TV Upfronts: 5 Lessons From the 2012-13 TV Season

5:00 AM PST 05/13/2013 by Michael O'Connell
Jeff Probst

From "Shark Tank's" Friday night success through learning to love the DVR, the key takeaways from last year's hits and misses.

This story first appeared in the May 24 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

1. Don’t Forget Fridays

The networks that aggressively program the night have seen success. ABC’s Shark Tank will end the season up 17 percent in the key adults 18-to-49 demo with a 2.1 rating. And CBS’ Blue Bloods is Friday’s most-watched scripted series in a decade, averaging nearly 14 million viewers.

2. Stop Milking Reality Franchises

Dancing With the Stars and Survivor hit series lows in recent weeks. The declines likely will continue if each airs two cycles every season. The Voice, with its strong fall and even stronger spring, remains a lone exception — but it’s only been on for two years. Networks should space out the bigger franchises. They’re running them into the ground.

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3. Leave Food Alone (Unless It’s From Gordon Ramsay) 

Barring Fox’s growing efforts with the caustic British chef — five series and counting! — no other network has managed to score a foothold in the culinary genre. ABC’s The Taste flopped despite stars Anthony Bourdain and Nigella Lawson. NBC recently ordered Food Fighters from Ben Silverman, but don’t be surprised if it fares as poorly as 2011’s America’s Next Great Restaurant.

4. Embrace DVRs in Ads

Fox was on to something when promos for The Following asked viewers to “set their DVRs.” The series has risen 65 percent, the most of any new show, in live-plus-7-day returns. At the same time, asking for same-day viewing isn’t working. (Case in point: NBC’s sadly earnest “Watch It Live” campaign.)

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5. Plan Better Breaks

The May sweep has been marked by lows across the board, probably because of inconsistent scheduling. Even TV’s undisputed champ The Big Bang Theory hit a season low April 26 when it returned to originals after weeks of repeats. Audiences almost always return to series when they air three or more new episodes consecutively, so stop spreading originals across the midseason. There’s safety in numbers.

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