TV Networks Fret as Midseason Shows Fail to Connect With Viewers

The year 2017 hasn't been forgiving to the broadcast networks. With a whopping 17 scripted launches since Jan. 1, nearly all new series are languishing with low ratings, even by today's modest standards. But that may not be entirely the new shows' fault: The root of midseason's problem, some say, is the middling fall that preceded it.

"In the past, midseason success was typically built on the foundation established in the fall," says Sam Armando, lead investment director at MediaVest-Spark, noting all but NBC (and sports-lifted Fox) are down this year. "Since only This Is Us popped in the fall, there just aren't any coattails to ride on."

Even Fox's Super Bowl-launched 24: Legacy, a seemingly safe bet, can't crack a live 1.0 rating in the key demo on Monday nights. Spinoffs are stumbling elsewhere, with The Blacklist: Redemption essentially DOA on NBC, though the network does seem to have a solid player with Dick Wolf's fourth installment in his Windy City franchise, Chicago Justice.

The writing also is on the wall for TV's time-travel trend, with neither ABC's Time After Time nor Fox's Making History making an impression on Sundays.

What's interesting is CBS' reaction to its poor performers. With one struggling freshman shipped off to Saturdays (Training Day) and another axed after just two episodes (Katherine Heigl starrer Doubt), the network potentially is signaling a shift away from the wait-and-see attitudes that have displeased some advertisers in recent seasons.

Adds Armando, "If someone like [CBS Entertainment president] Glenn Geller sees that something isn't going to get any better, you've got to give [him] credit for cutting losses and moving on."

This story first appeared in the March 31 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.