The Peacock is clearly feeling some wind beneath its wings.
In a competitive jab that has been largely absent from its positioning in recent years, NBC used the unveiling of its 2014-2015 programming schedule to note that fans of the Eye’s Thursday-night comedies may be up for grabs as the Eye schedules NFL games on Thursday in the early weeks of the season.
“Comedy is very important to this network, which is why we are launching new series on Tuesdays following ‘The Voice’ and on Thursdays in the fall as CBS frees up some of the comedy audience when it turns to NFL football,” said Jennifer Salke, president of NBC Entertainment, in a statement accompanying the release of NBC’s programming plans.
CBS is expected to make a big pitch for its new Thursday-night NFL schedule, a maneuver that will bring eight games of football to broadcast primetime during the week. Audiences for NFL broadcasts are among the most robust on TV, and CBS has already positioned the games as events that attract women and fans of entertainment programming as well as sports die-hards. Even so, the move will require that CBS either launch some of its best-known sitcoms — “The Big Bang Theory” among them — on a different night of the week or start them later in the season.
NBC will launch two new comedies in the 9 p.m. hour on Thursdays: “Bad Judge,” starring Kate Walsh as a judge who likes to party, and “A to Z,” a romantic comedy. Both will be replaced in February by “The Blacklist,” the hit NBC series that will move to Thursdays in an effort to shore up what has been a troubled night for the Peacock.
It’s not clear that NBC is putting its best stuff on in that hour. The network typically reserves the shows in which it has the most hope for berths following “The Voice,” a move that usually guarantees a strong lead-in for an untested program.
The charge against CBS, the nation’s most-watched network, marks something of a change for NBC, which is clearly feeling some new confidence owing to its surge in viewers between 18 and 49, the demographic most coveted by advertisers. NBC said it was on track to win the 2013-2014 season in 18-49 viewership for the first time in 10 years. In recent upfront presentations, NBC has taken a more conciliatory stance, telling advertisers it was aware that recent performance was unsatisfactory.
Two freshman sitcoms with “The Biggest Loser” as a lead-in are not likely to trump broadcasts of NFL football on a new night, but can they peel off some viewers who want scripted fare rather than sports? Advertisers and viewers will have to read the leaves on this one in the autumn.