Conflicts of Interest: Fall TV's 5 Toughest Time Slot Battles

Nerds, romance-enthusiasts and Kiefer Sutherland fans all have some serious choices to make on the 2016-17 calendar.
(clockwise) This Is Us, No Tomorrow, Lethal Weapon, Blindspot

The traditional TV schedule, standing defiantly in the face of the future, is still surprisingly important. Despite time-shifting, streaming and an increasingly long tail for views, the number of live eyeballs a network series draws on air night remains a huge factor in determining its success and longevity.

That makes it frustrating for both TV brass and viewers when like-minded series catering to similar audience types occupy the same time slot. Even with the aid of DVR, some head-to-head battles can prove to be detrimental a show — especially where the freshman class is concerned. Coming off of a season that saw a discouraging 19 out of 35 new series get the ax, that is more apparent than ever.

So which time slot battles will likely bring viewers the most confusion when scheduling their season passes? Here's a look at five particularly competitive hours and the shows that will call them home.

Monday, 8 p.m.: Supergirl (the CW) v. Gotham (Fox)
Hmm... this one looks familiar. Despite a network jump from CBS to the CW, Supergirl remains in its inaugural slot and again going head-to-head with fellow DC comic book property Gotham. The pair of genre procedurals have already proven to be very different fare — Supergirl with its blue-sky optimism and Gotham with its Instagram-filter grit — but they were evenly-matched in the ratings this past season. Each averaged a 2.5 rating in the key demo, though Supergirl boasted an impressive 10 million weekly viewers over Gotham's 6.6 million. That will all-but-surely change come fall, as the CW does not have CBS-level traffic.


Tuesday, 9 p.m.: This Is Us (NBC) v. No Tomorrow (The CW)
Two of the fall's only hybrids, This Is Us and No Tomorrow are both going after viewers with a fondness for whimsy and romance in hour-long dramedies. This Is Us, starring Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia, already has considerable heat. Its trailer has logged 25-plus million views on Facebook, perhaps not entirely unrelated to the shot of Ventimiligia's (or somebody's) bare ass in the opening seconds. No Tomorrow, from Jane the Virgin writer-producer Corinne Brinkerhoff, seems to layer on a bit more whimsy (and only a little less male nudity) — but earned one of the week's more enthusiastic responses during its upfront tease.

Wednesday, 8 p.m.: Blindspot (NBC) v Lethal Weapon (Fox)
The top-rated debut of the 2015-16 season loses its auspicious Monday roost to open Wednesday's trickiest hour. Will Blindspot maintain its solid first-year performance in a time slot where NBC has struggled to gain traction? That might depend on how many viewers warm to Fox's Lethal Weapon reboot. It's one of the best-tested new series heading to the air this fall, and name recognition alone could make it more formidable to Blindspot than the move itself.

Wednesday, 10 p.m.: Designated Survivor (ABC) v the world
Not so much a case of a specific battle, Designated Survivor just seems bound to disrupt whatever hour it enters. ABC's biggest swing (and hope) for the new season, starring Kiefer Sutherland as a man with the U.S. presidency thrust upon him after a devastating terrorist attack, heads into the fall as one of the most-hyped projects. Its broad appeal will likely play with the live draw of Chicago P.D. on NBC and Code Black on CBS, at least at the top of the season. (Also worth noting: this is the hour FX has scheduled juggernaut American Horror Story in the past.)

Friday, 9 p.m.: The Exorcist (Fox) v Grimm (NBC)
Is a super-niche genre drama entering its sixth season on a Friday that worried about time slot competition? Probably not. Grimm has become a NBC staple on broadcast's oft neglected night. But The Exorcist is certainly going after that kind of viewer, something that could prove harmful to its early prospects. It's a conflict Fox avoided with Sleepy Hollow this past season, opting to air the show at 8 p.m. and not directly against the other supernatural detective.

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