TV Long View: Fall 2019 Sunday Network Ratings Forecast

'Sunday Night Football' will almost certainly spend another year on top, while Tiffany Haddish and Nathan Fillion try to bolster ABC's lineup.
ABC; CW; FOX
From left: 'Kids Say the Darndest Things,' 'Batwoman,' 'Bless the Harts'

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?

Per usual on Sundays in the fall, the other networks are playing for second place behind NBC, whose primetime NFL broadcast typically dwarfs everything else. CBS and Fox will get NFL bumps of their own in weeks when they have late-afternoon games, and ABC and The CW will attempt to hold their own with counterprogramming.

New Shows, New Time Slots

Three first-year shows are set to air in the fall: family-oriented unscripted show Kids Say the Darndest Things, starring Tiffany Haddish (8 p.m. ET/PT, ABC); DC Comics drama Batwoman (8 p.m., The CW); and animated comedy Bless the Harts (8:30 p.m., Fox).

Four veteran shows have new time slots: Second-year drama The Rookie moves from Tuesday to Sunday at 10 p.m. on ABC. Fox's Bob's Burgers and Family Guy each slide back a half-hour to 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., respectively, and Supergirl moves from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. on The CW.

Top-Rated Returning Series
(All numbers are live-plus-7 for 2018-19; excludes football pre- and postgame shows)

Adults 18-49: Sunday Night Football (5.9 rating), Family Guy (1.5), The Rookie (1.5 on Tuesdays)

Total viewers: Sunday Night Football (18.94 million), 60 Minutes (10.77 million), NCIS: Los Angeles (9.85 million)

Cable Heavyweights

Though its ratings have plummeted from their former world-beating heights in the past couple seasons, The Walking Dead still out-rates most of its broadcast counterparts in the 18-49 demographic. TLC's 90 Day Fiancé franchise and Starz's Power are also proven draws; HBO debuts Watchmen in late October.

Vote of Confidence: Bless the Harts

The show from creator Emily Spivey (The Last Man on Earth, Parks and Recreation) joins Fox's animated lineup in the spot behind The Simpsons — which means that it will also benefit from an NFL halo several times during the fall, giving the show wider exposure. Fox is bringing back its "Animation Domination" branding for Sunday nights this season, and if Bless the Harts can keep viewers flowing from The Simpsons to Bob's Burgers, it could be set up for a good run.

Tough Spot: The Rookie

The Nathan Fillion-led cop drama was a solid performer on Tuesday nights last season, stabilizing what had been ABC's weakest timeslot for several years running. Now it's tasked with filling another trouble spot, 10 p.m. Sundays. In the eight seasons since Brothers & Sisters ended in 2011, ABC has cycled through seven different fall shows in the time period (only Quantico started two consecutive seasons there). If The Rookie can hold up there, it will be among the MVPs of ABC's lineup.

Forecast

The only real questions for Sunday Night Football will be how big its margin of victory will be over the other networks and how it compares to previous years (week one improved very slightly on 2018).

CBS is leaving its lineup intact after a solid run from God Friended Me's freshman season in 2018-19 and steady returns from NCIS: Los Angeles. Madam Secretary has a short final season, so the network will be making one change later in the season.

Outside of Bless the Harts, the youngest of Fox's animated shows is Bob's Burgers, entering its 10th season. The three veteran shows don't draw big on-air audiences anymore but are strong digital players, all at least doubling their initial audiences with multi-platform viewing.

Supergirl helped The CW re-establish a Sunday presence last season, and Batwoman figures to be a more compatible fit with its fellow DC show than Charmed was last year.

The real wild card is ABC. Between the eternal America's Funniest Home Videos and veteran Shark Tank, Haddish will bring her singular voice to a long-standing format in Kids Say the Darndest Things and complete a family-friendly three-hour block of unscripted shows. At 10 p.m., The Rookie can scarcely do worse than The Alec Baldwin Show did last fall, but it could be hard-pressed to get close to last year's numbers.