Masked Scheduler's Ratings Smackdown

I got this question from GM:

“...Maybe you can answer in your column someday.  

If the number 1 comedy on TV is a multi-camera sitcom, no type of show is more profitable in success than a multicam and they are the least expensive scripted pilots to produce, why aren't networks making more of them?”

I am asked this a lot and, honestly, I think about it all the time. After all I put together the legendary, or infamous, 18 comedy schedule at NBC during the final season of SEINFELD. All those comedies were multicams.

Let’s make sure we’re all on the same page. The difference between multicams and singlecam comedies is that the former is “shot before a live audience” while the latter is shot like a drama. Multicams have laughter while single cams do not. Of course, there are variations on this which can be some sort of hybrid. Notable was M*A*S*H which was a singlecam but with a laugh track.

Right now, the only network that remains committed to the multicam is CBS which has the top-rated comedy in BIG BANG THEORY which, I believe is also the highest rated off-network comedy on cable. But CBS is beginning to dabble more and more in the singlecam world (YOUNG SHELDON). NBC has tried a few and I am not sure whether the return of WILL AND GRACE will be multcam as was the original. FOX has rejected them although it’s two most successful non-animated comedies are multicams. ABC’s recent success with family comedies is taking a traditional multcam format and turning it single cam.

So how did we go from an 18 comedy schedule to a network world of mostly singlecams? I’m gonna spitball so please no attacks but happy for feedback.

One theory that I have had about network television over the past decade or so is this notion of “cable envy” on the part of many network executives. The disconnect between critical success which favors the more obscure, narrow and artsy projects and the need to attract a large broadcast audience.

A corollary to this is the drift away from the classic sit-com formula and a move towards other forms of the half hour. When I was in the game I would distinguish among a variety of half hours. There was the classic sit-com of set up a situation at the beginning and resolve it in a smart, funny and unexpected way where the middle part was connecting all the dots. SEINFELD and FRASIER were two of the best examples but this form defined comedy for decades.

I started to see other half hours. The first was the “dramedy” which was a drama with comedic elements. There were “warmedies” which were meant to make you smile rather than laugh out loud, and “sadedies” which were sort of depressing with a dark humor. Finally, there were “comamas” which were comedies with dramatic elements. All of these forms favored the more cinematic singlecam format.

Comedies also started to get a bit more serialized so this notion of setting up a situation and delivering on a satisfying conclusion started to lose favor.

The trend towards singlecams is also a bit of a self-fulfilling prophesy in that there are fewer mentors in the multicam universe. Some of the best multcam creators like Steve Levitan have moved over to the singlecam side.
Multicams are more like little plays and there is more audience involvement. It breaks the fourth wall a bit and because it is more dependent on laughs they can often feel like joke machines. Once you know the characters really well a la SEINFELD, BIG BANG or MODERN FAMILY you are laughing as much at these people you love as you are at the jokes. I think that’s why multicam pilots feel off putting today. They also require more over-the-top acting whereas singlecams, with the exception of some of the ABC family comedies can have somewhat more authentic characters.

Finally, with the ubiquity of comedy options, including easy access to all the multicam classics like ROSEANNE, FRIENDS, MURPHY BROWN etc. etc. etc. the bar is quite high for the next truly great multicam.

I could go on but I will stop now and I guess GM my answer is: Beats me.

Comment on Twitter @maskedscheduler or email me and tell me I have no idea what I’m talking about at masked.scheduler@gmail.com

Probably a little too late but after two seasons of allowing the Executive Producer of SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE to ruin one of the classiest reality competitions it was great to see it return in its old format with the right judges. I wish it well.

Broadcast primetime live + same-day ratings for Monday, June 12, 2017

Note: ABC’s live broadcast of the NBA Finals will likely result in greater adjustments than usual for the network.

The numbers for Monday:

Time Show Adults 18-49 Rating/Share Viewers (millions)
8 p.m. Jimmy Kimmel Live: Game Night (ABC) 3.4/12 12.07
American Ninja Warrior (NBC) (8-10 p.m.) – P 1.4/5 5.43
So You Think You Can Dance (FOX) – P 0.9/4 3.58
Kevin Can Wait (CBS) – R 0.7/3 4.20
Supergirl (The CW) – R 0.3/1 1.05
8:30 p.m. NBA Countdown (ABC) 4.4/18 12.07
Man with a Plan (CBS) – R 0.6/3 3.97
9 p.m. NBA Finals Game 5 (ABC) (9-11 p.m.) 7.5/26 19.93
Superhuman (FOX) – P 0.7/3 2.62
Mom (CBS) – R 0.6/3 4.12
Whose Line Is It Anyway? (The CW) 0.3/1 0.95
9:30 p.m. Life in Pieces (CBS) – R 0.5/2 3.55
Whose Line Is It Anyway? (The CW) – R 0.3/1 0.93
10 p.m. Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge (NBC) – P 0.9/4 3.50
Scorpion (CBS) – R 0.5/2 3.58

 

The end of the NBA Finals brought more big ratings to ABC. The primetime portion of the game drew nearly 20 million viewers and a 7.5 rating among adults 18-49, numbers that will surely rise in the finals. In metered markets, the game earned a 16.0 household rating, the highest of the five-game series; it’s up 13 percent over last year’s Game 5.

The big NBA numbers may have driven down the premiere of “American Ninja Warrior” on NBC. It premiered to a 1.4, down from 1.7 last year. “Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge” scored a 0.9 for its debut.

“So You Think You Can Dance” returned to FOX with a 0.9, off a tenth of a point from last season’s premiere. “Superhuman” opened with a 0.7.

Network averages:

ABC NBC FOX CBS CW
Adults 18-49 rating/share 6.3/21 1.2/5 0.8/3 0.6/3 0.3/1
Total Viewers (millions) 17.31 4.73 3.10 3.83 1.00

 

Late-night metered market ratings (adults 18-49, households):

11:35 p.m.

“The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”: 0.6/3, 1.7/4

“The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”: 0.4/2, 2.2/5

“Jimmy Kimmel Live”: n/a, delayed by NBA Finals overrun

12:35 a.m.

“Late Night with Seth Meyers”: 0.4/3, 1.0/3

“The Late Late Show with James Corden”: 0.2/2, 1.1/4

“Nightline”: n/a, delayed

Definitions:
Rating: Estimated percentage of the universe of TV households (or other specified group) tuned to a program in the average minute. Ratings are expressed as a percent.
Fast Affiliate Ratings: These first national ratings are available at approximately 11 a.m. ET the day after telecast. The figures may include stations that did not air the entire network feed, as well as local news breaks or cutaways for local coverage or other programming. Fast Affiliate ratings are not as useful for live programs and are likely to differ significantly from the final results, because the data reflect normal broadcast feed patterns. 
Share (of Audience): 
The percent of households (or persons) using television who are tuned to a specific program, station or network in a specific area at a specific time. 
Time Shifted Viewing:
 Program ratings for national sources are produced in three streams of data – Live, Live +Same-Day and Live +7 Day. Time-shifted figures account for incremental viewing that takes place with DVRs. Live+SD includes viewing during the same broadcast day as the original telecast, with a cut-off of 3 a.m. local time when meters transmit daily viewing to Nielsen for processing. Live +7 ratings include  viewing that takes place during the 7 days following a telecast.

Source: The Nielsen Company.

Posted by:Rick Porter

Rick Porter has been covering TV since the days when networks sent screeners on VHS, one of which was a teaser for the first season of "American Idol." He's left-handed, makes a very solid grilled cheese and has been editor of TV by the Numbers since October 2015. He lives in Austin.

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