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November Sweeps Revealing for Rookies

The November sweeps has come to a close, and although the official results aren’t out yet, the ratings period was significant for syndication’s two new nationally cleared shows—NBCUniversal’s Harry and Twentieth’s Last Man Standing.

Harry, cleared on Fox-owned stations in major markets, wasn’t performing as well as hoped at 4 p.m., causing stations in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco to move the show to 2 p.m. to see if it could improve its performance against lighter competition.

For example, on WNYW New York at 4 p.m. in October, Harry averaged a 0.7 in households, down 30% from what Warner Bros.’ TMZ Live was doing in the time period one year ago, according to Nielsen. On KTTV Los Angeles, Harry averaged a 0.4 in households in October, down 63% from TMZ Live last year.

In New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, TMZ Live will return to 4 p.m. In San Francisco, where the move doesn’t take place until Monday, Dec. 5, local news will air at 4 p.m.

According to industry sources, both Fox and NBCUniversal would like to renew the show for a second season, but it needs to see its ratings improve. Harry, which stars Harry Connick Jr., is produced in New York City and includes Connick’s entire band. All of that makes the show relatively expensive in light of the show’s ratings. Season-to-date, the show is averaging a 1.2 in households and a 0.6 among daytime’s key demographic of women 25-54, ranking it ninth among all talk shows.

Meanwhile, Twentieth’s Last Man Standing improved 29% in households from its 1.4 debut on Monday, Sept. 22, to a 1.8 in the week ended Nov. 13, to rank seventh in the genre among households. Among key demographics, the show also is on an upswing, gaining 37% among adults 25-54, moving to a 1.1. from a 0.8.

“This is exactly what you want to see when it comes to sitcoms,” says Steve MacDonald, executive VP and general sales manager, Twentieth Television. “I think we are right in the range of where we believed we would be.”

Last Man Standing, which stars Tim Allen and airs on ABC on Friday nights, is cleared on Tribune-owed stations in top markets, and also has cable runs on CMT, Freeform and Hallmark, all of which are included in its weekly rating.

Twentieth—which produces and distributes six of the top ten sitcoms, including Modern Family and Family Guy—has a slate of sales opportunities coming up, with such shows as Life in Pieces on CBS, Fresh Off the Boat on ABC and The Carmichael Show on NBC and rookies Speechless on ABC and Son of Zorn on Fox.

None of those shows has been on the air long enough to head out for sale, but Twentieth will start talking about them at NATPE in Miami, with stars from Life in Pieces—including James Brolin—Fresh Off the Boat and Carmichael all planning to be on hand at Twentieth events.

A Sitcom Stream

A stream of off-network sitcoms is coming to syndication, with Warner Bros.’ Mom and Sony’s The Goldbergs both premiering next fall, and Disney-ABC’s Black-ish expected to debut in September 2018.

While the market still lacks a prized Alevel sitcom that forces broadcast and cable buyers to open their wallets, the pipeline is flowing a little steadier than it has been in recent years.

“TV stations continue to invest in sitcoms that have established their performances, and they’re willing to pay reasonable amounts of money to continue to be in the sitcom business,” says a syndication executive.

Finally, ratings from the November sweep also revealed other key trends. Warner Bros.’ Crime Watch Daily has benefited from its two big moves in its sophomore season— adding Chris Hansen, formerly of Dateline, as host, and moving production to the streets of New York from its shiny studio in Los Angeles, giving it a grittier feel. The show has improved almost across the board, gaining 9% in households and 24% among women 18-34.

Also showing growth is CBS Television Distribution’s Dr. Phil, which is up in all demos, including 9% in households, growing to a 3.4 season-to-date average in households in the week ended Nov. 13 from a 3.1 in the prior year.  

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.