With a month to go before the broadcast networks release their schedules for 2017-18, TV by the Numbers examines what’s working, what isn’t working and what’s needed at each of them.
The CW got a big upgrade on Monday nights this season with the addition of “Supergirl.” The rest of the schedule? Not so much.
The network’s ratings have fallen a little bit year to year; it’s currently running a tenth of a point behind last season among adults 18-49 (0.7 vs. 0.8 in 2015-16). All of its veteran series are down.
Still, nearly all of the current lineup is returning next season, with the fate of a couple shows still to be determined. It’s what The CW does.
“Supergirl”: That Monday upgrade is real. Ratings have predictably fallen off since its move from CBS — but it’s more than doubled the 8 p.m. Monday average from last season (when “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and “Reign” occupied the spot). It was a smart pickup for the network, and it’s unlikely a new show in the same spot would have performed as well
“Supernatural”: The show is down a little season to season — like most everything else on the network — but it’s 12 years old and still drawing a reliable audience. It’s among the six longest-running dramas on network TV at the moment.
So basically, if your CW show’s title begins with “Super” you’re holding up your end.
What’s not working
Superhero fatigue: “Legends of Tomorrow” has dipped 20 percent year to year, “The Flash” 21 percent and “Arrow” an unpleasant 31 percent. A full 40 percent of the network’s schedule for much of the season was devoted to DC superheroes, and the returns are diminishing.
The freshman class: “Riverdale” has done OK and will return for a second season, but “Frequency” and “No Tomorrow” were somewhat puzzling additions to the lineup, and the way they were scheduled was equally puzzling. “No Tomorrow” was an attempt to recapture the singular sensibility of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” — which is as low-rated as it is creatively daring. And “Frequency” seemed like an awkward graft of time travel (so hot this year!) and the kind of procedural the network occasionally claims to want on its air, but it didn’t really fly.
A (somewhat) broader focus: The CW has shed one limiting identity — that it’s a network for teenage girls, which was itself a relic of The WB days — for another: that it’s only for comic-book fans. That might not be entirely true (see “Jane the Virgin” and “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” for instance), but it’s not entirely false either. It might help to push against that perception a little.
The network has a “Dynasty” reboot as one of its pilots, along with a couple of original dramedy concepts (and, inevitably, another DC show in “Black Lightning”). Picking up one or more of those could help steady things if the comic-based shows continue to decline.
The CW only programs 10 hours per week, and when four of those hours are taken up with DC shows the #brand may be pretty well set in people’s minds. It’s worth examining, though, how the network wants to sell itself with those other six hours.