Up Front About the Upfronts: The State of the Networks 2013

Despite your TV telling you that the current season is nearly over, the next season has already started. Behind closed doors, the cloaked Illuminati of the television business have already made several decisions about what you'll be watching this fall, and those decisions will be revealed at next week's series of network presentations for advertisers. Called the Upfronts, that's where the nets reveal their fall schedules, which seal the fate of both returning and potentially new shows. 

In anticipation of the mayhem, I've decided to briefly prep you on where the networks stand and what to expect next week. But be warned, I will be wrong! Very wrong! Consider these suggestions fun and from the mind of a crazy person. 


CBS 

Season to date 18-49 demo ratings: 1st place, 2.9 average (3.0 last year)
Season to date average viewership: 1st place, 11.95 million (11.7 million last year)
Hours to program: 18
2013-2014 shows renewed: 2 Broke Girls, Blue Bloods, CSI, Elementary, Hawaii Five-0, Mike & Molly, NCIS, NCIS: LA, Person of Interest, Survivor, The Amazing Race, The Big Bang Theory, The Good Wife, The Mentalist, Two and a Half Men

The debrief on this season: This is the easy one. With 13 hours of programming already filled with renewed shows (Criminal Minds should also be renewed any minute now), a sweep of ratings and overall viewership, and the steadiest performance of all networks, CBS is the most comfortable going into its Upfronts. But don't get too comfortable, Les Moonves! The 2012-2013 development season was a dud, producing only one success in Elementary. However, that could also be a statement on how strong CBS was going into the season.

What to expect: Things will look very similar to last year, when CBS ordered just six new shows. Chuck Lorre's sitcom Mom, starring Anna Faris as a recovering boozer in Napa Valley, is apparently a lock, and Shawn Ryan's Beverly Hills Cop makes a ton of sense to order. Scheduling-wise, CBS has a solid skeleton, it just has to hang some fresh meat on it. I wouldn't expect too much shakeup in its schedule. Heck, if I were CBS I would create CBS2 and start programming that with all the excess riches.


ABC

Season to date 18-49 demo ratings: 4th place, 2.2 average (2.4 last year)
Season to date average viewership: 2nd place, 7.80 million (8.4 million last year)
Hours to program: 18
2013-2014 shows renewed: Nothing! Absolutely nothing!

The debrief on this season: From all the headlines, you'd expect NBC to be in last place, but it's actually ABC on the bottom. Everyone not named CBS is noticeably down, but not having any new hits especially sucked for ABC, which went into the season with blocks to build on. What was ABC's biggest new show of the year? The Neighbors? Nashville? Yikes. ABC experimented a lot last year, making Sunday ight ladies' night (UOaT, Revenge, 666 Park Ave.) and fiddling with a one-hour comedy block on Tuesdays that ended up being a disaster, so the network's 2012-2013 was a cross-your-fingers kind of year, and luck was not on its side. It was a wasted season.

What to expect: Why are you so secretive, ABC? Though the network hasn't officially renewed anything, we can assume it'll bring back Castle, Dancing With the Stars, Grey's Anatomy, Modern Family, Once Upon a Time, Scandal, Revenge, The Middle, and The Bachelor, plus some combination of Suburgatory, Nashville, The Neighbors, Body of Proof, Malibu Country, and Last Man Standing. That leaves a lot of flexibility, and ABC isn't afraid to take the wrecking ball to its schedule, as evidenced by last year's pile of rubble. The network's failed experiments leave ABC in a position to shake things up again. Do not expect a repeat of the trial of comedies on Tuesdays. If I were ABC, I'd think about moving Castle to Tuesdays at 10pm and sandwiching a new promising drama between the DWTS results show and Castle. That would leave another new drama to place behind Monday's DWTS at 10pm. I don't know, maybe Joss Whedon's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Just please don't place that in the 8pm Thursday death slot like you're thinking, even if it looks strong on paper. On Wednesdays, ABC desperately needs a comedy to pair with Modern Family, because that hit is on an island. I'd like to see new comedies Back in the Game, Trophy Wife, or Super Fun Night on Wednesdays to help out MoFam. ABC can continue to ignore Fridays with its combination of news magazine shows, reality, and hick humor.


