Each of the broadcast networks have a marquee series that they use primarily to launch a new series. NBC has The Voice. FOX had American Idol. And ABC had Modern Family until black-ish proved to be the most compatible lead-out in the fall of 2014.
But with large or even massive lead-ins, viewership retention often becomes an issue for both the network and the new shows themselves — where even the most promising ones either get moved to another time slot or cancelled altogether.
CBS currently has that issue with The Big Bang Theory — which is currently averaging 14.48 million L+SD viewers. For the first five weeks of the season, the long-running hitcom aired on Monday nights at 8pm to help establish newcomer Kevin Can Wait and averaged 14.6 million L+SD viewers.
Kevin retained 67% of that lead-in.
In late October, Big Bang returned to its regular time slot on Thursdays at 8pm to help established another newcomer — The Great Indoors. For those next four airings, Big Bang averaged 14.32 million L+SD viewers.
Indoors has so far retained 56% of that lead-in.
But two other new series faced similar retention issues once Big Bang entered the Top 10 for the 2011-2012 TV season. The short-lived How to Be a Gentleman only managed 55% of a smaller lead-in in the fall of 2011 and was cancelled. Rob did much better at 76% in early 2012, but was inexplicably also cancelled.
Once Big Bang entered the Top 5 beginning with the 2012-2013 TV season, three new series have since faced the same retention issue.
– The Millers retained 57% of a larger audience during the 2012-2013 TV season and was renewed — only to be cancelled in the middle of the following season once that retention fell to a lead-out low of 41%.
– The Odd Couple retained 59% of a comparable audience on Thursday nights in the spring of 2015.
– Life in Pieces retained 52% of a comparable audience throughout the 2015-2016 TV season.
Given these retention percentages and the fact that neither The Odd Couple, Life in Pieces nor The Great Indoors have been cancelled, it seems that CBS has accepted the fact that most Big Bang lead-outs are only going to retain all of 60% of its massive lead-in.
But CBS may have a solved its own problem with the recent announcement of a Big Bang spinoff focused on main character Sheldon Cooper as a young prodigy. Though details are still under wraps, the spinoff will most sensibly be scheduled as the lead-out for The Big Bang Theory. Given the potential new show’s pedigree, fans of the parent series are highly likely to stay tuned for what is certain to be one of next season’s most anticipated new shows — and possibly deliver a much higher retention percentage than its lead-out predecessors.
Sources: TV Series Finale for L+SD ratings information and Spoiler TV for L+7 ratings information.