ABC woke up at the start of the season to a very pleasant surprise as “The Good Doctor” premiered to some impressive numbers and has stayed strong as the season progressed. The show has taken advantage of the older “Dancing With the Stars” audience to attract a large total audience, but more importantly, it has consistently built on the 18-49 rating for “DWTS.”
There is nothing like waking up to the realization that you have a hit on your hands. It’s exhilarating, but as difficult as it is to create a hit, the real challenge is what do you do with it. On the rare occasions when I found myself with an unexpected hit on my hands, here are the places my mind immediately went to. Consider this some free advice, and as always, take everything I say with a grain of salt.
FIND OUT WHY
Networks put on medical shows all the time. Most of them, like every format, fail. The first place my mind always goes when something works is, “Why?” As I have talked about, it’s generally not for the reasons you assume. We often do research and focus groups to try to fix shows. It’s more important to have a real understanding of why you have a hit on your hands.
I would often ask for focus-group research on the hits on other networks. Imitation is the greatest form of television, but you want to be as certain as you can that you are going down a path that will lead to success. In the case of “The Good Doctor,” is it a medical show or is it a character show? And if it’s a character show, how can you translate that to other environments so you’re not just cranking out more medical dramas?
MAKE MORE OF THEM
Once you have figured out why a hit is a hit, rip up your development and make a few more so that in the next season, or even later this season, you can take advantage of the hit to possibly build another one.
Yeah, I know scheduling matters less today than in the past, but hit shows are more likely to be watched live, and there is a good chance that viewers will see the promos attached to them, so take advantage of that.
I still think NBC blew it by not having something to follow “This Is Us” in the fall that would have better taken advantage of a large audience that would be open to another emotionally riveting show. Never feel like “We did that, let’s do something else.” CBS pretty much makes the same show over and over again, and it has benefitted them over the years.
ORDER AS MANY EPISODES AS YOU CAN
It’s essential to try to do 24-25 episodes of your most successful shows, especially in the first three seasons. You want to keep the momentum going and do it when the show will never be cheaper. I know this is easier said than done, but it will help with the ratings and the revenue.
KEEP IT ON ALL YEAR, AND CONSIDER A NEW HOME FOR IT IN THE SUMMER
Yeah, repeats suck, but a young show is continuing to build an audience based on word of mouth, and it also helps in spreading the cost of the show over more airings. “Empire” built over every episode in it freshman season, and “The Good Doctor” is far more episodic, so it’s relatively easy for viewers to jump in at any time.
Over the summer, run the repeats on a different night to capture a different audience. I’m not naive — people can record shows and watch on VOD or streaming, but there remains a large audience that goes to the channel for entertainment.
THINK ABOUT MOVING IT IN SEASON 2
If you are going to move a successful show, the time to do it is in its sophomore season. Fans of the show will follow it anywhere, and if you have developed smartly, you can have a similar show to replace “The Good Doctor” on Mondays and a compatible show (or shows) to surround “TGD” with in its new time period.
Don’t be afraid to take advantage of success.