Advertisers Wager NBC’s Katherine Heigl Drama Will Lead Freshman Scripted Series in New TV Season

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Katherine Heigl may be a polarizing figure in some circles, but advertisers seem to like her just fine.

A Variety survey of commercial-ratings projections from four major ad buyers finds that NBC’s new drama “State of Affairs” featuring the actress is expected to generate the most commercial viewership among freshman scripted programs in the 2014-15 season in viewers between 18 and 49, the demographic most coveted by advertisers. Only CBS’ “NFL Thursday Night” broadcasts are expected to garner more “C3” ratings, or views of commercials that accompany programs up to three days after they air.

The measure has been the bedrock of how advertisers pay TV networks for commercial time since 2007, as opposed to the more commonly known program ratings.

Ad buyers are also banking on Shonda Rhimes. Her new Thursday-night ABC drama, “How to Get Away With Murder,” is seen as the freshman show with the third-largest “C3” audience, according to the Variety survey.

The comedy with the most potential is Fox’s Sunday-night entry “Mulaney,” featuring comic writer John Mulaney. The show is executive produced by Lorne Michaels.

Variety’s list of the projected top freshman programs for “C3” in the 2014-15 season follows below (Nielsen estimated a single ratings point in the 2013-14 season was equivalent to about 1,269.600, and is expected to revise its estimates upward for the next season):

1) “NFL Thursday Night,” Thursday CBS 4.62
2) “State of Affairs,” Monday, NBC 2.51
3) “How to Get Away With Murder,” Thursday ABC 2.36
4) “Mulaney,” Sunday, Fox 1.99
5) “Gotham,” Monday, Fox 1.93
6) “NCIS: New Orleans,” Tuesday, CBS 1.92
7) “One Big Happy,” Tuesday NBC 1.77
8) “Marry Me,” Tuesday, NBC 1.7
9) “Black-ish,” Wednesday, ABC 1.74
10) “Allegiance,” Thursday NBC 1.73

The rankings do not necessarily guarantee success. Of last year’s top 10 “C3” freshman programs, six made it to a second-season renewal. Below, projections for the top “C3” shows among audiences between 18 and 49 for the 2013-14 season:

1) “The Millers,” Thursday CBS 3.17
2) “The Blacklist,” Monday NBC 3.1
3) “The Crazy Ones,” Thursday, CBS 2.8
4) “Resurrection,” Thursday, ABC 2.78
5) “Super Fun Night,” Wednesday, ABC 2.43
6) “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD,” Tuesday, ABC 2.42
7) “Mom,” Monday, CBS 2.35
8) “Almost Human,” Monday, FOX 2.29
9) “Sleepy Hollow,” Monday 2.06
10) “Mixology,” Wednesday ABC 2.02

The Variety survey also shows expectations for “C3” to decline overall among freshman entries. In 2013, ad buyers called for even “Mixology” to garner a 2.02. In 2014, they expect only three new programs to generate “C3” views above an average of 2.0.