Madison Avenue Counts on Football, ‘Empire,’ ‘Big Bang’ To Lead New TV Season

Fall TV Ratings Projections
Manning: Rex/Shutterstock; Empire: FOX; Big Bang; CBS

Madison Avenue is counting on football, football and football to blast its promotional messages to couch potatoes in the coming TV season, and hoping a little music will also help spur consumers to pay more attention to TV commercials.

A Variety survey of commercial-ratings projections for the 2016-2017 broadcast-network TV season finds that advertisers believe NBC’s “Sunday Night Football,” NBC’s and CBS’ package of Thursday-night NFL match-ups and the third season of Fox’s music-industry soap-opera “Empire” will lure the most viewers that advertisers covet the most: people between the ages of 18 and 49 who watch commercials rather than using technology to zap past them. The ratings predictions are culled by using estimates from three of the nation’s top media-buying agencies, which negotiate prices for and placement of billions of dollars in TV commercials each year.

The general public continues to place emphasis on the program ratings that Nielsen delivers day in and day out, because the measure is more easily obtained. In reality, however, the industry has moved past such numbers. Yet since May 2007, sponsors and ad buyers have instead made the number of viewers between 18 and 49 who watch a particular show within three days’ of its on-air debut — and don’t skip the ads – as the basis for many of their TV-ad deals. The measure, known as “C3″ (or commercial ratings-plus-3), became part of negotiations between networks and their advertisers as the increasing use of DVRs eroded viewership of programs – not to mention the commercials that interrupt them.

Variety’s list of the projected top programs for “C3” in the 2016-2017 season follows below. A single 18-to-49 ratings point in the current season is equivalent to approximately  1,268,100  viewers, according to Nielsen.

1. Sunday Night Football, NBC, 7.6
2. Thursday Night Football, NBC 6.22
3. Thursday Night Football,CBS, 5.74
4. Empire, Fox, 4.88
5. Football Night in America, NBC, 4.1
6. The Big Bang Theory (Monday), CBS 3.8
7. Star, Fox, 3.33
8. The OT, Fox, 3.2
9. The Big Bang Theory (Thursday), CBS 2.86
10. The Voice (Monday), NBC 2.83
11. The Voice (Tuesday), NBC 2.53
12. Fox College Football, Fox, 2.4
13. How To Get Away With Murder, ABC, 2.37
14. Grey’s Anatomy, ABC, 2.36
15. Kevin Can Wait (Monday 8:30 slot) 2.0

“Sunday Night Football” remains TV’s C3 champion, followed by both editions of “Thursday Night Football.” Buyers may be watching the National Football League’s Thursday franchise more closely this year because it is being divided up among three networks this year: NBC and CBS will each carry five games, to be simulcast with the league’s own cable network, while the cable outlet will also broadcast some games on its own. NBC’s Sunday pre-show “Football Night in America” and Fox’s Sunday post game program, “The OT” are also seen as top properties by ad buyers.

When it comes to scripted programming, advertisers have their collective eye on Fox’s outsize hit “Empire” as well as a coming spin-off, “Star.” The latter is viewed as most likely to generate the highest ratings of any freshman series. CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” continues to stay high in the ratings.

Some programs that were expected to be top commercial-ratings generators last season have vanished this year. Gone are Fox’s revival of “The X-Files,” which is not expected to get another run this year, and ABC’s “The Catch,” which is slated for a second season but not at levels that would surpass fare such as ABC’s“Modern Family,” CBS’ “Survivor,” or NBC’s “Chicago Fire.”

A broader chart examining Variety’s “C3” projections for the bulk of shows slated for the coming cycle. The scheduled days for some of the programs have not been formally announced, but are based on buyer expectations. Mid-season programs are in italics.

