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MBPT Spotlight: NewMediaMetrics’ Broadcast TV Freshman Series Predictions Are Off To An Auspicious Start

About two months ago, brand strategy company NewMediaMetrics released its annual fall broadcast TV freshman series predictions, which the company has been offering annually over the past seven years. And unlike most forecasts, they average an 80% accuracy rate.

The 2013-14 season is only in its fourth week, but already, two new shows that NMM predicted to fail have been canceled, while four of the top six it predicted to succeed are doing very well.

The two shows canceled as predicted by NMM: ABC drama Lucky 7 and CBS sitcom We Are Men. The four series predicted for success that are doing well include CBS sitcom The Crazy Ones, NBC drama The Blacklist, ABC drama Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Fox drama Sleepy Hollow.

Gary Reisman, NMM cofounder and CEO, says while it’s early in the season, and while it sometimes takes several months before networks make decisions on the fate of new series, this year’s predictions are again off to a pretty good start.

Looking at his list of new series that will most likely fail, several are already struggling or have seen their viewership decline significantly from premiere episode to third week. Among those are Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox), The Goldbergs (ABC), Welcome to the Family (NBC), Dads (Fox), Sean Saves the World (NBC), Back in the Game (ABC) and Trophy Wife (ABC).

Of course, the NMM predictions so far were not 100% accurate. NBC sitcom The Michael J. Fox Show and CBS drama Hostages were both high up on the list of series that were predicted to succeed and both are struggling.

Still, Reisman believes that when the dust clears after the first three months of the season and when each of the new series has aired its 13 initial first-run episodes (if they last that long), he’s betting that the NMM predictions will again be close to that 80% number.

“The main point here is that NMM predicts the percentage of probability a show will succeed six months in advance based on our viewer emotional attachment survey—although the results are not announced until about a month before the start of the season,” Reisman says. “And most of the time the content statements we use to describe the shows in our surveys do not include the names of the talent in the shows. But the Hollywood studios and the broadcast networks are still skeptical. It seems silly to keep launching shows without sizing the market value of those shows before putting them on the schedule.”

Reisman says he uses a similar type of questioning as marketers use when determining whether to create or launch new products. “Sizing the market potential of creative ideas is not voodoo or silly, it simply makes sound business sense for those investing millions of dollars in TV content.”

Reisman adds that a new show’s concept and whether it strikes an emotional chord with viewers is what determines whether they will tune in to watch it and make an investment in the show over time.

“The people we talked with for our survey just weren’t interested in watching a series about a bunch of people who won the lottery,” he says, referring to ABC’s Lucky 7, which was the first series canceled this season. “And with The Blacklist, our survey found viewers liked the concept of the series. There was no mention of James Spader starring in the series in the show and story line description.”

Among the freshman series NMM picked to succeed, through the first three weeks The Crazy Ones is averaging 12.3 million viewers and a 3.0 18-49 demo rating. The Blacklist is averaging 11.7 million viewers and a 3.4 demo rating. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is averaging 9.5 million viewers and a 3.6 demo rating and Sleepy Hollow is averaging 8.2 million viewers and a 3.0 demo rating.

NMM predicted that Sleepy Hollow would have an 83% chance of being renewed and Fox has already renewed it for a second season. The Blacklist was given a 73% chance of getting renewed and NBC has picked up for a full 22-episode season order. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., getting a 73% success rate prediction, has also been given a full-season pickup.

On the flipside, We Are Men was predicted to fail, with only a 37% chance of success, and was indeed canceled. Lucky 7 was given a 46% chance of renewal and, like We Are Men, was canceled after only two episodes.

Among the freshman series still airing but showing weakness since their premieres are Trophy Wife, which opened with 6.7 million viewers and a 2.3 18-49 rating and by episode three was down to 5.3 million and a 1.7. NMM gave it only a 34% chance of success. Back in the Game has dropped from 8 million and a 2.3 to 7.1 million and a 2.0, with NMM giving it only a 35% chance of success.

Sean Saves The World, which premiered at 4.4 million and a 1.4 and is now averaging 3.8 million and a 1.2 in the demo, was given only a 37% chance of success. Dads premiered low and has stayed low, opening with 3.5 million and a 1.5 and averaging 3.4 million and a 1.4. NMM also gave it a 37% chance of success. Welcome to the Family opened with 3 million viewers and a 1.1 and is down to 2.7 million viewers and a 1.0 demo rating. NMM gave it a 47% chance of success.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine is down to 3.6 million and a 1.6 demo rating from a soft opening of 4 million and 1.8. NMM gave it a 48% chance of success. Meanwhile, The Goldbergs has fallen off from a premiere of 8.9 million and a 3.1 demo rating to 6.9 million and a 2.4 rating. NMM gave it a 47% chance of success.

Series that only have a 60% chance of success or less are likely to be canceled, and those under 50% have the highest possibility of cancellation, Reisman says.

NMM has had a couple of misses so far. One of those is The Michael J. Fox Show, which it predicted to have an 86% chance of success but is floundering. The series opened with 7.5 million viewers and a 2.2 18-49 demo rating and is now averaging 6.1 million viewers and a 1.8. The other is Hostages, which opened with a disappointing 7.4 million viewers and a 1.8 demo rating, and is now averaging 6.2 and a 1.5 demo rating. NMM gave Hostages a 78% chance of success.

Reisman says a more accurate picture of NMM’s predictions will emerge after the fourth quarter. But right now, he’s happy to stand behind that 80% accuracy rate.