NBC’s midseason schedule announcement yesterday contained some disheartening news for 30 Rock fans — for its upcoming sixth season, the Emmy-winning comedy has been assigned the tough Thursday 8 PM slot. A cult favorite and a major awards contender, the Tina Fey-Alec Baldwin starrer has never been a big ratings draw and can hardly be perceived as an 8 PM anchor material. Plus, this represents the umpteenth time slot change for the office comedy, which has previously aired at 8:30 PM, 9:30 PM and 10 PM on Thursday. But as daunting as seems, 30 Rock’s uphill ratings battle might be aided by a secret weapon — the series’ additional exposure through its cable (on Comedy Central) and broadcast syndication launch this fall. As a newly-minted 8 PM comedy, 30 Rock joins 2 other returning half-hour sitcoms that air in the 8 PM time slot: CBS’ How I Met Your Mother on Monday and The Big Bang Theory on Thursday. The three have more in common than an airtime. Besides being a direct competitor to 30 Rock on Thursday, Big Bang too rolled out in cable (TBS) and broadcast syndication this fall, getting a ton of promotion, including during the baseball playoffs on TBS. The extra exposure may have boosted Big Bang‘s original airings on CBS — season-to-date, the comedy has averaged a 6.0 (most recent) 18-49 rating and 14.9 million viewers, up 15% in the demo and 14% in viewers from last fall. Meanwhile, How I Met Your Mother launched in cable syndication on FX this fall after languishing on Lifetime, where it had been mishandled last season. The added eyeballs (HIMYM continues to air on Lifetime too) may have helped the veteran comedy, which is hitting series highs in its seventh season on CBS — HIMYM (5.1 rating in 18-49, 11.4 million) is up a whopping 24% in 18-49 from last year and 19% in total viewers. It is probably not a coincidence that Big Bang and HIMYM are among the biggest ratings growth stories this season just as they got launched/re-launched in syndication. Previous examples of broadcasting series getting a ratings boost from initial exposure in syndication include CBS’ NCIS, NBC’s Law & Order and NBC’s The Office. Will 30 Rock be added to the list? Because of the comedy’s constant bouncing around the NBC Thursday schedule, it will be hard to do year-to-year comparisons to measure a possible syndie effect, but if 30 Rock performs better than the show it is replacing, Community, against a resurgent Big Bang, that will be considered a success, especially on ratings-starved NBC.
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