Carat programming has released its Primetime Preview Report for the upcoming 2008-09 Primetime season. The dearth of available pilot episodes for announced new series (only CBS and Fox have made them available to Carat) forced the postponement of their new season programming predictions.
* Households currently spend two more hours per week with TV than they did five years ago.
* Adults 18-49 have also increased their viewing time by more than one hour since the 2003-04 season. Despite the availability of multiple screens, time spent viewing traditional Television remains dominant.
* When DVR playback is factored in, the networks benefit the most, while other viewing sources remain unaffected.
* While timeshifted viewing adds nearly 19% additional Adults 18-49 audience to the average primetime network show, 58% of that additional viewing is lost to fast-forwarding through commercial minutes.
* 30 new series launched during fall 2007. Just 22 series are scheduled to debut during fall 2008.
* Fallout from the 100-day writers strike during the 2007-08 season forced many freshman series into permanent hiatus, delayed the series development process and impacted pilot production schedules for the 2008/09 season.
* Networks remain committed to the pilot process, with the exception of NBC, which has opted to go “straight to series” instead.
* Only CBS, and to a lesser extent Fox had pilots available in time for their presentations to advertisers and buyers.
* ABC will make their pilots available via streaming video.
* The number of scripted series are on par with last year but far lower than in previous years.
* Fewest comedies in the history of network TV for second straight year
* Dramas have increased by one to 47, (Two years ago there were 50)
* Increased reliance on other countries for programming inspiration
* Every broadcast network claims to be migrating toward a year-round programming strategy.
* Carat expects CBS to finish first in Households, Total Viewers and Adults 45+ during fourth quarter 2008. ABC and FOX will be tied for first place in Adults 18-49.
* During the 2007/08 season, 53 freshman series debuted across the five broadcast networks. Just 16 (or 30%) of them have been promoted to sophomores.
* ABC finished third in Households and Viewers and tied with CBS for second place in Adults 18-49. ABC’s strength is its drama programming. Several years ago it struck gold with Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy, Lost and more recently Brothers and Sisters, Ugly Betty and Dancing with the Stars. However, ABC’s comedy slate is still a work in progress. ABC has four returning freshman dramas, more than any other network. This fall, the network will emphasize the re-launch of its four returning fall freshman and will add two new series. Additional series will launch in midseason. Although ABC strongly believes in the value of the pilot process, at press time, the network has yet to make any available for its new shows.
* CBS tied with Fox for first place in Households. It was also defeated by Fox for the number one spot in total viewers, a title it has held for years. CBS also tied with ABC for second place in the Adult 18-49 demographic group. CBS has the most stable schedule of all the networks. Only two returning shows will be in new time periods. After stumbling when it attempted edgier content during the 2007/08 season, the network returns to its comfort zone during 2008/09. Procedural crime dramas will figure prominently. Noteworthy for this year is the network’s acquisition of several established international formats which will be adapted for U.S. tastes.
* NBC remains unable to reverse its fourth place standing in Adults 18-49. The three freshman series that will be returning were borderline performers pre-strike. This year the network will forgo the pilot process and go straight to series instead, a move we consider to be very risky. NBC also unveiled a 65-week programming strategy and new product will show up throughout the year. It has also designated the 8 p.m.-9 p.m. hour for family-friendly fare. Since their April In-Front announcement, NBC has made numerous scheduling changes. Unless its new shows outperform the ones they have replaced, the network will remain vulnerable. On the late night front it was announced that Jay Leno will be exiting the Tonight Show May 29, 2009 with Conan O’Brien on O Brien taking over on June 1. Jimmy Fallon will replace Conan as host of Late Night in Spring of 2009.
* Fox’s midseason slate enabled it to be in the best shape to weather the writers strike. A strong Super Bowl performance combined with solid (though smaller) viewership levels for American Idol enabled Fox to not only finish in first place (with a 4.1 rating) in Adults 18-49, it also stole the first place title in total viewers from CBS. This season Fox will continue to strengthen its performance by playing to its strengths, science fiction and edgy animation series. The network is strongly committed to year-round program development. New for 2008-09 is the launch of “Remote Free TV” starting with new series Fringe and Dollhouse. Both series will air with only five minutes of national ad time, about half the amount that normally runs during one hour shows. Fox is hopeful that these tactics will ensure higher C3 ratings performance for these freshman series.
* CW’s year two slate had very promising scripted-series development. Unfortunately, its new series struggled coming out of the gate. The writers strike didn’t help matters and these shows continued to have difficulty getting noticed when they returned to the schedule. Further, the lack of backup programming during the 100 day strike damaged audience delivery even further. Freshman entries, Gossip Girl and Reaper are the only two shows that will get to be sophomores. CW’s year three strategy will be to continue building the brand as the destination for programming targeted to Adults 18-34, with a focus on young women. The network no longer has rights to Friday Night Smackdown (it’s going to My Network TV) and it will now be able to promote its series across six consecutive nights of the week. Sunday nights will be programmed by Media Rights Capital. MRC shows will be going after Adults 18-49, with a skew to women, slightly older than CW’s Monday-Friday target. The CW sales team is selling ad time for “CW Sunday” on its behalf.
• Imported Series
• UK: Life on Mars (ABC), Eleventh Hour, Worst Week (CBS), Merlin (NBC), Secret Millionaire (Fox midseason)
• Israel: Ex List (CBS)
• Australia: Kath and Kim (NBC), Sit Down, Shut Up, (Fox midseason)
• Canada: The Listener (NBC Summer ‘09)
• Japan: Hole in the Wall (Fox)
• Merlin (NBC)
• Crusoe (NBC)
• Knight Rider (NBC’s retread of its series which aired in the early 80’s)
• Kings, a modern retelling of David and Goliath (NBC)
• Privileged (Based on the book, “How To Teach Filthy Rich Girls” ) (CW)
• 90210 (remake of Fox series Beverly Hills, 90210) (CW)
• Random Acts of Kindness
• Philanthropist (NBC)
• Secret Millionaire (Fox)
• Opportunity Knocks (ABC)
• Fringe (ABC)
• Mentalist (CBS)
• Eleventh Hour (CBS)
• Harper’s Island (CBS, midseason)