With a month to go before the broadcast networks release their schedules for 2017-18, TV by the Numbers examines what’s working, what isn’t working and what’s needed at each of them.
Like clockwork, CBS in late March picked up the majority of its lineup for next season. Nineteen veteran shows (16 of them scripted, plus “Survivor,” “60 Minutes” and “48 Hours”) representing 16 hours of programming are set for 2017-18, and the network has already ordered one new comedy. That’s the equivalent of three quarters of the weekly schedule.
Stability is a good thing in the broadcast business, and CBS (along with NBC) is in relatively good shape among the networks. Which is not to say that everything has run smoothly this season.
Consistency: “NCIS” has been anchored to its Tuesday timeslot for 14 years; “Criminal Minds” has been on Wednesdays at 9 for 12 seasons. Scheduling still matters even in the cord-cutting, time-shifting era. CBS doesn’t monkey around with scheduling when it doesn’t have to, which is an underrated reason why it’s been consistently strong for the past decade-plus.
“NCIS: Los Angeles” on Sundays: The older of the two “NCIS” spinoffs appeared to be badly wounded last season, when it dropped about 19 percent in adults 18-49. Last spring a move to Sundays looked like a step toward easing the show off the schedule. Not so fast: Ratings have actually improved a little this season, and it now looks like the show has found a comfortable second home.
What’s not working
10 o’clock: After moving back an hour, “Scorpion” has lost more than 30 percent of its 18-49 audience from last season. Ditto for “NCIS: New Orleans” — and both are underperforming the previous season’s 10 p.m. occupants. “Code Black” fell better than 20 percent season to season, “Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders” is off more than 30 percent and Thursday and Sunday are down at 10 as well. (“Blue Bloods” is stable on Fridays, at least, running within 5 percent of last year’s average).
ABC and NBC are in the same boat to varying degrees at 10, but CBS’ problems in the final hour of primetime are widespread. A significant rebuild is in order.
Comedy reinforcements: CBS has renewed most of its comedies for next season, but in particular “Man with a Plan” and “Superior Donuts” don’t look to be built for the long term. Both are running barely above the network average for scripted series; second-year show “Life in Pieces” isn’t much higher but may be settled in for a while now that it’s about to enter its third full season. A little deeper bench next season might be a good idea. (CBS has already picked up “Big Bang Theory” spinoff “Young Sheldon” for 2017-18.)