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MBPT: Fall Season Just Started But Broadcasters Are Likely Thinking About Summer

Ten days into the new fall broadcast season most viewers have likely forgotten about all the sparsely watched summer programming. However broadcast network programming execs are likely already working on new shows they can bring on the air next summer in an attempt to limit the traditional exodus of viewers from late May to mid-September.

Unlike summers way in the past, the last few have seen lots of effort by the broadcast networks to try to find programming that would pique viewers’ fancy during those months with longer days, vacations and a desire to be outside rather than home watching TV.

The problem is that there are very few shows that have been successful at keeping summer viewers in front of their TV sets.

A look at what was successful this past summer gives the networks a head start when planning for next summer.

The most successful new summer show was Celebrity Family Feud on ABC, which averaged a 2.0 18-49 demo rating and 8.4 million viewers. That may not sound like huge numbers when compared to the regular season, but Celebrity Family Feud was not only the most-watched new summer show, but it was also the second most-watched among all shows on broadcast this summer.

Only NBC’s long-running summer hit variety competition series America’s Got Talent drew more viewers (10.7 million) and a higher 18-49 demo rating (2.3). Celebrity Family Feud tied for second in the demo with CBS’s three versions of Big Brother, which each averaged a 2.0. In fact, no other regular airing broadcast network series, first-run or repeat, averaged a 2.0 or higher in the advertiser-desired 18-49 demo.

As has been the case the past few summers, it wasn’t for lack of trying on the part of the networks. Each introduced a bunch of new summer series, but very few worked. The second most-watched new summer show in viewers was CBS drama Zoo, which averaged 6.5 million viewers, followed by CBS reality series The Briefcase, which took a lot of criticism for its premise, but averaged 5.4 million viewers. Both those series skewed old, however, with Zoo averaging only a 1.1 in the 18-49 demo, and The Briefcase averaging a 1.0.

New NBC competition series I Can Do That averaged a 1.5 in the demo, the second highest among the new series behind Celebrity Family Feud, and 5.3 million viewers. ABC competition series Battlebots averaged a 1.4 in the demo and 4.6 million viewers. I Can Do That was renewed for another season next summer, while the fate of Battlebots is still up in the air.

There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason on how new series get renewals for the summer if they performed in a mediocre way. NBC drama series AD Bible Continues averaged a 1.4 in the demo and 4.1 million viewers but it was canceled. Ditto for sitcom Mr. Robinson whose episodes averaged a 1.1 in the demo and 4 million viewers and was canceled, while The Carmichael Show, which averaged a similar 1.1 in the demo and 4.3 million viewers was renewed.

An even bigger head-scratcher – NBC renewed freshman drama Aquarius after moving it from Thursday to Saturday night because of low viewership. The series concluded its run averaging a 0.5 18-49 demo rating and 2.8 million viewers.

Fox among the broadcast network Big Four had the most unsuccessful summer with its new shows. Home Free averaged a 0.9 in the 18-49 demo and 3.1 million viewers; Bullseye averaged a 0.9 and 2.9 million viewers; Boom averaged a 0.6 and 2 million viewers; and Knock Knock Live was canceled after just two episodes after averaging a 0.5 and 1.7 million viewers.

Fox’s returning summer shows also did not fare very well. The best of the bunch was MasterChef, which averaged a 1.5 in the demo and 4.7 million viewers. But Hell’s Kitchen averaged just a 1.1 in the demo and 3.3 million viewers, while So You Think You Can Dance averaged a 1.0 and 3.3 million.

Other networks’ returning summer shows did not do much better. Mistresses on ABC, which has been renewed, averaged a 0.8 in the demo and 3.2 million, while Rookie Blue averaged a 0.6 and 3.6 million viewers. Sort of a surprise for ABC was its long-running summer reality series What Would You Do, which averaged a 1.0 and 4.2 million viewers, beating some of its other summer shows.

CBS pulled the plug on summer drama Under the Dome after three seasons. This summer it averaged a 1.0 in the demo and 4.7 million viewers.

The CW’s most popular summer series was Penn & Teller: Fool Us. The magic show averaged a 0.6 and 2 million viewers. Whose Line Is It Anyway? averaged a 0.6 and 1.4 million, while America’s Next Top Model averaged a 0.5 and 1.3 million viewers. Flash repeats averaged a 0.3 and 1.2 million viewers.

None of the other CW just for summer new series broke the 1 million mark in viewers.

As is usually the case during the summer, CBS introduced the fewest number of new just for summer series. That’s pretty much because repeats of its procedural dramas and even some comedies still do very well against the other networks during the summer.

For example, this summer drama NCIS averaged 7.9 million viewers, albeit with a 0.9 18-49 demo rating. The Big Bang Theory averaged 7.1 million viewers and a 1.5 in the demo. Criminal Minds averaged 5.8 million and a 0.9 and Blue Bloods averaged 5.6 million viewers and a 0.6. Sitcom Mom averaged 5.3 million and a 1.1 in the demo.

So summing up summer, there is really not much the broadcast networks can cheer about. Most of their returning summer shows lost viewers and most of their new summer shows failed to draw sizable audiences. That’s why while viewers are tuning in to the new fall shows to make their judgments, broadcast programmers will be thinking about what to do next summer. Maybe it could be something as easy as trying a veteran syndicated game show series – like Family Feud in primetime – with celebrity contestants.

Maybe a Judge Judy celebrity version or Celebrity Jeopardy. That said, Celebrity Wife Swap on ABC didn’t do that well this summer. It averaged just 3 million viewers and a 0.9 in the demo.