NBC

Season to date 18-49 demo ratings: 3rd place, 2.4 average (2.5 last year)
Season to date average viewership: 4th place, 7.00 million viewers (7.4 million last year)
Hours to program: 18
2013-2014 shows renewed: Chicago Fire, Grimm, Law & Order: SVU, Parenthood, Revolution, The Voice, The Michael J. Fox Show (new series)

The debrief on this season: Third place! Woohoo! Pop the champagne and let's do lines of caviar! Unfortunately, September, October, and November of 2012 are a thing of the past, and 2013 has been downright evil to NBC. And should Sunday Night Football even count in the ratings? That doesn't seem fair. NBC had no choice but to renew Revolution, but the consensus is that the show is fading faster than Aaron's chances of getting back with his wife. Chicago Fire was NBC's big success story, which gives you an idea of how the network's development season—which was massive—went. 

What to expect: There's a suggestion, co-authored by our own Cory Barker, going around that NBC should move The Voice to Thursdays and kill the Must-See-TV tradition of a two-hour comedy block on that night. And you know what? I sort of LOVE it! In theory. As long as CBS has The Big Bang Theory on Thursday nights, NBC's chances of keeping comedy alive in that hour are doody. Why not fight fire with fire (or nerds with CeeLo) and put the one-hour results show on Thursdays? Then jump into a one-hour comedy block built around familiar faces with Michael J. Fox's new show and Matthew Perry in Go On (or another new comedy)? Get those shows going and revisit Thursday as a comedy destination in 2014-2015. The problem with moving The Voice is that doing so would turn the rest of the schedule into a wasteland. Does NBC triple up Revolution, Grimm, and Chicago Fire on Mondays, move Parks & Recreation to Tuesdays with new comedy support followed by Law & Order: SVU, and do whatever with Fridays? NBC might be better off leaving The Voice where it is. I say shove Revolution to Fridays and pair it with Grimm (and maybe HannibaI?), and use the plush post-Voice spots to launch new shows again. Slot James Spader's high-testing The Blacklist on Mondays at 10pm, put whatever other new drama on Tuesdays at 9pm and keep Parenthood at 10pm, then stage a new comedy Thunderdome competition in both the 8pm hour on Wednesday (followed by Chicago Fire and its in-the-works spinoff) and the holes around Parks and Recreation and The Michael J. Fox Show on Thursdays. I'm talking 13-episode seasons; if you're a success, you stay, if you fail, get the F out. I seriously want to see NBC pump out a dozen new comedies over the course of the entire season. NBC should focus on trying as many new things as it can.  


Fox

Season to date 18-49 demo ratings: 2nd place, 2.5 average (3.2 last year)
Season to date average viewership: 3rd place, 7.08 million (8.9 million last year)
Hours to program: 12
2013-2014 shows renewed: American Dad, Bob's Burgers, Bones, Family Guy, Glee, New Girl, Raising Hope, The Following, The Simpsons, The Mindy Project, The X Factor

The debrief on this season: Second place would be a lot easier to swallow if Fox hadn't fallen so far. Last season, Fox finished first in ratings with a 3.2. Everyone was down, but sinking all the way to a 2.5 means there's more to blame than The Walking Dead and Duck Dynasty. American Idol is sinking fast, and people are talking about New Girl a lot more than they're watching it. The Following was a success, but its 15-episode second season means it won't be back 'til January 2014. Even though The Mindy Project was renewed, Fox had much higher hopes for it as a comedy to secure the network's Tuesday-night block. Fox used to live on a reputation for having fresh, exciting programming, but all of a sudden its shelves are looking awfully dusty. Hey at least you get the Super Bowl this year, Fox!

What to expect: Despite its need to fix things, I don't see a whole lot of room for Fox to switch things up. Tuesdays are locked in with comedy, Wednesdays and Thursdays are X Factor'd (though Fox should recognize a dead horse when it sees it, maybe next year), and Sundays are 'tooned out. Once again, Mondays are Fox's achilles, and once again, the night will feature something like Bones and a random new show (how about J.J. Abrams' Human?). But with Friday such a graveyard, why not put Bones on Fridays and try two new shows on Monday? Bones' fans are so good, they'll follow their series anywhere, and it's entered that point of its life where it won't do much to help launch new shows. Yeah, it's risky to air two new shows on a Monday night, but Human has the muscle behind it to become its own destination (of course I'm a huge dork and the thought of robot cops in the future sounds amazing). Greg Kinnear's Rake or Terry O'Quinn's Gang Related could pair with Human, too. Before Glee comes back in the midseason, Fox should run Andy Samberg's untitled cop comedy and the military comedy Enlisted after The X Factor on Thursdays, as those won't fit into Tuesday's quirky family/quirky lady comedy block, plus both seem to have that different flavor viewers have been looking for. Yes, I'm aware that sets up Mike Schur and Dan Goor potentially having shows that go against each other in Samberg's cop comedy and Parks and Recreation, but Parks will probably stay put at 8:30pm.


