Masked Scheduler's Ratings Smackdown

To the Masked Mailbox! NW wants to know:
"Most of your columns are on your involvement in pilot screening and initial scheduling, but what of your role in the evolution of a show? You were obviously in the loop on the initial rounds of the dreaded 'notes from the network suits,' but shows evolve after the premiere, too. Show elements are a product of negotiations between the creatives and the suits that never ends until the show does. Where would you have been in such mid-game drama behind the scenes? Do you have any stories of watching such drastic changes unfold in a show you initially bought and the headaches/relief it brought the network? I'd love for you to write about those."
The scheduler usually becomes the consiglieri to the head of entertainment and thus has the ability to whisper in his or her boss' ear. I did a lot of that, not that I was listened to all the time. What I had going for me was a 10-plus year background in television research, so when I went to my boss, or a current executive, I would generally come armed with some data to support my suggestion. Otherwise I was just offering another opinion.
For several years at NBC, I ran the current meeting, where we would go over all the shows on the network. I don't know if that was appreciated by the current executives -- probably not -- and I made sure the marketing people were well represented and offered their suggestions.
As far as influencing the direction of a show, three come to mind. I may have talked about them here or in posts on my blog, Revenge of the Masked Scheduler.
During the third season of "24," the ratings were beginning to decline. We did some research and it was clear to me that the viewers were frustrated with spreading the series out over the full television season, especially given the concept driving the show. With my colleague MJ LaVacarre, we worked out a plan to delay "24" until midseason and run it without any weekly interruptions. I first pitched this concept to Joel Surnow, the showrunner, and once he bought in, I sold it to my bosses. I think that strategy added a few additional years to the show and millions to the 20th coffers.
Early in the history of "Law & Order," we did an episode featuring the female psychiatrist who had a recurring role on the show. I noticed that the ratings among women popped for the episode, and I went to my boss Warren Littlefield with the data. "L&O" was on the fence at the time, and the four leads were all men. Warren called Dick Wolf and told Dick we would cancel the show unless Dick added more women to the cast. Dick immediately did, and the rest is history.
We did an episode of "Blossom" that featured Joey Lawrence having a fantasy sequence with Susan Anton. The next morning, I saw a large increase in young male ratings and went to the current exec, Ken Mok, and suggested that we do more Joey episodes featuring him with hot women. I’m not saying I’m proud of that one, but it worked as far as adding another segment to the "Blossom" audience.
There are other examples like these, but the point is, for me it was less about my opinion and more about using research to improve a show's ratings.
Email me questions at and follow on Twitter @maskedscheduler.

Broadcast primetime live + same-day ratings for Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017

The numbers for Wednesday:

Time Show Adults 18-49 rating/share
Viewers (millions)
8 p.m. Survivor (CBS) 1.8/7 8.93
Empire (FOX) 1.8/7 5.70
The Goldbergs (ABC) 1.5/6 5.40
A Very Pentatonix Christmas (NBC) – R 0.8/3 4.85
Riverdale (The CW) 0.5/2 1.46
8:30 p.m. Speechless (ABC) 1.1/4 4.25
9 p.m. Modern Family (ABC) 1.7/7 5.78
Law & Order: SVU (NBC) 1.3/5 6.19
Star (FOX) 1.2/4 4.01
SEAL Team (CBS) 1.1/4 6.82
Dynasty (The CW) 0.2/1 0.69
9:30 p.m. American Housewife (ABC) 1.2/5 4.56
10 p.m. Chicago PD (NBC) 1.2/5 6.47
Criminal Minds (CBS) 0.9/4 5.28
Designated Survivor (ABC) 0.7/3 3.91


Wednesday was an up night for several shows, but a long-running series tied its all-time low in the ratings.

First, the good: “Empire” (1.8 rating among adults 18-49), “Modern Family” (1.7), “The Goldbergs” (1.5) and “American Housewife” (1.2) all improved their numbers week to week. The first three were up a tenth of a point, and “American Housewife” rose two tenths.

On the downside, “Criminal Minds” was off a tenth vs. its last episode tied its series low with a 0.9. “Law & Order: SVU” (1.3, -0.2) and “Chicago PD” (1.2, -0.1) declined as well but were in line with their season averages.

“Survivor” tied “Empire” as the night’s top show in adults 18-49 and was even with last week in the demo. It had its largest total audience of the season. “Riverdale,” “Dynasty,” “Speechless,” “Star,” “SEAL Team” and “Designated Survivor” were all steady too.

Network averages:

Adults 18-49 rating/share 1.5/6 1.3/5 1.2/5 1.1/4 0.4/2
Total Viewers (millions) 4.85 7.01 4.63 5.84 1.07


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

11:35 p.m.

“The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”: 0.6/4, 2.1/6

“The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”: 0.5/3, 2.6/7

“Jimmy Kimmel Live”: 0.5/3, 1.6/4

12:35 a.m.

“Late Night with Seth Meyers”: 0.4/3, 1.3/5

“Nightline”: 0.4/3, 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.

blog comments powered by Disqus