How a Time Slot Change Can Affect Ratings: A Midseason Snapshot

Time slot changes are a mixed bag. They can improve the ratings fortunes of a good show in a bad time slot. They can have deleterious effects on the ratings of any show that was in an otherwise really good time slot. Or they can help stabilize an otherwise shaky night.

Several programs experienced time slot changes going into this season. Below is a listing of those programs with a brief summary of their performances in their new time slot as it relates to that in their previous time slot — categorized by whether that change was to a new day and time, just to a new day or just to a new time.

Note that ratings are based on L+SD data to date as a reflection of actual time slot performance as opposed to overall viewership. Also note that in-season time slot changes are not included here.


New Day and Time

Last season, 2 Broke Girls (CBS) averaged 6.42 million viewers on Thursdays at 930pm with a Mom lead-in. Since airing on Mondays at 9pm this season, the show has declined 10% — though it has shown three consecutive weeks of ratings improvement and delivered a season high this past week.

Blindspot (NBC) had a cushy post-Voice time slot on Mondays at 10pm last season where it averaged 6.92 million viewers. In its eyebrow-raising move to the troublesome Wednesdays at 8pm, ratings have declined 21%.

NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS) aired at 10pm on Mondays last season where it averaged 8.63 million viewers. But in another eyebrow-raising scheduling change, was moved to Sundays at 8pm leading out of 60 Minutes. But unlike most broadcast shows experiencing time slot changes, it has actually shown a 23% INCREASE.


New Day

For seven seasons, The Middle (ABC) aired on Wednesdays at 8pm. Last season, the show averaged 7.33 million viewers. This season, it shifted to the same time slot on the more competitive Tuesdays opposite NCIS on CBS and The Voice on NBC where ratings have declined 13%.

Superstore (NBC) was largely a self-starter on Mondays at 8pm last season where it averaged 5.08 million viewers. With a move this season to Thursdays at 8pm opposite The Big Bang Theory on CBS and Grey’s Anatomy on ABC, ratings have declined 14%.

Last season, Rosewood (FOX) had the benefit of an Empire lead-out on Wednesdays at 8pm where it averaged 4.79 million viewers. In shifting to Thursdays at 8pm opposite The Big Bang Theory on CBS, Grey’s Anatomy on ABC and Superstore on NBC, ratings have declined 31%.

Last season, Chicago Med (NBC) had the benefit of a Voice lead-in on Tuesdays at 9pm where it averaged 7.96 million viewers. In its shift to Thursdays at 10pm with a far lesser Good Place lead-in, ratings have declined 15%.


New Time

Airing on Mondays at 9pm last season out of a Big Bang-fueled Life in PiecesScorpion (CBS) averaged 9.64 million viewers. In shifting back to 10pm with an Odd Couple lead-in, ratings have declined 24%.

Airing on Tuesdays at 9pm last season, Brooklyn Nine Nine (FOX) averaged 2.73 million viewers. In shifting up to 8pm earlier this season, ratings have declined 10%.

Ratings for Fresh Off the Boat (ABC) have been comparatively flat in its Tuesday night shift from 8pm last season to 9pm this season with only a 5% decrease from last season’s average of 4.44 million viewers.

Last season, The Real O’Neals (ABC) aired on Tuesday at 830pm with a Fresh Off the Boat lead-in and averaged 3.94 million viewers. This season, it shifted back to 930pm with the same lead-in, but ratings have declined 20%.

Airing Tuesdays at 9pm last season, The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC) averaged 3.43 million viewers. Shifting back to 10pm to make room for the network’s expanded comedy block, ratings have declined 27%.

NCIS: New Orleans (CBS) aired Tuesdays at 9pm last season with a coveted lead-in from parent series NCIS and averaged 12.98 million viewers. Shifting back to 10pm this season to make room for Bull, ratings have declined 26%.

As with Boat, ratings for The Goldbergs (ABC) have been comparatively flat in its Wednesday shift from 830pm last season to 8pm this season with only a 4% decrease from last season’s average of 6.6 million viewers.

With a Big Bang lead-in on Thursdays at 830pm last season, Life in Pieces (CBS) averaged 8.69 million viewers. In shifting back to 930pm with a lesser Mom lead-in (owing more to the strength of Big Bang than any weakness on the part of Mom), ratings declined 27%.

Last season, The Blacklist (NBC) aired on Thursdays at 9pm where it averaged 6.83 million viewers. In its shift back to 10pm, ratings have declined 17% (even with a better lead-in from Chicago Med).

With a 60 Minutes lead-in to its 8pm time slot on Sundays last season, Madam Secretary (CBS) averaged 10.10 million viewers. Despite a healthy 8pm lead-in from NCIS: Los Angeles this season, ratings for the Secretary at 9pm have declined 15%.


Such declines can be easily explained by program itself, the new time slot, the new lead-in, the new lead-out. But it’s hard to delineate how much to attribute to the overall declines in live viewership for the broadcast networks. Regardless, scheduling stability is key and the broadcast networks might want to focus on THAT for a couple of seasons so that a) live viewers will know where to tune in to a show because not everyone is always time-shifting and b) NCIS: Los Angeles is an exception right now, not a rule.

Source: TV Series Finale

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