The CW

Season to date 18-49 demo ratings: 0.7 average (0.7 last year)
Season to date average viewership: 1.78 million (1.7 million last year)
Hours to program: 10
2013-2014 shows renewed/ordered: America's Next Top Model, Arrow, Beauty and the Beast, Hart of Dixie, The Originals (new series), Supernatural, The Vampire Diaries

The debrief of this season: Steady isn't just good, it's grrrrrrreat! Arrow looks like a solid franchise for The CW, even though it's down to hovering around a 1.0 rating. Supernatural enjoyed a solid bounce-back season, and The Vampire Diaries keeps chuggin'. For a while it looked like every CW show would feature hunky dudes either being monsters or killing monsters, but then the network renewed Hart of Dixie, crushing some folks' hopes of a network genre channel. Still, I actually like what The CW is doing to stay afloat. With Gossip Girl and 90210 finally over, it's a great time for the network to continue rebranding itself as the network of shows based on Young Adult supernatural books. Hey if it works, why not? If you want high-school drama, go to high school.

What to expect: The Beauty and the Beast renewal was bizarre, considering that The Vampire Diaries spinoff The Originals will take its spot on the schedule. How will Beauty and the Beast do without TVD as its lead-in? Beasties, you're about to find out the hard truth. A Hart of Dixie renewal wouldn't have happened if the network didn't have another non-genre show in mind to pair with it, but I don't know what that other non-genre show will be. Deadline Hollywood says the period-piece teen drama Reign, about Mary Queen of Scots, is looking good. Could that be it? The CW also has the option to split up Arrow and Supernatural to launch one of its many sci-fi shows, with the less soapy The Tomorrow People and The Hundred as the most likely candidates. And if The CW wants a hottie-and-a-weirdo romance night, Beauty and the Beast could team up with Oxygen, the new drama about a teen girl and an alien boy hookin' up, or The Selection. Where these shows end up on the schedule is mostly moot; The CW operates independently of what its big brother networks do.


Ratings data is current as of May 5 and taken from TV By the Numbers, but with only a few weeks left in the season, things aren't expected to change that much.



Comments (30)
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abc need to stop dragging their heels and renew, Revenge, Ouat, Nashville, The middle, modern family and greys.All my favs air on abc and they renewed a thing
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I actually fear what NBC might do because they seem to latch on desperately to like moderate successes. Grimm is doing well on Tuesdays at 10 (though I would really want to look at the numbers it had on Fridays factored in with DVR numbers from, hell, Saturday morning) and I think it would be fine back on Fridays if they just acknowledge they need to embrace Friday nights and they could actually take over what the CW and Fox did to Fridays and make they supernatural nights (there are a lot of us who are kind of anti social anyway, but are freaking exhausted on Friday nights and would rather just veg on the couch with a pizza, but only if we can just sort of mindlessly watch tv, letting us just stay on one channel would work).
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Hmmm...
I don't know about people somethings... Really i actually don't at all...

The CW's Action/Fantany and Drama Line-Up for 2013-2014:
Will Appear As This Here:

Wednesday:
- Arrow
- Supernatural

Thrusday:
- The Vampire Diaries

- The Oringals - The CW's Thrusday's 9:00pm night slot is a freakin curse... No show has manage to stay into that slot beyond a year... So, It really doesn't matter what show airs into the 9:00pm slot night. And The Oringals spin-off is a pefect show being into this slot and all... Since The CW's Thrusday's 9:00pm night slot is a freakin curse of course...

Friday:
- Nikita - Nikita will be renewed! I am not actually worry about it at all. Because it always does get renewed on late notice of the year than the other programming...
But, i am sure Nikita will be pick-up for one more season and final season wrap things up. Just like they did exactly with Fringe on Fox Network...
I am thinking maybe Percy's storyline and Amanda's storyline is it keep Nikita going...

