CBS’s New “Superior Donuts” Gets Post-“Big Bang” Thursday Debut — And Then Has to Go Right to Work on Monday Nights

Jermaine Fowler (left) and Judd Hirsch (right) star in CBS’s new comedy, Superior Donuts — which gets a post-Big Bang debut on February 2, 2017.

Once again, CBS looks to its biggest hit (The Big Bang Theory) to launch a new show (Superior Donuts).

But instead of just giving Donuts a post-Big Bang time slot for several weeks as was done with Kevin Can Wait on Monday nights for the first five weeks of this season, Superior Donuts debuts at 830pm out of Big Bang on Thursday, February 2 — only to be shifted four days later to the 9pm tentpole position on Monday nights leading into 2 Broke Girls (now in its sixth season).

Last season, Supergirl had a similar launch — debuting at 830pm out of Big Bang on its final Monday night telecast of the season before heading back to Thursdays after football ended for CBS. With a huge promotional push and a lead-in of 18 million L+SD viewers, Supergirl retained 12.96 million of those viewers for a 70% retention rate.

Moving up to 8pm the following week, live viewership fell 32%. While much of this was to be expected given the massive Big Bang lead-in, it really did the show no favors as live viewership declined another 31% by the end of the season to 6.11 million viewers. Though these are still good ratings for any show, it’s also an overall in-season live viewership loss of 53%.

[Note that Supergirl is now airing on the CW — again at 8pm on Mondays.]

In September, Kevin Can Wait debuted to 11.08 million L+SD viewers out of 15.82 for the season premiere of Big Bang — retaining, like Supergirl the previous season, 70% of its lead-in. For its first five weeks at 830pm with a Big Bang lead-in, Kevin averaged 9.71 L+SD viewers. Since then, it has averaged 7.17 million L+SD viewers at 8pm — a 26% decrease .

Though only slightly less precipitous than the week-to-week drop for Supergirl (from its inflated post-Big Bang premiere to its second aired episode where it had no such lead-in), Kevin‘s own week-to-week drop from its final week with a Big Bang lead-in to its first week without such a lead-in was only 7%. And its seven-week decline since taking over the anchor position has only been 8% so far (though we can’t imagine it ultimately having the same level of in-season decline as Supergirl).

And Kevin‘s overall in-season viewership decline from inflated premiere to most recent episode (12/12) is only 34% (compared to the aforementioned 53% for Supergirl). While it is possible that there will further declines between now and the end of the season, the show seems to have settled into the mid-6 to mid-7 million viewer range — so we don’t expect that decline to even approach anywhere near 50%.

Which brings us back to Superior Donuts. Sure, it will get a solid launch. But assuming it retains 70% of its lead-in as Supergirl and Kevin Can Wait had (albeit with inflated premieres), will 11.04 of that 15.77 million L+SD viewership (based on the most recent episode on 12/15/16) carry over to the new Monday night time slot?

Most likely not, but even if it loses another 30% of that supposed carryover audience between now and the end of the season, even 7.73 million L+SD viewers would certainly help CBS’s Monday night — which is averaging 5.92 million L+SD viewers with Kevin Can WaitMan with a Plan2 Broke Girls and The Odd Couple (weeks anchored by Big Bang at 8pm have been factored out).

The Odd Couple, with the lowest viewership of the four, will have completed its third season by the Donuts premiere — so 2 Broke Girls gets pushed back to 930pm to make room for Donuts at 9pm. Why the more established program isn’t leading into the new program (even with post-Big Bang exposure) — at least until the new program can prove itself — is beyond our reasonable comprehension.

But while Donuts will certainly benefit from Big Bang exposure and lift up the night by an estimated 11% (based on how the night is averaging in L+SD minus The Odd Couple plus the predicted Donuts carryover viewership), it would actually better benefit from simply premiering in its regular time slot without the post-Big Bang OTO — and for three reasons:

  1. An inflated premiere will lead to a greater in-season viewership decline as we saw with Supergirl versus what we’re seeing with Kevin Can Wait.
  2. Either out of confusion or already-established viewing habits, those premiere viewers aren’t necessarily going to carry over to that regular time slot.
  3. Regardless of how they spin it or explain it, the week-to-week drop between the first and second episodes is going to be significant — giving off the false impression that viewers are already tuning out of the show in droves.

Still, if a post-Big Bang exposure is so important to launching Superior Donuts, then another alternative would be to put The Great Indoors — which is retaining about half of the Big Bang lead-in — on a five-week hiatus to test the lead-in retention of Donuts in the slot BEFORE deciding whether or not to shift it to Mondays at 9pm or keeping it on Thursdays at 830pm and re-scheduling Indoors accordingly.

Either way, an OTO post-Big Bang launch is not the best way to launch a new show.

Sources: TV Series Finale for L+SD figures.

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