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MBPT Spotlight: Media Agency Ratings Estimates Show Lack of Enthusiasm for Most Broadcast Series

A perusal of show-by-show C3 18-49 broadcast primetime ratings estimates for new and returning shows for the upcoming fall season from two major media agencies finds a lack of enthusiasm on the part of ad buyers.

Since the ratings estimates are for internal use by the agencies and their clients, those who provided them to MBPT asked not to be identified. However, the projections and comments made by the agency execs don't portray a rosy picture for the broadcast networks. Instead, they describe one where the networks seem to be trying their best to hang in there in the wake of all the new streaming video competitors that continue to proliferate and steal away viewers.

"There are very few shows that are causing any kind of stir going into the upcoming season," says one agency executive, "with the exception of possibly Shonda Rhimes' The Catch on ABC, but it's not premiering until mid-season. The networks are certainly promoting their new fall shows and a few of them might have viewers curious, but there doesn't seem to be any breakout hit-type excitement."

Another agency exec agreed. “We’re in a different world now, so it’s tough to really define what promise for success means anymore. Yes, we’re predicting declines for the vast majority of returning shows, commensurate with the continued decline of TV viewing in general.”

Among the new fall shows, the consensus is that dramas Supergirl and Limitless on CBS, Blindspot on NBC and Scream Queens on Fox have the best chance of succeeding. While both agencies agree, via their ratings estimates, that The Chase looks like a ratings winner when it premieres during the second half of the season.

Supergirl is cumulatively projected to score around a 3.5 C3 18-49 demo rating, which would likely place it among the most-watched scripted series in broadcast primetime among the advertiser-desired demo if things go according to that prediction.

Blindspot is also expected to do relatively well among 18-49 viewers in C3, however, there is a wide difference of opinion between the two agencies over how well. Once agency is projecting a sizable 4.4 18-49 rating for the new NBC drama, which will lead out of The Voice. While the other agency is projecting a 2.2. The agency projecting the 4.4 demo rating is projecting Blindspot to grow on The Voice’s projected 3.8 18-49 lead-in demo rating on Monday nights. The agency projecting the 2.2 for Blindspot has The Voice averaging only a 2.6 on Monday nights in C3, which would be a sizable decline from last season.

Each agency has Scream Queens on Fox doing well in the demo in C3 with one agency projecting a 2.9 18-49 demo rating and the other a 2.3. Limitless on CBS is projected to do a 2.4 C3 18-49 rating by one agency and a 2.2 by the other.

Last season, surprise first-year hit drama Empire on Fox scored the highest C3 rating for a broadcast primetime drama among 18-49 viewers with a 5.9. Next was ABC drama Scandal with a 3.3, ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder with a 2.9 and NBC’s The Blacklist with a 2.5. TV’s most-watched drama series, NCIS on CBS, averaged a 2.2 in C3.

For the record, most broadcast primetime dramas averaged less than a 2.0 in the 18-49 demo both live-plus-same day and in C3 last season.

By agency and by network, here are the fall freshman show projections for C3 in the 18-49 demo.

Media Agency #1

The Muppets, 1.9; Quantico 1.7; Blood & Oil, 1.4; Dr. Ken, 1.1.

Supergirl, 3.4; Limitless, 2.2; Code Black, 1.9; Life in Pieces, 1.9; Angel from Hell, 1.6

Blindspot, 2.2; Best Time Ever, 1.8; Truth Be Told, 1.3; The Player, 1.1; Heroes Reborn, 0.8.

Scream Queens, 2.3; The Grinder, 1.9; Grandfathered, 1.8; Minority Report, 1.7; Rosewood, 1.0.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, 0.6.

Media Agency #2

Dr. Ken, 2.3; Blood & Oil, 2.1; Quantico, 2.1; The Muppets, 1.6.

Supergirl, 3.5; Limitless, 2.4; Life in Pieces 1.9; Code Black, 1.6; Angel from Hell 2.0.

Blindspot, 4.4.; Best Time Ever, 2.4; The Player, 1.8; Heroes Reborn, 1.8; Truth Be Told, 1.4;

Scream Queens, 2.9; Minority Report, 1.8; Rosewood, 1.8; The Grinder, 1.3; Grandfathered 1.2.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, 0.8.

Among the returning shows, while most of the C3 18-49 ratings estimates for the fall season by the two agencies are lower than last season, there are some exceptions, and those are basically the most popular shows on broadcast TV. And – there is only a handful of them.

How to Get Away with Murder on ABC averaged a 2.8 in C3 18-49 last season. Projections for this season have the series reaching a 3.0 by one agency and a 4.0 by another. Scandal on ABC, which averaged a 3.3 in C3 last season, is projected to do a 3.4 and a 3.5. And Empire on Fox, which averaged a 5.9 in C3 18-49 last season, is projected by one agency to average a 6.4, while the other has it falling to a 4.1.

While ratings estimates are still used to give buyers some indication of how new and returning series might do in their particular time periods heading into the new season, the agency execs realize that there is so much more than just ratings today that determines whether a series will stay on the air.

“I think ratings, out of necessity, have ceased to be the only measure of success for a show,” one agency exec says. “Longevity seems to be increasingly important such as what kind of value will a show have in syndication beyond its broadcast airing. Will it work well once it leaves primetime? Can the rights be sold to an on demand streaming platform? Certainly there are still obvious hits like Empire or The Walking Dead on cable, but many other shows are falling into sort of a middle area where other business considerations come into play as to whether they stay on the air. That’s why we’re spending time trying to predict renewal in addition to just audience levels.”

Another agency exec says three of the most anticipated new series by viewers seem to be Supergirl, Scream Queens and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and all three are a bit different than the standard broadcast series fare. Supergirl is about a female superhero. Scream Queens is like a movie murder mystery stretched out over a season. And Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a musical dramedy.

“But hey, even a show like The Muppets might surprise us and draw huge audiences, you never know,” the exec says. “We thought Empire would do okay, but we never would have predicted its huge trajectory in the ratings. That took us by total surprise."