For Big Drama Launches,Monday Is the New Sunday

Sundays have long been known as the night for appointment viewing. But last winter, the accumulating number of quality shows—CBS' TheGood Wife, AMC’s Mad Men and The Walking Dead, HBO’s Girls and Game of Thrones, Showtime’s trio of comedies and PBS’ Downton Abbey—overloaded many a DVR.

The Sunday glut has programmers starting to rethink the traditional night of high-quality drama for their big launches, setting their sights on Mondays—close enough to promote new series on hit Sunday shows, but removed from direct competition with them.

A&E, whose scripted dramas The Glades and Longmire have previously aired on Sundays in the summer, chose Monday nights for its upcoming Psycho-prequel thriller Bates Motel, from former Lost showrunner Carlton Cuse and starring Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore.

“Over time, we have seen Sunday night become more crowded, more competitive,” said Bob DeBitetto, president and general manager of A&E Network and Bio. “I asked the team to do a pretty deep dive, survey what the nights of the week looked like, what was coming back on what network, what was new on what network. And I think we felt pretty strongly this spring through the summer, Monday nights actually looked more attractive from a competitive standpoint.”

Broad Appeal

DeBitetto noted that Monday night is equally attractive as Sunday from an advertising perspective; it’s a good night to sell a broad array of categories, including entertainment companies targeting Tuesday DVD releases. He added he “absolutely will look at” nights other than Sunday when A&E returns The Glades and Longmire to the schedule later this year.

Sundance Channel also chose Mondays for its first original scripted series, Rectify, about a wrongfully convicted man released from death row after 19 years, from the producers of Breaking Bad; Rectify premieres April 22.

“There’s a crazy crush on Sunday nights,” said Sarah Barnett, executive VP and general manager of Sundance Channel. “We are a small network, we’re moving into the scripted arena with, we think, some shows that will really cut through, but we can’t compete from the marketing stance with a large network. So for us, Monday seems a night of opportunity.”

Launching on Monday also allows Sundance to promote Rectify on its sister networks on Sunday, including AMC (where Sundance sees a real overlap of audience) as well as paid media on other networks.

Precedence also plays a part. In scheduling Defiance, Syfy’s five-years-in-the-making transmedia series, Mondays worked because it was the night where its other scripted fare, such as Alphas and Being Human, has aired.

When TNT decided to expand its original programming footprint in the colder months with the second season of Dallas and new David E. Kelley medical drama Monday Mornings, it chose to build out Mondays first because it was the home of its legacy series like The Closer.

Broadcasters in the Game

Even broadcasters are getting into the Monday-night launch game. NBC’s Revolution was a hit on the night last fall; when the series returns to the schedule on March 25, it will compete against new cable dramas in the Monday 10 p.m. hour.

Fox’s dark serial killer drama The Following, starring Kevin Bacon, premieres Monday, Jan. 21 at 9 p.m. in the one gaping hole on Fox’s primetime schedule. (There was no talk of scheduling the thriller after the family-friendly American Idol, despite that show’s larger lead-in audience.)

But Fox chairman of entertainment Kevin Reilly noted Monday was previously the appointed night for action dramas 24 and Prison Break.

“We have always had success and a history of kind of this propulsive sort of macho Monday in a way,” Reilly said at the Television Critics Association press tour earlier this month. “It felt like a good fit.”

Even CBS, home of the procedural, will take a big shot this summer with the serialized 13-episode drama Under the Dome, based on the best-seller Stephen King novel and produced by Steven Spielberg.

“Everything about Dome suggested a younger skew for us, so we liked Monday,” said Kelly Kahl, senior executive VP of CBS primetime, pointing to the audiences for Monday comedies such as How I Met Your Mother and 2 Broke Girls. “Monday felt like a place where we have succeeded and where we can succeed.”

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