There’s been some give-and- take in audience between ABC and CBS on Thursday and Sunday this fall, and both nets have reason to be happy.
While the Alphabet’s shift of “Grey’s Anatomy” from Sunday to Thursday was the biggest sked move heading into this season, the Eye also made a significant change by sending “Without a Trace” from Thursday to Sunday.
ABC and CBS are the ratings front-runners, and these sked changes are the main reasons why.
In both cases, too, they are effectively using smash hits to try and launch new programs.
In the same way CBS paired megahit “Survivor” with promising newbie “CSI” in 2001, the Alphabet has quickly found its own one-two punch on Thursday night.
One week after “Grey’s” bowed with the biggest numbers for any program this fall (11.0 rating in 18-49, 25.4 million viewers overall), hourlong comedy “Ugly Betty” gave ABC its strongest series showing in the night’s opening hour in more than 10 years (5.0 rating, 16.3 million viewers).
“Betty’s” perf was especially impressive since it was asked to kick off the night and faced competition that included CBS’ “Survivor” and NBC’s “The Office.”
Success of “Grey’s” and “Betty” has taken the pressure off “Six Degrees,” the net’s new 10 o’clock sudser that is losing a big chunk of its “Grey’s” lead-in. ABC is more than tripling its Thursday adults 18-49 average of a year ago (from a fourth-place 2.2 to a first-place 6.7), so it can wait a little longer to see if “Degrees” can find an aud.
The Alphabet certainly misses “Grey’s” on Sunday, but new family sudser “Brothers & Sisters” has quietly performed pretty well and, in time, could become a good partner with “Desperate Housewives.”
Net is down about 20% on Sundays this fall — not bad considering how huge “Grey’s” had become on the night. Also, there’s significant financial upside on Thursday, where advertisers shell out big bucks for top-rated shows, and ABC’s giant gains there more than compensate for Sunday.
For CBS, Thursday has been a rock of strength, with the net easily winning in key demos the past few seasons. But the Eye was also in something of a rut.
The lineup of “Survivor,” “CSI” and “Without a Trace” aired for four consecutive seasons — no entertainment lineup in television history has aired longer — and audience erosion was inevitable. It made sense that “Trace,” the 10 o’clock show coming out of the megahit “CSI,” would be the one to fly the coop.
James Woods legal drama “Shark” hasn’t been a hit out of the gate, but it has performed well enough in place of “Trace” on Thursday. In its second week, it averaged a 4.2 rating in 18-49, behind the 6.1 for slot leader “ER” but ahead of “Six Degrees” on ABC (4.1).
Net would like to see its demo score move closer to a 5 rating, but it figures to be patient. “Without a Trace” wasn’t an immediate hit in the timeslot when it bowed in 2002, and it gradually retained more and more of its “CSI” lead-in.
While CBS is down 18% in 18-49 on Thursday early this season (6.1 vs. 7.4) — in addition to the loss of “Trace,” “CSI” has been dented by “Grey’s Anatomy” — the net remains tops in total viewers.
And through two weeks on Sunday, where “Without a Trace” now follows “Cold Case,” CBS was up 83% in 18-49 compared to its performance in the 9-11 p.m. timeslot with movies last year (4.4 vs. 2.4).
ABC and CBS possess some of the biggest hits on television, and the timeslot switches on Thursday and Sunday this fall appear to have maximized their ratings today while also keeping an eye on growing hits for the future.