TV Long View: Fall 2019 Friday Network Ratings Forecast

Four networks make mostly small changes to their schedules, and Fox makes a big one with its acquisition of 'WWE Smackdown.'
AMER HILABI/AFP/Getty Images; Michael Ansell/ABC; John Paul Filo/CBS
From left: WWE's Kofi Kingston, 'American Housewife,' 'Blue Bloods'

With the 2019-20 TV season looming, The Hollywood Reporter is handicapping the broadcast networks' chances for success on each night of the week. Which new series are best set up to succeed? Which veterans are fading, and which ones are holding fast? Can anything on a traditional network break out?

There are some small changes here and there to the Friday schedules of four of the five English-language networks — and one big one. Fox will bring WWE Smackdown back to broadcast TV for the first time since 2010. How might that affect the other networks?

New Shows, New Time Slots

Smackdown is the only "new" show, but a handful of others have moved to Fridays from other nights. ABC's American Housewife aired on Tuesday and Wednesday nights last season, CBS' Magnum P.I. switches from Monday nights, and The CW's Charmed comes to the night after airing on Sundays a year ago. CBS' Hawaii Five-0 and NBC's The Blacklist each move up an hour to 8 p.m. ET/PT, and Fresh Off the Boat slides back to 8:30 on ABC.

Top-Rated Returning Series
(All numbers are live-plus-7 for 2018-19)

Adults 18-49: Blue Bloods (1.4 rating), Hawaii Five-0 (1.3), Magnum P.I. (1.3 on Mondays)
Total viewers: Blue Bloods (12.83 million), Hawaii Five-0 (10.13 million), Magnum P.I. (8.36 million on Mondays)

Cable Heavyweights

A&E's Live PD is the top original cable show on Fridays, typically pulling in 18-49 ratings on par with several network shows' initial airings.

Vote of Confidence: Magnum P.I.

A move to Friday from another night of the week is usually seen as a demotion, but CBS has put together one of the most consistent lineups on TV here — Hawaii Five-0 is going into its seventh year on Fridays (and 10th overall), and Blue Bloods, also going into season 10, has run on Friday for its entire life. If Magnum (which, like, Five-0 is executive produced by Peter Lenkov) can keep the audience levels up between the two veterans, it could be poised for a substantial run.

Tough Spot: American Housewife

The ABC comedy has pulled in decent ratings for its three seasons, most of which it spent as an 8:30 or 9:30 p.m. show behind more established veterans. Now it's tasked with leading off Fridays against two long-running dramas and Smackdown. Ratings declines are inevitable given the lower overall TV usage on Friday nights, but American Housewife needs to stay competitive in the leadoff spot for ABC to build a decent night.

Forecast

CBS looks to be unchallenged again in terms of total viewers (see "Top-Rated Returning Series" above), but the biggest question is how Smackdown will perform now that it's back on a broadcast network. The pro-wrestling show has averaged about 2.1 million viewers and a 0.7 among adults 18-49 in same-day ratings over the past year on USA. It's not unreasonable to expect a bit of a bump after moving to the more widely available Fox, but the real value for the network will come in the fact that WWE shows never rerun, thus ensuring a year-round supply of originals on Fridays and all-but-certain gains in weeks when other shows would be dark.

Fresh Off the Boat was a steady presence on ABC last year. If American Housewife can duplicate that, the network will be in a decent place, as 20/20 is coming off a year of improved ratings.

At NBC, The Blacklist was quietly a very decent performer last season, scoring a 1.2 in adults 18-49 with a week of delayed viewing. It and Dateline will make for a reliable block on the night. Dynasty's future on The CW is tied more to its international sales than its domestic ratings; Charmed will almost surely suffer some declines after moving from Sunday, but The CW is not terribly concerned with linear ratings.