The broadcast networks don’t announce their fall schedules until May. But as pilot season gets underway, they’re already taking a look at their current schedules to determine what shows they need to pickup as it relates to their available and otherwise troublesome time slots.
Below are six of those troublesome or otherwise highly-trafficked time slots that we’ll be paying close attention to as May slowly but surely approaches.
Mondays at 10pm on ABC
ABC had a good thing going here for several years with Castle — which not only served as an effective lead-out for Dancing with the Stars, but also stood on its own in between that flagship show’s cycles. And even after a couple of seasons of precipitous viewership declines leading to its 2016 cancellation, Castle still averaged 6.20 million Live + Same Day (L+SD) viewers. Conviction, Castle‘s time slot successor, has only averaged 4.12m in this time slot (a 33% decline from Castle) after premiering to 5.17m in October but only delivering 3.34m for its most recent Monday episode at the beginning of December. Quantico took over this time slot toward the end of January but hasn’t fared any better with an average of 2.68m L+SD viewers for the four episodes that have since aired (a 35% decline from Conviction). Keep in mind — and I hope ABC does as well — that Conviction had the benefit of a Stars lead-in for most of its Monday run while Quantico has had a lesser lead-in from The Bachelor until Stars returns toward the end of March. Regardless, unless Quantico makes up a lot of ratings ground with that Stars lead-in, a new drama will most likely be scheduled here for the fall.
Mondays at 10pm on NBC
With a solid lead-in from its flagship The Voice, NBC has used this time slot to launch a high-profile new drama every year since Revolution in 2012. The Blacklist followed in 2013, State of Affairs in 2014, Blindspot in 2015 and Timeless last year. Of the five, only The Blacklist has so far spent more than one season in the time slot before being moved to shore up another one on a different night. And of the five, only State of Affairs has so far been cancelled after its first season. With The Voice on hiatus until the end of February, Timeless has taken a 40% ratings hit with a far lesser lead-in from Celebrity Apprentice — 5.43m vs. 3.28m in L+SD viewership. Regardless of how new series Taken performs in the time slot, NBC will most likely move Timeless to another night while the sixth new show in as many years takes over this time slot in the fall.
Tuesdays at 10pm on ABC
Since the demo-driven cancellation of Body of Proof in 2013, TEN shows have cycled through this time slot — albeit without the Dancing with the Stars lead-in enjoyed by Proof. Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD currently occupies the time slot, but is only averaging 2.43 million L+SD viewers with a lesser lead-in from ABC’s Tuesday night comedy block. This is still on par with the quickly-cancelled Wicked City (2.46m) but 18% below Of Kings and Prophets (2.88m) in this time slot last season — interestingly both with a SHIELD lead-in. Yet another new drama will most likely be tested here in the fall unless ABC plans to sell SHIELD into syndication and needs another season of episodes.
Wednesdays at 8pm on NBC
Blindspot is the FORTIETH program to cycle through this time slot since Unsolved Mysteries was moved to Friday nights in 1994 after six seasons in this time slot. In comparison to the 6.97 million L+SD and 8.58 million L+7 viewership averages of time slot predecessor The Mysteries of Laura, Blindspot is coming in 24% below Laura in L+SD with 5.28m but on par in L+7 so far this season with 8.02m due to substantial post-airdate viewership gains. NBC would be wise to keep Blindspot in this time slot for next season — if for no other reason than some semblance of consistency in its schedule. Or, in the tradition of Revolution and now Blindspot — which were both relocated here from the cushy post-Voice time slot on Mondays, NBC moves the more family-friendly Timeless here and once again relocates Blindspot.
Thursdays at 10pm on CBS
Last season, Elementary averaged 5.74 million L+SD viewers and 9.14 million L+7 viewers in this time slot with a 2 Broke Girls lead-in. Time slot successor Pure Genius just completed its first season with an on-par average of 5.34m in L+SD but a 14% decline in L+7 with 7.90m — even from a slightly better Life in Pieces lead-in. But after three episodes and viewership declines with each one, newcomer Training Day is averaging 4.33m L+SD viewers (a 19% decline from Genius) with no significant post-airdate lift as of yet. Should Genius earn a second season, which is now possible given its consistent post-airdate lift, CBS would be wise to give the show another season in the time slot and allow viewers more time to find it.
CBS Monday Nights (namely 930pm) / CBS Thursday Nights (namely 830pm)
I had my doubts about Superior Donuts — mostly because it was premiering after Big Bang and then shifting over to the 9pm tentpole position on Monday nights. It’s a risky practice because high initial tune-in to one time slot doesn’t generally transfer to another one. But Donuts has only experienced some minor declines each of the two weeks since its Monday premiere to average 7.09m L+SD viewers (this figure does not include that Big Bang-fueled launch).
In looking to next season, CBS will mostly likely want to launch a new series in the 830pm hammock position after Big Bang on Thursday nights — as has been their M.O. for several seasons now. But they may want to consider Donuts for that slot next season since it retained an impressive 72% of its Big Bang lead-in for its early February premiere — which is much higher than the 56% retention for the October premiere of The Great Indoors and its 52% retention average since. At that rate, Donuts could theoretically average a 68% retention — which would certainly help CBS’s Thursday night as Big Bang heads into what could be its final two seasons.
And Indoors could take over the 9pm tentpole position on Monday nights leading into 2 Broke Girls — should it be renewed for a seventh season.