Masked Scheduler's Ratings Smackdown

BS has two questions today:
"What are some cases where a show still got good ratings but core members of the cast got too expensive to keep the show going? 'Without a Trace' (one of my all-time favorites from the 2000s decade) still got decent ratings in its 7th season and supposedly would have been renewed, but lead actor Anthony LaPaglia would not take a pay cut. Last year the cancellation of 'Last Man Standing' shocked many as it was getting better demos on lower HUT level Fridays than a lot of Sunday-Thursday shows ABC renewed. The main reason was ABC did not own the show and therefore did not get any profits from it in syndication. The other reason being Tim Allen's salary was too expensive to renew the show. Ironically if the Disney takeover of FOX had happened one year earlier 'LMS' would have been a lot safer."
There were a few situations where talent was getting too expensive, and there needed to be some compromise to keep the show going. One of the advantages of ensemble dramas (moreso than comedies) is it's easier to cull the herd, so to speak, in order to hit a budget. These shows also benefit from adding new talent to the ensemble with the ability to tell new stories and keep the show fresh.
"Friends" and "Seinfeld" both had some hairy moments, but we were able to work things out. It helped the cast that they were unified and would negotiate as a group. For the last season of "Seinfeld," Jack Welch (the head of General Electric) offered a creative way to compensate the cast. The only one who saw the wisdom in the offer was Julia Louis-Dreyfus, given her family background. The entire cast needed to agree, so we had to go back to the drawing board.
There was one year where one of the cast members of "Wings" threatened to leave the show based on his/her compensation. I remember being with my boss Warren Littlefield writing the upfront presentation when he gave the star's agent an hour to agree to the deal or it was off the table. The star caved.
Generally, these issues are resolved quietly.
Speaking of the upfront, BS also asks:
"Why are the broadcast networks usually in the same order every year for upfronts week? NBC is at a disadvantage going first, not knowing how to counterprogram the other networks."
It has to do with how far in advance the venues need to be booked. I want to take issue with being at a disadvantage in announcing first. When I was at NBC, we had the opportunity to jump over the other networks and move to the first day of the upfront announcements. I made the case that by going first, we can let the other networks do a lot of the dirty work for us by overthinking the counterprogramming. Once all the networks have announced, based in part on our schedule, we can always make a tweak. We rarely needed to do that.
Another reason to go first is that there is burnout after a whole week of announcements by the major broadcast networks. Since there is so much snarky tweeting during the upfronts, you sort of want the TV writers to be fresh and actually a bit excited about the week. By Wednesday, they have sharpened their knives.
Finally, although scheduling still matters, it's more about putting a slate together that best reflects your strategy. It's less important to counterprogram the other networks. I stopped worrying about the other nets while I was still at NBC.
Keep those questions coming to or on the Twitter @maskedscheduler.

Broadcast primetime live + same-day ratings for Thursday, May 3, 2018

The numbers for Thursday:

Time Show Adults 18-49 rating/share
Viewers (millions)
8 p.m. The Big Bang Theory (CBS) 2.3/11 12.63
Grey’s Anatomy (ABC) 1.6/7 6.59
Superstore (NBC) – F 0.8/4 2.98
Gotham (FOX) 0.5/2 1.92
Supernatural (The CW) 0.4/2 1.39
8:30 p.m. Young Sheldon (CBS) 1.9/8 11.55
AP Bio (NBC) – F 0.6/3 2.08
9 p.m. Mom (CBS) 1.4/6 8.75
Station 19 (ABC) 1.1/4 5.15
Showtime at the Apollo (FOX) 0.6/2 2.29
Will & Grace (NBC) – R 0.5/2 2.05
Arrow (The CW) 0.4/2 1.11
9:30 p.m. Life in Pieces (CBS) 1.1/4 6.33
Champions (NBC) 0.4/2 1.51
10 p.m. Chicago Fire (NBC) 1.0/4 5.41
SWAT (CBS) 0.8/4 5.10
Quantico (ABC) 0.5/2 2.20


After hitting a series low last week, “The Big Bang Theory” bounced back some in Thursday’s ratings. So did “Young Sheldon,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Station 19” and a few NBC shows.

“Big Bang” led the night with a 2.3 rating among adults 18-49, up from 2.0 last week. “Young Sheldon” (1.9), “Mom” (1.4) and “Life in Pieces” (1.1) each improved by a tenth of a point for CBS, and “SWAT” held at 0.8.

“Grey’s Anatomy” posted a 1.6, up a tenth from last week’s finals (it was at 1.4 in the fast nationals). “Station 19” improved by two tenths to 1.1, but “Quantico” stayed low at 0.5.

At NBC, the “Superstore” (0.8) and “AP Bio” (0.6) season finales and “Chicago Fire” (1.0) are all a tenth ahead of last week. “Champions” remained stuck at 0.4. “Arrow” ticked up to 0.4 on The CW, while “Supernatural” is even with last week’s preliminary 0.4 (it adjusted up in the finals).

The news was not as good for “Gotham,” which fell a tenth from its last episode to a series-low 0.5. “Showtime at the Apollo” put up its usual o.6 for FOX.

Network averages:

Adults 18-49 rating/share 1.4/6 1.1/4 0.7/3 0.6/2 0.4/2
Total Viewers (millions) 8.24 4.65 3.24 2.11 1.25


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

11:35 p.m.

“The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”: 0.4/3, 2.5/7

“The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”: 0.4/3, 1.8/5

“Jimmy Kimmel Live”: 0.4/3, 1.6/4

12:35 a.m.

“Late Night with Seth Meyers”: 0.3/3, 1.1/4

“Nightline”: 0.3/3, 1.1/4

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


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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