preseason buzz and hype in the world is really designed to get people to tune in once. After that, the show will tend to live or die on its own merits,” Mr. Sternberg said. “We tend to think that buzz is more relevant once the season begins in providing some indication of whether a show might be poised to build or decline, rather than predicting hits and misses before anything debuts.”
In her magazine-style report, Ms. Brill listed “10 New Shows You Gotta Watch (at Least Once).” On her list are CBS’ “Viva Laughlin” and “Big Bang Theory,” NBC’s “Bionic Woman,” Fox’s “Back to You” and “New Amsterdam,” ABC’s “Pushing Daisies,” “Big Shots” and “Cavemen” and The CW’s “Aliens in America” and “Gossip Girl.”
This isn’t exactly a list of likely hits. Some have to be watched because they may only air once, such as “Caveman,” which Ms. Brill described as “a crudely conceived comedy [that] won’t be on the air much longer than the average length of the Geico ads that inspired it.” Of “Viva Laughlin,” Ms. Brill noted, “Showrunner Bob Lowry insists his bizarre BBC adaptation is not a musical, but is rather a ‘drama with music.’ Watch it and decide for yourself.”
Ms. Brill also looked at some key nightly ratings battles for next season’s fourth quarter. (With the attrition rate on series and schedules, Ms. Brill doesn’t make projections beyond the fourth quarter.)
On Monday, for example, with ABC opening the season with “Dancing With the Stars” taking on CBS’ comedies on Monday nights, Ms. Brill expected ABC to “easily waltz its way past” CBS in homes, total viewers and adults 18 to 49.
On Tuesday, Ms. Brill sees new shows “Private Practice,” ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” spinoff, battling it out with NBC’s “Bionic Woman” for second place in homes and viewers behind CBS’ returning “Criminal Minds.” She opined, “‘Practice’ will easily prevail in households [and] total viewers and will finish first in the hour in both adults 18 to 49 and women 18 to 49.”
On Thursday, CBS has moved “Without a Trace” into the 10 p.m. timeslot, where it faces off against NBC’s venerable “ER” and ABC’s new “Big Shots” in a heavyweight battle. “While ‘Big Shots’ will pick up lots of female viewers and ‘Without a Trace’ is a far better challenger versus last year’s ‘Shark’ [on CBS], ‘ER’ will edge out both for first place in adults 18 to 49,” said Ms. Brill. “‘Big Shots’ will easily capture second. ‘Without a Trace’ gets to claim victory in the hour in households and total viewers.”
On a lighter note, the Carat report took a look back at May’s upfront season entitled “Trimming the Fat.”
Ms. Brill thanked the networks for paring down what were once bloated and expensive presentations to almost bite-sized meetings.
By the Carat stopwatch, ABC’s presentation was the longest at 93 minutes, while Fox cut its presentation time (and humidity level) in half to 56 minutes.
Ms. Brill also noted that NBC, which finished fourth in the ratings, was first in what she called the Battle of the Network Shrimp.
The Peacock Network was proud to present shrimp that averaged 4.75 inches, the biggest of any network, although it was down a half-inch from Fox’s 2006 prawns, according to the Carat “Shrimp-O-Meter.”
This year, Fox’s shrimp measured up at 4.5 inches, CBS’ at 4.25 inches and ABC’s at a shrimpy 3.5 inches.


  1. Watch all 5 Previews !!!!!!!!!!
    Viva Laughlin Preview – New Series From CBS
    I know what I like, and baby I like this Show !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    copy and paste
    VIVA LAUGHLIN, the new mystery drama with music, will have a special preview on Thursday, Oct. 18 (10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) following CSI before moving to its regular Sunday (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT) time period on Oct. 21 to take advantage of a two week window in the schedule without football overruns.
    Thursday, Oct. 18
    10:00-11:00 PM VIVA LAUGHLIN (Special Preview)
    Sunday, Oct. 21
    8:00-9:00 PM VIVA LAUGHLIN (Time Period Premiere)

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