- Beauty and the Beast - Beauty and the Beast will have same fate as Nikita did exactly... Debuting on Thrusday for it's first Season and move to Fridays will their second the following season year...
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I am really interested in both Reign and The Selection for the CW. Plus, The Originals is gonna be awesome. I think. All my favorite shows (on any network) were renewed this season! yay!
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CW needs to renew Nikita...
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Cw should just be a supernatural/ fantasy network. Hope the hundred and tomorrow people get picked up for the fall.

I could see the hundred with arrow, and the tommorw people with supernatural
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They really should. It's the only thing that works for them and I love it. Besides, HOD and Carrie Diaries don't exactly have the highest ratings.
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Awesome UHF reference, I didn't need the link to tell me what it was. Love that movie. Red snapper, very tasty.

How were The Neighbors and Nashville this year's biggest ABC shows when they're still on the bubble, and both should be excised from the schedule entirely for being crummy?

I don't think ABC's current Tuesday can handle ANYTHING they have, Dancing With the Stars is not a useful lead-in to anything at all, it gets ratings and it's dirt cheap, but it has no crossover appeal, they really need to retool their offerings before they can try to build around that albatross on their neck. Tuesday is ripe for stealing comedy audiences, there's none at all, but they need to start the night with comedies that are timeslot-appropriate.

NBC cannot be happy with 3rd place in the key demo there, and aren't they only 3rd because of event programming, not regular programming? Renewing Chicago Fire is going to be an expensive mistake, it already doesn't have an audience or critic support, being the season's "big success story" is embarrassing.

Not a bad idea, NBC has nothing up its sleeve to win the war of Thursday, might as well borrow an audience nobody wants anyway. The 10pm Thursday slot is also currently hopeless though, so reprogramming the night to fit would be a slog.

Tuesday is, as I said, soft on sitcoms, so in theory that audience could be poached, but NBC has shown it doesn't have the stomach to do what it takes to make a killer timeslot there, anything scripted that starts to get really big gets put into a different day to try to stop the hemorrhaging.

Oh Fox, good lord how your network is in a state of disarray. That list is literally "Sunday and some other stuff here and there". Nobody is going to follow Bones to Fridays, but it's not a strong enough show to anchor Mondays either, they need new dramatic quality programming to punch through on Mondays. Human will not be the show to survive, I guarantee it*.

The CW is circling the drain with those numbers, are they even cash-positive or are they sucking from their parents' coffers at CBS & Warner Bros? Keeping Hart of Dixie and Beauty and the Beast was a pretty odd choice, they don't build audience and they don't HAVE audience, it's almost like they'd rather just air those as existing filler. The CW operates independently of sense.
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* - guarantee void in Tennessee.
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Hey Tim, there's a mistake I think, Fox has 13 hours of programming per week: 2 hours on the 5 weekdays and 3 hours on Sunday, 7pm through 10pm, Cleveland Show has been occupying the 7:30pm slot with a Simpsons rerun at 7pm this season.
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It's funny how quickly things change. A year ago i voted ABC for having the best comedy block and generally being an awsome network. Now, they lost all credibility by cancelling or toying with some truely amah-zing shows while Fox continues on a path of righteousness.
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Please renew the carrie diaries!!
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So why doesn't CBS buy up NBC? NBC could use the shows.

ABC needs to stop falling into a trap of relying on the same stuff that everybody else airs.

CW may not have great ratings but it has found itself a niche in the 18-49 age group. If anything, they need to cut back on the romance stuff and try and attract more of the male audience. Aside from Arrow and Supernatural, they really don't have anything to interest guys.
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Like I said before, NBC should have a brand new comedy block on Thrusday night, or another night like ABC did in 2009, which was a success, and fill it with brand new comedies (maybe Tuesday night). With Community likely off the air, put Go On and Parks & Rec on another night as a one-hour block somewhere else. Moving The Voice to Wednesday and Thursday is another good idea, since its a worthy (ratings wise) competitor to BBT.

CBS and Fox don't really seem like any change needs to be made...except Fox finally finding a show they launch that will last in the Monday 9 p.m. slot.

