Madison Avenue Bets Big on Fox’s ‘Star’ to Lead Freshman TV Shows

Lee Daniels

What does it take to get a consumer to open his or her wallet? Madison Avenue is wagering that a TV show with what is likely to be a memorable soundtrack will do the trick.

A Variety survey of commercial-ratings projections for the 2016-2017 broadcast TV season finds ad buyers believe “Star,” the new Fox musical drama from co-creators Lee Daniels (pictured, above) and Tom Donaghy, will generate the most commercial viewership of any freshman scripted program. The survey, constructed using estimates from three large media-buying agencies, examines the primetime grid for the most viewers between the ages of 18 and 49 who watch commercials. That age range represents the demographic coveted most by advertisers.

Ad buyers clearly have Daniels’ other big TV property, Fox’s “Empire” in mind. It is, after all, projected to be the top scripted program for capturing ad watchers in the coming TV cycle. “Lee Daniels has a definite potential hit on his hands with ‘Star,’ which will premiere in mid-season,” said  Billie Gold, vice president and director of programming research at Amplifi US, “With Queen Latifah and Benjamin Bratt on board, and the heavy promotion it will get from ‘Empire,’ it has everything going for it.”

No other freshman program is expected to garner as much “C3,” the term given to the ratings because they measure average views of commercial breaks watched up to three days after a program originally airs. The metric has been the foundation upon which ad prices are established since 2007, when Madison Avenue forced a measurement change on the industry to accommodate the rising amount of viewing done with the help of digital video recorders.

Each 18-to-49 ratings point in the 2014-15 TV season was the equivalent of 1,268,100 viewers, according to Nielsen.

Advertisers are also banking on the 8:30 p.m. showing of “Kevin Can Wait,” which will run in the weeks while “Thursday Night Football” is on the air. The show will enjoy the lead-in of one of CBS’ biggest and most durable hits, “The Big Bang Theory,” before moving to anchor the hour at 8 p.m. after CBS’ package of games runs its course and “Bang” moves to Thursdays.  NBC’s “Timeless” will also enjoy a sizable lead-in on Mondays from NBC’s “The Voice,” while ABC’s “Notorious” will air as part of that network’s Thursday-night lineup of popular shows from producer Shonda Rhimes.

“’Kevin Can Wait,’ ‘Timeless’ and ‘Notorious’ all have the most desirable time-slots on the primetime fall slate,” explained Gold.

Fox has the most series – four – on the list of buyers’ top “C3” shows, followed by CBS, which has three. ABC has two and NBC has only one.

Variety’s list of the projected top freshman programs for “C3” in the 2015-16 season follows below (the scheduling days for some of the programs have not been formally announced, but are based on buyer expectations):

1)     “Star,” Fox, Wednesday 3.33

2)     “Kevin Can Wait,” CBS, Monday (8:30) 2.24

3)     “Timeless,”  NBC, Monday 2.18

4)     “Notorious,” ABC, Thursday 1.88

5)     “Prison Break,” Fox, Tuesday 1.77

6)     “Son of Zorn,” Fox, Sunday 1.7

7)     “Man With A Plan,” CBS, Monday 1.67

8)     “Great Indoors,” CBS , Thursday, 1.66

9)     “24: Legacy,” Fox, Monday, 1.62

10)   “Designated Survivor,” ABC, Wednesday, 1.55

The rankings do not necessarily guarantee success. Ad buyers last season bet on Fox’s revival of “The X-Files,” but there has been no formal announcement of an extension of that limited series. And yet, many of the programs projected by advertisers last year to fare well have returned for a second season, including NBC’s “Blindspot,” ABC’s “The Catch,” Fox’s “Scream Queens” and “Lucifer” and CBS’ “Life In Pieces.”

“Supergirl,” which debuted on CBS last season, will have a sophomore run on the CW, where advertisers project its “C3” ratings are likely to fall – though they are likely to be greater than many of what the network’s other series generate.

Below, for comparison’s sake, are projections from Variety for the top “C3” shows among audiences between 18 and 49 for the 2015-16 season:

1)     “The X-Files,” Fox Monday 3.07

2)    “Blindspot,” NBC, Monday 2.99

3)    “The Catch,” ABC Thursday 2.97

4)    “Scream Queens,” Fox, Tuesday 2.48

5)    “Supergirl,” CBS, Monday 2.46

6)    “Limitless,” CBS, Tuesday 2.07

7)     “Lucifer,” Fox, Monday 2.03

8)    “Frankenstein Code,” Fox, Wednesday 1.94

9)    “Life in Pieces,” CBS, Monday 1.89

10)  “Minority Report,” Fox, Monday, 1.82