Masked Scheduler's Ratings Smackdown

Quick correction to the Must-See TV history: After the "Seinfeld" pilot we ordered four episodes, not six. Thanx to JW for pointing that out.
The esteemed television writer for the New York Times, James Poniewozik, sent up the "Masked Signal" yesterday asking for help with the following conundrum:
"If fall premiere season is good strategy, why do networks save their more interesting stuff for midseason? And very interested in the revival/persistence of Premiere Week in this day and age."
Although I agree that this year's midseason network shows offer some solid performers -- two of which I will probably check out a second or third time -- I don't think that this is always the case. Last season produced some solid fall shows, one of which ("This Is Us") was actually nominated for an Emmy for best drama series, unheard of in these times.
Several years ago, I asked research to evaluate the chances of success in premiering in fall vs. midseason. I defined success as renewed and renewed again. Using that metric, it was clear that shows premiering in the fall had a better long-term chance of succeeding. The business is evolving, so that may not still be the case (I think it is), but let's address why some shows are saved for midseason.
The most obvious reason is that they either won't be ready for the fall or the development exec lies to everyone and tells us it won't be ready for the fall. The producers want more time or they are afraid to compete in the fall.
Next, there is no obvious place for a show in the fall, so we may wait to see how our schedule shakes out and, assuming counter-programming still matters, where there may be easy competitive slots.
Third, midseason provides different opportunities for launch. The most important is postseason football, which offers a large promotional base and the opportunity to place midseason premieres behind big games, including the Super Bowl. In addition, at FOX, we might have saved a show we felt would benefit from being paired up with "American Idol." My last act as a scheduler was to plan out "Empire" behind "American Idol." One of my favorite pilots at FOX, "Kitchen Confidential" (starring Bradley Cooper) would have worked with the "Idol" lead-in. But we needed a companion for "Arrested Development" in the fall of 2005 and, in my opinion, killed a promising show.
One final reason is that delaying a show for midseason, especially a serialized drama, allows for a steadier run without interruptions, which may help get a show off the ground. This strategy was how we revived "24" after three seasons, and it can help a new promising series.
Regarding the persistence of premiere week, again there are several reasons, the most important being the nature of the sales cycle. With upfront selling in June and July, the networks need a fall schedule, and the upfront presentations are an opportunity to peddle their wares and make a lot of noise. Randomly dropping shows on the schedule does not benefit the networks.
Second, I think the broadcast networks see this two-week window in the fall as an opportunity to be the story and get some attention. We are no longer in a zero-sum game, so going out there and doing battle with the other broadcast nets is no longer all or nothing. Networks are somewhat more patient with shows, so they are far less likely to cancel freshman product after one or two episodes. Freshman series are given the time to be sampled on all the platforms and to aggregate an audience.
Finally, I think it is still in the best interests of agents and studios to create the havoc of pilot season with the bidding pressures for shows and talent. I have also said in the past that this whole process is sort of an addiction to those playing the game, and I don't see it ending any time soon.
I could go on, but I hope this helps, James.
On Twitter it's @maskedscheduler, and email is

Broadcast primetime live + same-day ratings for Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Note: The CW was pre-empted in New York for baseball, which may result in greater adjustments than usual in the final ratings.

The numbers for Tuesday:

Time Show Adults 18-49 Rating/Share Viewers (millions)
8 p.m. America’s Got Talent (NBC) (8-10 p.m.) 2.6/11 12.88
NCIS (CBS) – R 0.6/3 6.34
The Middle (ABC) – R 0.6/3 3.05
Lethal Weapon (FOX) – R 0.4/2 1.69
The Flash (The CW) – R 0.3/1 1.29
8:30 p.m. Fresh Off the Boat (ABC) – R 0.5/2 2.13
9 p.m. Bull (CBS) – R 0.5/2 4.95
Black-ish (ABC) -R 0.5/2 1.85
The Mick (FOX) – R 0.3/1 1.10
Legends of Tomorrow (The CW) – R 0.3/1 1.20
9:30 p.m. Black-ish (ABC) -R 0.5/2 1.96
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (FOX) – R 0.3/1 0.95
10 p.m. World of Dance (NBC) 1.7/7 7.20
NCIS: New Orleans (CBS) – R 0.6/3 5.31
Somewhere Between (ABC) 0.4/2 1.78


“America’s Got Talent” and “World of Dance” both improved on their week-ago ratings Tuesday night as NBC cruised to another across-the-board win.

“AGT” recorded a 2.6 rating among adults 18-49, up a tenth of a point from last week’s final number (it was at 2.4 in the fast nationals a week ago). Its 12.88 million viewers was a season high.

“World of Dance” was also up a tenth at 1.7. The night’s only other original was “Somewhere Between” on ABC. It posted a 0.4, down a tenth from its premiere on Monday.

Network averages:

Adults 18-49 rating/share 2.3/10 0.6/3 0.5/2 0.4/2 0.3/1
Total Viewers (millions) 10.99 5.53 2.09 1.36 1.24


: 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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