Fall 2014 TV Ratings Scorecard

As creators, future creators, or even past creators, of television series, it behooves all of us to keep in mind the basic rule of TV success:

“It isn’t about creating a series that’s good. It’s about creating a series that works.”
Larry Brody

And by “works,” we mean, “gets high ratings.”

So as we sit there pondering our next concepts, here’s a look at the current trends:


What’s Working This Fall & What’s Not
by Michael O’Connell

Broadcast TV’s narrative of evolving ratings expectations finally might be translating to longer life expectancies for new series. The 2014-15 season, about to enter its third month, hardly has been the bloodbath many are accustomed to seeing. Even some of the poorest-performing series (sorry, Mulaney) have escaped the hatchet. And it’s not only because several networks boast smaller-than-usual benches. ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and, perhaps to a lesser extent, The CW all have fulfilled the promise of waiting for extensive time-shifting data before deciding series’ fates. Ratings-gazers also have pulled back on snap judgments.

Despite plenty of opportunities to rake fall’s less-than-fresh offerings (especially the comedies) over the proverbial coals, many insiders note that the court of public opinion’s tone is more civilized than during seasons past. “Live-plus-same-day seems to be meaningless,” says one veteran showrunner, seeing his series’ year-over-year losses offset by DVR growth. “No one really knows when to judge the success of a show anymore because the timetable is so odd. People are still assimilating to how big of a change this is going to be.”

But who’s benefiting most in this shifted climate? With the possible exception of ABC and its runaway success How to Get Away With Murder, no network has launched what could be considered a game-changer. NBC’s No. 1 status in the 18-to-49 demographic still comes courtesy of Sunday Night Footballand a somewhat-fatigued The Voice, and CBS’ lifts can be attributed to its recently concluded Thursday NFL games. Fox executives are said to be pleased with Gotham, but the rest of their freshman lot — holdovers from former chairman Kevin Reilly‘s tenure — has the network languishing in fourth place. And The CW, though moving the chains thanks to The Flash, still is running its own race. “In the whole season, there are five shows that are working: The Flash, How to Get Away With Murder, Scorpion,Gotham and possibly Black-ish. … That’s it,” says one top agent. “You can’t presume that anything else that limped to a back order will come back for a season three, five or seven.”


Thanks to the success of How to Get Away With Murder, ABC has done what many thought impossible during the DVR era: thrive by programming an entire night of high-rated scripted entertainment. “For any show to work in such a competitive, fragmented world everything needs to line up,” says ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee. “In broadcast, it takes time to build momentum. It is extremely gratifying to see that pay off.”

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