The first new fall series, Fox’s Sleepy Hollow, premieres tonight, marking the unofficial start of the 2013-14 broadcast season. A slew of new shows and a legion of returning ones will unspool over the next couple of months. In the past, that would mean a bloody skirmish in every time slot, with one show coming out victorious and the rest in moderate or grave danger. Now with DVR and online viewing, several shows airing in the same time period can be popular. But will they all be successful? That is probably the biggest question facing the networks — how to translate eyeballs on different platforms into ratings and money from advertisers. While ad rates now are determined by C3 ratings that include playback (plus commercials) in the first three days after the premiere airing and the networks universally use Live+7 as ratings currency, Fox’s Kevin Reilly recently made a case for expanding the rating measurements to Live+30 and beyond and for including online viewing. In line with that, Fox this fall is introducing DVR and multi-platform lift projections for its shows. Meanwhile, CBS’ Leslie Moonves and David Poltrack recently proclaimed the decline of the adults 18-49 demo, which has been the key metric for advertisers. All that confusion opens the door for even more spin from the networks who can declare almost any show a hit using different viewing windows and demos. Maybe Netflix’s M.O., often criticized by its competitors, not to disclose any ratings data isn’t all that bad after all. If the company considers a series successful, it renews it, if not, it’s gone.
Back to the broadcast networks, which seem to be switching identities this fall. CBS’ highest-profile new drama, Hostages, is a serialized thriller vs. a classic procedural last year (Elementary). Meanwhile, NBC, which made its biggest drama push with the heavily serialized Revolution last fall, is getting behind a procedural The Blacklist, which inherited Revolution‘s Monday 10 PM slot, this year. Multi-camera leader CBS is making a push in single-camera comedy with The Crazy Ones and We Are Men, while single-camera-centric Fox is reverting to multi-camera comedies with Dads. Here are some challenges each of the networks faces: (more…)