Masked Scheduler's Ratings Smackdown

NBC may want to try something other than a high-concept show after "The Voice," especially given their success with "This Is Us."
Yesterday I wistfully looked back at a time when the three broadcast networks were often viewed by more than 85% of the TV sets in use during primetime. I want to tell you about the first time I was asked to make a scheduling decision and how it resulted in one of the biggest nights of network television.
Back in the late '80s, sweeps (months when local stations were measured by Nielsen) were extremely important. For local stations it meant money, and for the networks who provided the programming to their affiliates it was all about bragging rights.
In 1989 I was VP Audience Research (the ratings dude) at NBC. In January I received a call from Lee Currlin and Brandon Tartikoff. Lee was Brandon's scheduler, the job I would be doing for Warren Littlefield starting in 1991. ABC was about to revive the "Columbo" series with Peter Falk. "Columbo" had started on NBC as part of a mystery movie wheel.
ABC announced that the first "Columbo" movie would air on a Monday night in the February sweep and Brandon, ever the competitor and showman, was trying to think of a way to counter it. He was convinced "Columbo" was going to be huge, and I think he was also upset that a franchise that he had developed was on another network.
His idea was to create a night of all comedies and call it "Night of a Thousand Laughs." He and Lee assigned little old me the task of selecting the six comedies and scheduling them. I thought about it and suggested the following:
- "The Cosby Show"
- "Alf"
- "Cheers"
- "Night Court"
- "Golden Girls"
- "Empty Nest"
Brandon and Lee approved. You have no idea how terrifying it was to know that you had just scheduled a night of primetime.
Anyway, we woke up the morning after to a three-network share of well over 90%. It was one of the biggest nights ever. The irony, though, was that the driver on the night turned out to be a little miniseries on CBS called "Lonesome Dove" that Brandon had dismissed. We held our own but for the wrong reason.
"Night of a Thousand Laughs" became an institution at NBC. I'm pretty sure when I took over scheduling I used it a time or two.
When I came to FOX and we created Animation Domination, my pal Joe Earley and I often talked about doing a "Night of a Hundred Farts." Never happened.
On Twitter @maskedscheduler
Questions and comments:

Broadcast primetime live + same-day ratings for Monday, March 6, 2017

The numbers for Monday include a full night of “Bachelor”-related programming on ABC and week 2 declines for NBC shows:

Time Show Adults 18-49 Rating/Share Viewers (millions)
8 p.m. The Voice (NBC) (8-10 p.m.) 2.7/9 12.10
The Bachelor (ABC) 2.2/7 7.13
The Big Bang Theory (CBS) – R 1.5/5 7.50
24: Legacy (FOX) 0.9/3 3.80
Supergirl (The CW) 0.7/3 2.17
8:30 p.m. Man with a Plan (CBS) – R 1.2/4 6.06
9 p.m. The Bachelor: The Women Tell All (ABC) (9-11 p.m.) – S 1.8/6 5.88
Superior Donuts (CBS) 1.2/4 6.09
APB (FOX) 0.8/3 3.55
Penn & Teller: Fool Us (The CW) – R 0.3/1 1.02
9:30 p.m. Kevin Can Wait (CBS) – R 0.9/3 4.72
10 p.m. Taken (NBC) 1.3/5 6.25
Scorpion (CBS) – R 0.8/3 4.68


A full night of “The Bachelor” produced somewhat diminishing returns for ABC Monday night. The one-hour installment of the show drew a 2.2 rating in adults 18-49, down from 2.4 last week. Following that, “The Women Tell All” special earned a 1.8, down 0.4 from last year.

NBC stayed on top of the network race for the night, but both “The Voice” (2.7, -0.4) and “Taken” (1.3, -0.3) came down from their premieres last week. FOX’s “24: Legacy” (0.9) dipped a tenth of a point, and “APB” was steady at 0.8.

“Supergirl” matched last week’s 0.7 on The CW. CBS aired repeats except for “Superior Donuts,” whose 1.2 was on par with last week.

Network averages:

Adults 18-49 rating/share 2.2/7 2.0/7 1.1/4 0.9/3 0.5/2
Total Viewers (millions) 10.15 6.30 5.62 3.67 1.59


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

11:35 p.m.

“The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” – R: 0.6/3, 2.0/5

“Jimmy Kimmel Live”: 0.6/3, 1.8/5

“The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”: 0.5/3, 2.7/7

12:35 a.m.

“Nightline”: 0.4/3, 1.3/4

“The Late Late Show with James Corden”: 0.3/2, 1.2/5

“Late Night with Seth Meyers” – R: 0.3/2, 1.0/4

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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