Sunday, May 14, 2017

NBC Schedule Analysis for 2017-18 Season

Earlier today, NBC unveiled its schedule for the upcoming 2017-18 season. Tomorrow, the network heads will promote the lineup to advertisers. But right now, I'm taking a closer look at the network's scheduling plans and analyzing what is likely to work and fail.

NBC's full schedule for the 2017-18 season can be found here.
Trailers for the new fall shows can be found here.

Linear ratings are down for all of the networks. The line between success and failure is getting more and more narrow each year. Shows can be cancelled and then renewed a few days later because of how tricky the economics behind-the-scenes can be. NBC had a pretty successful season though. It boasted the biggest hit of the year in This Is Us. It's the rare broadcast show that was renewed for two seasons. That's how big of a hit it was. Yes, each season only has a limited number of episodes. That's the way that series creator Dan Fogelman wants to tell this story. But it's clear NBC is locking this show down and hoping it helps the rest of the lineup grow even more. That was the big question heading into today's scheduling announcement. Would NBC move This Is Us to boost the numbers of a different night? This season proved that it didn't need the help from The Voice as a lead-in. It was pulling in better numbers than the singing competition show. But moving it elsewhere comes with a couple of risks as well because of the overall stability on NBC's schedule. The announcement today proved just how stable things are at the network. It's not debuting many new series in the fall. But a number of returning shows are on the move which is pretty fascinating.

So, This Is Us is moving to Thursday nights. NBC has struggled on Thursday for the last decade or so. Every big risk they make on the night hasn't worked out so well. The network is following the same thinking it did when it first moved The Blacklist to the night. It took a show that was a breakout success following The Voice and hoped it would bring renewed energy and ratings to Thursday. It didn't quite work for The Blacklist - which is now basically schedule filler as it adds episodes for syndication. That was probably because The Blacklist relied on the lead-in much more than This Is Us does. So, this seems like a smart move. However, Thursday nights are going to have a lot of preemptions this year. First, there will be six weeks of Thursday Night Football at the end of the fall. And then, there will be at least two weeks of the Winter Olympics in February. So, starting and stopping with that much frequency could really hinder This Is Us in the long run - as well as the other three shows airing on Thursday nights next season.

It's important to note that NBC is returning to the "Must-See TV!" branding for Thursdays as well. It's a night that the network used to be so dominant with. As the comedy brand faded, this night suffered the most. But things may be looking up because of the shows the network has placed on this night. The Will & Grace revival may not be all that necessary. But it's an Emmy-winning series that was a part of the "Must-See TV" brand before. That's a story that buzz can be built around. Of course, it's still a question of whether it will actually be 12 episodes and out. There's speculation that it could do more if it returns strong. Placing Great News after Will & Grace is a huge vote of confidence from the network. That show hasn't had a strong run in the ratings for its first season. It was surprising to see it renewed so quickly this past week. But it's clear the network has big hopes for it. Pairing multi-cam and single-camera comedies together can be a risk. But Great News has a retro feel to it as well. So, it could work. Meanwhile, Dick Wolf's new drama Law & Order: True Crime closes out the night. It should be interesting to see how that plays. It will get a huge lead-in audience. Plus, true crime stories are very hot right now. But the focus for the first season is the Menendez Brothers - who've already received so much coverage in this genre over the past year. But Edie Falco starring in it could make it an Emmy contender for the network.

After years of struggling to find new comedy success, NBC is finally taking a step in the right direction. For the past few seasons, it has only had one hour of comedy on its fall schedule. This year it has two hours. One on Thursday and one on Tuesday. The Superstore-The Good Place pairing worked well last season. They did a fine job opening Thursday nights. Their moves on this schedule show that NBC probably wants their numbers to be a little better. Or perhaps it simply wanted Will & Grace kicking off Thursday nights instead but didn't want to give these two shows some weak consolation prize. Tuesdays have been strong even though the shows that follow The Voice don't always retain its audience. NBC has been trying comedies in this time slot a couple of times now. It's where Trial & Error and Great News aired this season. They did fine in the ratings but nothing compared to what This Is Us did in the time slot. However, Superstore and The Good Place are established shows with reliable audiences. So, I'm not that worried. I wonder which of the new comedies NBC picked up will replace The Good Place in its slot once it wraps for the season? The options include A.P. Bio starring Glenn Howerton and Champions starring Anders Holm.

The rest of the lineup looks pretty commonplace and stable. One of the high profile drama pilots gets the coveted Monday night time slot following The Voice - this year it's The Brave (which is only a somewhat better title than For God and Country). Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D. and Law & Order: SVU continue to bring stability in their time slots. Though it is curious that NBC decided to hold Chicago Med until midseason while it still hasn't renewed Chicago Justice at all. There may ultimately be one too many Chicago shows on the network. And finally, Friday night seems to be a dumping ground of sorts. In the fall, Blindspot and Taken will relocate there to see if they can bring modest success to the night. It will be the third night that Blindspot has aired on in as many seasons. But it being in Season 3 likely means that NBC will keep it on until it hits syndication numbers. Unless it tanks on the new night, that seems very probable. Meanwhile, Taken's low ratings can be justified simply because it's an international co-production. So overall, it seems like NBC once again has a very promising lineup. And having the Super Bowl this year probably means it will walk away with the demo crown by the end of the 2017-18 season.