CBS announced its finale dates today, and the last of them are on May 17, a full week before the end of the broadcast season and the end of the May sweeps. This is not the first time the network has done this — it similarly wrapped things up on the series side a week early the last couple of years. With sweep months losing their importance in the era of People Meters, the networks are being more strategic about scheduling their series. “You have a limited number of original episodes for the season, and they’re worth more in November, December, January, February or even March then they are in May when HUT levels are lower,” one observer said. Airing originals in earlier months of the season provides “more bang for your buck” and helps maximize the ratings for each original episode, the observer said.
It feels like, with a marathon eight-month-long broadcast season, viewers’ interest eventually starts to wane, especially after the introduction of the daylight savings time. We are in Week 2 after the switch, and HUT levels, measuring the number of hourseholds watching television, are still depressed from 8-10 PM. Somewhat surprisingly, a whopping seven new broadcast series are being launched in the current lower-trafficked period: ABC’s Missing, which debuted last Thursday; NBC’s Bent, which premiered on Tuesday; Fox’s Touch, which premiered tonight; and the upcoming BFF (NBC), Betty White’s Off Their Rockers (NBC), NYC 22 (CBS) and Don’t Trust The B—- In Apt. 23 (ABC). As for CBS, it is expected to air original programming, mostly specials, in the final week of the season, including a new Jesse Stone movie. But its decision to end its series earlier season after season begs the question: Is the broadcast season in its current form too long?