Broadcast network power rankings — Week 1

Earlier this month, I wrote a post discussing the possible new features that would be coming to TV Surveillance and if you remember that (or just clicked on that link), you’ll know that Broadcast Network Power Rankings was not something mentioned. Truth is, I had originally hoped to keep up with all the new series this season and do a power rankings with them, but then last week hit and I realized A.) that’s a whole lot of work when I’m already short on time and B.) most of the new series suck and I can’t stand watching them every week.

However, as a big sports fan and reader of countless power rankings, I’ve been wanting to incorporate that format into something television-related. Tim Goodman does great series power rankings for the SF Gate, so I didn’t want to blatantly copy him (though I still might in the future, because I just love power rankings) and at some point in my time working for the Indiana Daily Student, I tried this broadcast network idea and it was mildly successful. I simply didn’t have enough free time at that point to follow through each week, but I’m going to do my best to keep it going around these parts since I have actual readers now and not just blogging into the wind

Anyway, so broadcast network power rankings! Right?! Here’s how I’m hoping this will work: In short, I’ll be ranking each network, from 1-5 every Monday based on a number of factors. More specifically, I’ll be not only considering the ratings performance of each network, but also how the networks’ series were evaluated in terms of quality. Finally, I’ll look at how various news items might influence the network’s brand or operations, while always keeping in mind their current, respective situations (i.e. The CW has a lower degree of difficulty than the others, NBC’s general suckiness, etc.). Oh, and the rankings are based on the previous week, so for today, I’m going from Monday, September 20-Sunday, September 26.

Hopefully, the rankings will be able to tell us something about the trends among broadcast television, both from a week-to-week basis and perhaps even broader. And hopefully, they’ll just be damn fun to write and read.

Make sense? Okay, let’s try this thing. For the first week, the stakes were especially high thanks to a number of new series debuts and schedule maneuvers that created new ratings battles.

1. CBS

I can’t imagine this is much of a shocker and will probably be a usual situation as we move forward through the season. CBS is a powerhouse, and even if it doesn’t take the 18-49 demographic every night, it’s hard to deny its consistency and ability to tap into what its audience wants.

And despite the fact that some critics like to scoff at the network’s development, most of the Eyeball’s new series was well-received. Hawaii Five-0 was a surprise favorite, Mike and Molly was less offensive than some expected, Blue Bloods had its supporters and somehow, some way, The Defenders isn’t awful. Yes, Shat My Dad Says is an abomination, but 4 out of 5 isn’t bad, particularly with CBS’ past track “only for old people!” track record.*

*I know that Metacritic isn’t the best place to get the final word on quality judgments, but it’s an easy snapshot for my purposes. The reviews are often more positive than the points and snippets on Metacritic give them credit for.

Meanwhile, CBS’ two big scheduling moves paid major dividends, as Survivor kicked some tail in its new Wednesday timeslot (the net also won the night in the 18-49 demographic) and The Big Bang Theory‘s move to Thursdays helped the network take the week’s most competitive night in the 18-49 demo. For the week, CBS came in first three times (Wednesday, Thursday, Friday) and came in second three other nights. That’s a damn good start to the season.

2. NBC

I know, I know. Kind of shocking, right? The Peacock network is a complete, flailing mess, but this week, there have been signs of life and for that, they do deserve some props. NBC didn’t light it up ratings-wise during the first week of the new season, but they didn’t embarrass themselves whatsoever. For NBC, that’s a victory.

The network put all its summer muscle into two new series, The Event and Undercovers. Both arrived to middling reviews, but the people who like them seem to really like them. Moreover, The Event debuted strong, destroying FOX’s Lone Star and anchoring a nice Monday for the Peacock that somehow helped make Chase do alright as well. Undercovers wasn’t as big of as a success, but the network could have done worse. Oh wait, they have done worse, it’s called The Jay Leno Show.

Chase, Outsourced and Outlaw range from mediocre to awful, but aside from Outlaw, at least they didn’t get murdered like I suspected them to. Lots of low expectations here folks.

Most importantly, NBCU fired the antichrist, I mean Jeff Zucker, the man responsible for most of the messes the network is now trying to clean up. I’m not saying that firing Zucker is going to solve all their issues, but it’s one hell of a giant step forward. That’s enough for the two spot.

3. The CW

Again, I know. The CW has a lower degree of difficulty. For the most part, the CW ratings aren’t even close to the rest of the networks and in most cases, the series aren’t as well-made, or frankly, as good. However, while the network’s decision to start most of its series a few weeks early didn’t pay off at that point, the ratings for some CW’s series actually did well against all the stiff competition from the big four.

The Vampire Diaries, for example, was up 14 percent in the 18-49 demographic this week, against extremely stiff competition, while its Thursday night companion, Nikita survived the 9 p.m. massacre with only a 0.1 loss in said demo. Though it seems small, that’s a nice little victory for the C-Dub. Meanwhile, the reunited pairing of Smallville and Supernatural helped the network score a third place finish on Friday. Smallville had its best Friday airing ever and Supernatural beat up on FOX’s Good Guys. Again, the little things.

Plus, the netlet gets some delayed props for its two new series — Nikita and Hellcats — being rock-solid and fairly good if you like that kind of thing, respectively.

4. ABC

ABC had a weird week. Two of the network’s capstone series, Dancing With the Stars and Modern Family carried the network to ratings wins on Monday and Wednesday, while the other, Grey’s Anatomy, led a busy Thursday night. However, aside from that, things were bleak. Two new series The Whole Truth and My Generation completely, utterly tanked on both levels, and Detroit 187 didn’t start off too well either.

Plus, if I’m giving delayed props to CW, I have to knock ABC down a little bit for the insanity that is their management structure. People are comin’ and goin’ there at a fairly constant rate. That’s not good.

5. FOX

Oh FOX, poor poor FOX. I can’t believe I’m saying that. The network usually does much better once Idol comes around in the winter, but I can’t imagine they’re happy about the first week of the season. I’d almost guarantee that Lone Star was their most-publicized new series and despite a cozy post-House timeslot on Mondays, the best new broadcast drama was just murdered in the ratings. But hey, people love it! Rumors of cancellation started as early as Tuesday morning and though the drama is getting one more shot tonight, it doesn’t look good. At all.

Tuesday night brought better news, as the Glee premiere was well-received and a ratings hit, while the network’s two new scripted comedies (and area FOX has struggled mightily with) Raising Hope and Running Wilde, debuted to solid reviews and just-below-solid ratings. Meanwhile, veterans Bones and Fringe brought in good ratings and solid reviews respectively for their new seasons.

Unfortunately, bad news bookended the week, as The Good Guys tanked on Friday and all the animation series were down at least 10 percent on Sunday.

Finally, the “breaking news” about the new Idol judges was ridiculously over-hyped and resulted in information that most anyone with internet connection knew since early August. In past years, FOX could just coast until Idol returned, but without Simon and with these horrible new judges, is it possible FOX’s 18-49 hold is about to be loosened?

Alright folks, that’s week one of the power rankings, what do you think? Feel free to comment with suggestions or get at me on Twitter.


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