The stations see promise in the late news lead-ins on tap when the new season gets underway. Among the new entries in the critical slot are CBS’s Vegas (left) and Elementary; ABC’s Nashville and 666 Park Avenue; and NBC’s Revolution and Chicago Fire.
Big Three network affiliates all came away from the upfront presentations earlier this month with some hope that their latenight newscasts may benefit from the new primetime schedules for the upcoming season.
Each of the networks will be introducing two new dramas at 10 p.m. (9 p.m. in the Central and Mountain time zones) leading into the affiliates’ local newscasts.
But the consensus among broadcasters, critics and ad buyers is that the CBS affiliates have the most reasons for optimism. The network had the strongest 10 p.m. lineup this season and it looks as if it might be stronger next season, mostly due to the addition of Vegas on Tuesday.
“Vegas looks like a good show,” says Brad Adgate, SVP-director of research at Horizon Media. “Shows about Las Vegas, like CSI, have worked well for CBS. And it has star power.”
Vegas, which is based on a real-life Las Vegas sheriff in the 1960s, stars Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis, the latter being best known for FX’s cop drama The Shield.
Equally important for Vegas is that it will have two of TV’s best lead-ins: NCIS and NCIS: Los Angeles – both are among the five most-watched shows on TV.
“I think CBS has Tuesday night locked up,” says Shari Anne Brill, president-CEO of consulting firm Shari Anne Brill Media. “A lot of people watch NCIS and a lot of them stick around for NCIS: L.A. It’s the perfect segue to Vegas at 10 p.m.”
CBS, which ranked No. 1 among adults 18-49 every weeknight this past season, is also rolling out a new drama at 10 on Thursday, Elementary, a Sherlock Holmes drama co-starring Lucy Liu. It will lead out of Person of Interest, the most-watched rookie drama this past season.
It will compete mostly with Scandal, which debuted on ABC in April. NBC opted to counterprogram next season with the lightly viewed newsmagazine Rock Center with Brian Williams. It’s not expected to be a factor in the ratings.
Shows staying put at 10 p.m. on CBS are solid performers, if not big hits: Hawaii Five-0 on Monday; CSI: Crime Scene Investigation on Wednesday; Blue Bloods on Friday; 48 Hours on Saturday.
CBS’s two other new shows are the sitcom Partners on Monday and the drama Made in Jersey on Friday at 9 p.m.
The Mentalist is moving from Thursday to Sunday at 10 p.m.
“I’m very pleased with the lineup that CBS put forward,” says Wayne Daugherty, COO at Raycom Media and chairman emeritus of the CBS affiliates board. “It’s the launch of four new shows that, in my opinion, have a great chance to succeed. The affiliate body, from my judgment, is pleased.”
“CBS’s schedule is solid year to year,” says Jim Zerwekh, general manager of High Plains’ CBS affiliate WTEV Jacksonville, Fla. “There’s not much to complain about, if anything.”
ABC, which ranked No. 2 among 18-49s most nights of the week, hopes to improve its 10 p.m. standing with the drama Nashville. Wednesday is ABC’s hottest night, which is anchored at 9 p.m. by Modern Family, ABC’s No. 1 comedy.
Nashville is getting some good reaction from media buyers and analysts. The show stars Connie Britton as an aging country singer and Hayden Panettiere as a rising star.
Nashville will face CBS’s aging CSI and NBC’s newcomer Chicago Fire.
But Nashville may have a problem — its lead in, a new comedy, The Neighbors with Jami Gertz. That show follows Modern Family, but its premise — about a neighborhood where aliens live — is quite different from Modern Family’s focus on a realistic extended family and Nashville’s country music scene.
“People who have seen The Neighbors are thinking, ‘Oh, no,’” says Sean Reckwerdt, lead analyst at social media analytics firm Networked Insights. “I think it’s terrible.”
ABC is also adding a new 10 p.m. drama on Sunday, 666 Park Avenue, about a New York City apartment building with evil residents. It’s getting some good buzz.
The new drama is being paired with second-year drama Revenge, which is taking Desperate Housewives’ slot at 9 p.m. and shares Park Avenue’s dark theme. Both are female-focused shows that will be counterprogramming to NFL football on NBC and will presumably skew younger than CBS’s The Mentalist.
“666 Park Avenue is a show we expect will do well,” Reckwerdt says.
ABC’s unchanged 10 p.m. offerings: Castle on Monday; Private Practice on Tuesday; Scandal on Thursday; 20/20 on Friday; college football on Saturday.
“Two or three years ago, the affiliates were very vocal that the late news lead-ins needed attention,” says Mike Devlin, general manager of Belo’s ABC affiliate WFAA Dallas-Ft. Worth. “To their credit, ABC has done that. But the verdict is still out about how successful they’ve been.”
Meantime, NBC, which is in most need of a hit at 10 p.m., is adding two new shows and reworking Thursday at 10 o’clock.
The new shows are Revolution on Monday and Chicago Fire on Wednesday.
Revolution, about society reverting to ancient ways 15 years after the disappearance of electricity, is getting mostly positive reactions. It will be benefit from a strong lead-in, The Voice, NBC’s No. 1 show, which will be part of a fall schedule for the first time.
“The majority of primetime viewers [on Monday] will be locked up with Castle and Hawaii Five-0, but I think there’s room for this show,” says Sam Armando, SVP and director of strategic intelligence at Starcom MediaVest Group. “NBC recognized that they don’t need a show with music to come out of The Voice. They need a show with mass appeal.”
The “show with music” to which Armando refers is Smash, a heavily promoted drama set behind the scenes of a Broadway musical in the making.
One strike against Revolution is that it’s from Lost’s J. J. Abrams, whose recent stumbles include Fox’s underperforming Fringe and its canceled Alcatraz.
On Wednesday, Chicago Fire is the latest show from Law & Order’s Dick Wolf. It’s about Chicago firefighters and it will go head to head with CSI and Nashville. One downside is that it will follow Law & Order: SVU, a show past its prime.
NBC’s insertion of Rock Center on Thursdays at 10 p.m. look like surrender to some.
For decades, that time slot was best known for landmark dramas like Hill Street Blues and ER. More recently, though, it has been a dumping ground for bombs, including Jay Leno and three shows this past season, including the canceled Awake.
NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt explained the Rock Center move in part by saying its audience should flow into affiliates’ local news. That’s a sentiment shared by Jordan Wertlieb, the NBC Affiliate Board’s new chairman.
“Rock Center is incredibly well produced and Brian Williams is the face of NBC News,” says Wertlieb, who is also executive vice president of Hearst Television. “We are very focused on having audience flow into late local news. We’ll see how it goes, but this is the perfect marriage.”
Brill agrees Rock Center is a well-made show. But she says it’s not strong enough to compete on Thursdays at 10 p.m. “It’s wasted primetime real estate,” she says. “I would put it on Fridays.”
NBC is leaving 10 p.m. intact on four nights: Parenthood on Tuesday; Dateline on Friday; repeats on Saturday; and Sunday Night Football.