7PM America’s Funniest Home Videos 0.87
8PM Once Upon a Time 1.3
9PM Secrets & Lies 1.42
Time After Time 1.32
10PM Quantico 1.45
7PM 60 Minutes 1.46
8PM NCIS Los Angeles 1.5
9PM Madam Secretary 0.88
10PM Elementary 1.07
7PM The OT 3.2
7:30 Bob’s Burgers 0.88
8PM The Simpsons 1.43
8:30PM Son of Zorn 1.7
9PM Family Guy 1.52
9:30PM Last Man on Earth 1.38
7PM Football Night In America 4.1
8PM Sunday Night Football 7.6
Dateline Sunday 0.89
The Apprentice 0.89
Little Big Shots 1.48
Shades of Blue 1.43
8PM Dancing with the Stars 1.28
The Bachelor 1.89
9PM Conviction 1.41
8PM The Big Bang Theory 3.8
8PM Kevin Can Wait (as of 10/24) 1.76
8:30PM Kevin Can Wait 2.24
8:30PM Man With a Plan (as of 10/24) 1.67
9PM 2 Broke Girls 1.79
9:30PM The Odd Couple 1.26
10PM Scorpion 1.44
8PM Supergirl 1.08
9PM Jane the Virgin 0.45
8PM Gotham 1.34
24: Legacy 1.62
9PM Lucifer 1.55
APB 1.35
8PM The Voice 2.83
9PM Timeless 2.18
Taken 1.52
8PM The Middle 1.49
8:30PM American Housewife 1.2
Imaginary Mary 1.08
9PM Fresh Off the Boat 1.2
Downward Dog 0.88
9:30PM The Real O’Neals 0.94
10PM Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 1.26
NCIS 1.74
Bull 1.23
NCIS: New Orleans 1.26
The Flash 1.1
No Tomorrow 0.46
Riverdale 0.42
8PM Brooklyn Nine-Nine 1.05
8:30PM New Girl 1.04
The Mick 0.95
9PM Scream Queens 1.17
Kicking & Screaming 0.77
Prison Break 1.77
8PM The Voice 2.52
9PM This is Us 1.49
10PM Chicago Fire 1.81
8PM The Goldbergs 1.59
8:30PM Speechless 1.28
9PM Modern Family 2.08
9:30PM Black-ish 1.59
10PM Designated Survivor 1.55
American Crime 1.0
8PM Survivor 1.93
9PM Criminal Minds 1.64
10PM Code Black 1.39
8PM Lethal Weapon 1.29
Shots Fired 1.08
9PM Empire 4.88
Star 3.33
8PM Arrow 0.70
9PM Frequency 0.43
8PM Arrow 0.70
8PM Blindspot 1.88
9PM Law & Order: SVU 1.64
10PM Chicago PD 1.23
8PM Grey’s Anatomy 2.32
9PM Notorious 1.88
Scandal 2.19
10PM How to Get Away with Murder 2.37
The Catch 1.15
8PM Thursday Night Football (Through 10/20) 5.74
8PM Big Bang Theory 2.86
8:30PM Great Outdoors 1.66
9PM Mom 1.59
9:30PM Life in Pieces 1.36
10PM Pure Genius 1.09
8PM DC’s Legends of Tomorrow 0.68
9PM Supernatural 0.58
8PM Rosewood 1.27
9PM The Pitch 1.8
Bones 1.27
8PM Thursday Night Football (11/17-12/22) 6.22
8PM Superstore 1.47
8:30PM The Good Place 0.84
9PM Chicago Med 1.47
Emerald City 1.0
Powerless 0.82
10PM The Blacklist 1.59
Blacklist: Redemption 1.43
8PM Last Man Standing 1.17
8:30PM Dr. Ken 1.16
9PM Shark Tank 1.44
10PM 20/20 1.08
8PM MacGyver 0.81
9PM Hawaii Five 0 0.95
10PM Blue Bloods 1.12
8PM The Vampire Diaries 0.55
9PM Crazy Ex-Girlfriend 0.23
I Zombie 0.33
8PM Hell’s Kitchen 1.2
Masterchef Jr. 1.3
9PM The Exorcist 0.97
Sleepy Hallow 0.88
8PM Caught on Camera w/ Nick Cannon 0.65
9PM Grimm 1.0
10PM Dateline NBC 1.0
8PM Saturday Night Football 1.6
8PM Crimetime Saturday 0.5
9PM Crimetime Saturday 0.53
10PM 48 Hours 0.79
8PM Fox Sports Saturday: College Football 2.4
8PM Saturday Dateline Mysteries 0.72
10PM SNL Vintage 0.61