The broadcast networks announce their 2017-18 schedules in two weeks. Before that, TV by the Numbers looks at one big question each network needs to answer as they plan for next season.
NBC had the only breakout hit on a broadcast network this season. “This Is Us” started strong and stayed that way, winning its time period among adults 18-49 every week it was on the air. It will end the season as the No. 3 show on broadcast TV in the demographic, behind “The Big Bang Theory” and “Empire.”
“This Is Us” also showed it wasn’t dependent on “The Voice” to deliver its audience. It built on its lead-in multiple times during the season and stayed rock solid even when “The Voice” was between cycles.
With all that in mind, and with the network needing help on other nights, should NBC move “This Is Us” to a different timeslot next season, thereby freeing up “The Voice” to give another show a boost?
The obvious answer is “yes,” but the realities of NBC’s schedule may make that easier said than done.
It’s likely the network wants to keep “This Is Us” at 9 p.m., where there’s a bigger available audience and the show can deliver a sizable lead-in audience to another series. Thursday would then become the logical destination, assuming NBC doesn’t want to break up the “Law & Order: SVU”-“Chicago PD” block on Wednesdays.
Thursdays, however, won’t provide a lot of continuity thanks to sports. NBC’s portion of the “Thursday Night Football” schedule starts Nov. 9, a week earlier than it did this season. That means unless the network launches its Thursday shows early, they’ll have just seven weeks on the air before being sidelined for the NFL.
Following the NFL season, a regular Thursday schedule would probably resume on Jan. 4, 2018 — and then be interrupted six weeks later for the Winter Olympics before returning on March 1.
“This Is Us” is probably better equipped than most shows to withstand those interruptions, but they could also slow its momentum somewhat. Would the chance to rebuild on Thursdays outweigh that? Very possibly — even if it’s not the ideal time to do so.
Were NBC to move “This Is Us” to Wednesdays, it would probably force a breakup of the Dick Wolf cop-show block. Though there’s nothing particularly racy about it, “This Is Us” doesn’t really feel like an 8 p.m. show. Wolf has said in the past he’s not a big fan of putting “SVU” at 8 either, so that move may involve too many puzzle pieces to make sense.
The network also has the option, obviously, of not messing with success and keeping “This Is Us” on Tuesday nights. It would be the safest choice, probably, but also — barring the unlikely event that NBC moves “Chicago Fire” — the one with the least upside for other shows. “Fire’s” audience wasn’t much different this season than last even with the stronger lead-in, and the post-“Voice” time period might be better used to launch a new series.
We’ll find out if NBC plays it safe or takes a risk with “This Is Us” when it announces its schedule on May 15.