ABC could take the above advice, and make the Thursday 8 p.m. slot a casual show (i.e. Shark Tank, Splash), and put the more dramatic/serial shows at a different slot.
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the CW needs to scrap the Originals and bring back the Secret Circle
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Someday, somehow, somewhere, someone needs to fully explain why that show was killed and apparently buried by CW. If they have, I missed it. If I remember right, former contributor Price Peterson had the "maddening" answer, but couldn't share it. That still bugs me to this day.
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Because it wasn't good...
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Clip clop! *Sigh* I miss Price, too.
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Networks mean nothing to me as a Brit, just good and bad shows. Wish they would stop cancelling goods shows though.
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Can ABC just hurry up and get their renewals done already.
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I, personally, could care less about this anymore. I think I'm reaching that age where I am tired of old shows and not liking the dumbed down, juvenile new stuff and/or the violence for violence sake storytelling.

I currently watch maybe 5 shows "live" as they air plus most PBS shows on Sunday nights, but everything else I get through On Demand when I want it now. If need be, I'll go to Hulu too. I love being able to create my own schedule and not have many commercials, and in particular, those annoying promotional pop-ups networks do.

Last night, for instance, I watched Community, Arrow, Vampire Diaries, and Grimm. Grouping similar shows together is fun too. Mondays I have How I Met Your Mother (live), Castle (previous week), Body of Proof (probably my last season for this), and Nikita. I had The Good Wife last until season finale, so switched Nikita to its place.

Of course, there is Netflix and Blockbuster DVD rentals or streaming from them and Amazon, etc too.

Next year may be the year I give up cable and go over the air through local station, if need be plus watch through Hulu and Netflix.

One way they could help themselves though is to STOP providing online and On Demand content so soon after a show's live airing. I would even hold off providing anything until the next season, so that while season 2 (or whatever) is airing live on a network, season 1 (or whatever previous) is then made available by those other options. It won't likely happen, partly due to pirating fears, but it's something that may hold viewers for the networks who are otherwise unwilling to wait so long. I would even hold off a DVD release for season 1 (of my example) until the online and/or On Demand options have run their course, so you would be looking at about a two year delay there. If you knew a show's episodes were no longer going to be run On Demand or Hulu and/or that a DVD would likely not come out for another year or two, would you be more inclined to watch that show live when it airs or have the patience to wait?

It's too complicated a subject to go into any deeper, but basically all of the article above may become pointless in the long run, if more people are like me or become so. Yes, it will likely hurt ratings, but you get to be the programmer here and the network/studio only the content provider for you to watch what you want when you want. Unfortunately for us, this could backfire as shows lose live viewers, rating go down, networks lose money, etc. It's a growing problem on top of the mess networks have become that the networks, and eventually us, will need to deal with in the future.
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Network television is dying. The only shows that pull off more than 4.0 on a regular basis are The Voice and The Big Bang Theory. It's for the business model to change.
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It's dying because it doesn't change with the times. If only two shows are drawing 4.0 then they need to set their sights lower. Made in Jersey, which was good was shot in the head after one Friday night episode, which is ridiculous. They made 8 pretty good episodes and they know from one airing that people won't watch? That's pretty amazing when you think about it. It reminds me of when Mike Tyson was in his prime. The other fighter's guy had the towel to throw in at the ready before the fight even started. Why make it if you have no faith in it in the first place - ridiculous...
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i think there will be more talk about online sourcing in the next few years. if the networks can pitch advertisers an option of inbeded advertising for online content (like a ticker banner you get on news shows), then this becomes more likely
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CBS - i thought there was talk of an NCIS:LA spin off

ABC -if they cant make S.H.I.E.L.D. successful then they should quit

NBC -Should make a block of Revolution, Grimm and Hannibal in that order and move The Voice to Thurdays and 1 results show on Fridays at 7pm

FOX -An over reliance on reality shows and the fact that they don't have any scripted shows at 10pm = lower ratings
New Girl and The Mindy Project would probably do better if moved to Mondays at 8pm

CW-Only 10 hrs of programming and 7 is already filled, but their upfronts do look promising. If build a sci -fi block with the Tomorrow People and The Hundred they will be tapping into a niche market and solid ratings ( CW success level ratings anyway ). Personally i would keep Nikita.
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I didn't see How I met your mother?
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It's about time for all of us not to see it. It's been on life support part time for 2 seasons.
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It makes me sad that this comment is true.
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