Just months after CBS altered the Thursday landscape by moving over “The Big Bang Theory,” Fox threatens to once again change the dynamic of the night.
Fox’s decision to move “American Idol” to Wednesday and Thursday may impact time-period leader CBS, but ABC and CW will likely be the most affected by the move.
NBC will probably experience the least impact of any net, but that’s partly because it caters to a small, loyal comedy audience in that hour.
The news is especially rough on CW, which has found its Thursday night groove thanks to “The Vampire Diaries.” But the C-Dub’s young audience may find it tough to resist the allure of the “Idol” machine.
“Dang, Fox. Wow,” wrote “Vampire Diaries” exec producer Julie Plec on her Twitter account.
But at least “The Vampire Diaries” already boasts a fan base. For ABC, the challenge now gets tougher: The Alphabet has no permanent show on Thursdays at 8 p.m.
That means ABC will face the challenge of launching a program there opposite “Idol.”
Rivals said they understood the schedule change, but also argued the move wasn’t necessarily just an offense play. The Wednesday-Thursday shift was necessary to keep “Glee” in its current spot (moving it yet again could have damaging consequences).
And one competitor suggested that it’s easier to move “Idol” now, sans Simon Cowell, than it would have been in its heyday. With the show likely to continue to erode, there’s potential upside in moving it (such as improving Thursday) while less incentive to keep the status quo and watch the numbers continue to dip.
And if the ratings once again slide? It’s less of an apples-to-apples comparison vs. last year, given the timeslot switch.
In the past Fox had come close to announcing a Wednesday-Thursday “Idol” sked. But the network ultimately decided not to mess with success.
Fox entertainment prexy Kevin Reilly and alternative topper Mike Darnell said they pondered the switch to a Wednesday-Thursday schedule after CBS bumped “Survivor” off Thursdays in favor of comedy.
“We like the excitement factor of this already being a ‘reset’ year for ‘Idol,'” Reilly said. “It’s a transitional time for the show. It’s going to have a new freshness to it. So given all of those factors, we decided to do it now.”
With no reality show in the Thursday 8 p.m. slot, it was only a matter of time until someone stepped in to fill the void.
“We’ve been trying to get a foothold there forever,” Darnell said. “The only moves that work on Thursday are big moves,” he added in noting past big shifts to the night like “Big Bang Theory,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “CSI” and “Survivor.”
“8 p.m. was not looking so great any more,” Darnell added. “This was our opportunity. Here’s a moment where we can steal the spotlight on Thursday.”
Move could also be a test case to see how Cowell’s “The X-Factor” might work in the fall on a Wednesday-Thursday pattern. Throw in summertime’s “So You Think You Can Dance,” and Fox may have just put together a year-round Wednesday-Thursday reality juggernaut.
Meanwhile, in moving “Idol’s” results show to Thursday, Fox will shift “Fringe” to Friday — a move that led to some outcry in the fan community.
Reilly touted that loyal audience in explaining the move.
“It’s hard to imagine that the loyal ‘Fringe’ audience will jump ship when it changes nights,” he said. “If it does anywhere near what it’s been doing on Thursday, then we’ll have landed a huge trade-up on Fridays.”
But Reilly also added a dose of reality: Because Fox only programs 15 hours a week, it can’t afford to ignore Friday nights.
“Friday has been a bit of a revolving door, and it’s been a place where shows have gone to die,” he admitted. “We’ve struggled on Fridays even as we’ve been strong elsewhere … this is not the first step to ‘Fringe’s’ cancellation. As long as the fans keep watching the show it will stay.”
As for “Glee,” the midseason sked reps a change in plans; Fox had nonetheless previously promised to move “Glee” back to a 9 p.m. slot in midseason. Given some of the show’s adult-themed content, the show’s producers were more comfortable with the later hour.
But a funny thing happened on the way to that plan: “Glee” blossomed into a megahit Tuesdays at 8.
“It exceeded everyone’s expectations at 8,” Reilly said. “It’s been the linchpin of creating a successful night for us. It’s an appointment show at 8, and one doesn’t need to move nights in the middle of the season.”
“Glee” is still on tap to receive the biggest series platform of the year: the plum spot behind the Super Bowl.
Because of the decision to move “Idol,” the revised midseason sked bears little similarity to what was announced in May. Ideally, networks wouldn’t announce midseason skeds – but sales departments say they’re necessary to book ad time, even if it’s no secret that these announcements always change by January.
“Idol” will bow on Jan. 19 with a two-hour premiere, and then air at 8 p.m. starting Jan. 26. Show will briefly be paired with “Human Target,” but will go with two-hour episodes starting Feb. 16. The Wednesday “Idol” will then collapse to 90 minutes on April 6, with “Breaking In” at 9:30 p.m. (“Human Target” will air back to back episodes Jan. 5 and Jan. 12.)
On Thursdays, “Million Dollar Money Drop” will keep the 8 p.m. slot warm for “Idol” until Jan. 20, when the show premieres on that night. “Idol” will serve as a lead-in to “Bones,” which shifts to 9. “Fringe” moves to Fridays at 9 p.m. starting Jan. 28 (behind “Kitchen Nightmares”).
Fox’s “House” and “Lie to Me” combo continues Mondays from Jan. 17 to Feb. 7, when Shawn Ryan entry “The Chicago Code” bows at 9 p.m. behind “House.”
And on Tuesdays, while “Glee” stays at 8 p.m., “Million Dollar Money Drop” will run at 9 p.m. for January.
Fox, meanwhile, confirmed that it won’t order any additional episodes of comedy “Running Wilde” and comedic actioner “The Good Guys,” effectively ending those shows’ runs.