TV Chiefs Answer Fall's Burning Questions: "We No Longer Look at Same-Day Numbers"

Scream Queens S01E01 Still - H 2015
Steve Dietl/FOX

Scream Queens S01E01 Still - H 2015

Broadcast execs predict breakouts ('Blindspot,' 'Supergirl') and discuss remaining patient before hitting the "cancel" button.

This story first appeared in the Oct. 2 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

With television's annual launch week in full swing, the broadcast network chiefs might have cause for concern. Critics haven't been particularly kind to their new shows — save perhaps for Supergirl (CBS), Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (The CW) and Fox comedies The Grinder and Grandfathered — and viewers continue to fracture in a crowded landscape. But the nearly two dozen fall offerings could benefit from slower-than-usual trigger fingers as the networks account for a growing cadre of viewing platforms and competition from 400-plus originals. THR checked in with each network to discern the narrative of the 2015-16 TV season. (ABC declined to participate.)

→ If you were pre-emptively to write the headline for this fall season, what would it say?

JENNIFER SALKE (NBC) "Survival of the Fittest"

DAVID MADDEN (FOX) My dream headline would be, "Empire Is Again the No. 1 Show on Broadcast Television."

MARK PEDOWITZ (CW) "Quality Programming Continues to Rise Above the Pack"

GLENN GELLER (CBS) "CBS WINS!" (What did you think I was going to say?)

→ What will be the biggest hit not on your network?

SALKE I'm a fan of The Bastard Executioner on FX, and on [broadcast], I think we all know Empire will come back strong. As for new shows, I think The Muppets [on ABC] has a real shot.

MADDEN Based on the quality of the shows, I think both Blindspot (NBC) and Life in Pieces (CBS) have a great shot at being hits.


GELLER ABC's Quantico

with a sense of … excitement; the networks make it very hard," says one creator who digs 'The Muppets' and 'Scream Queens' but finds 'Blindspot' "overwrought" and 'The Player' "schlock" that "will do really well.""]

→ FX's John Landgraf said his formula to decide a show's fate is: Execs get a vote, critics and media get a vote and the audience gets a vote — two votes gets a show picked up. What's your formula?

SALKE Quality, true vision and collective passion. When they all strike at once, it's easy to go for it.

PEDOWITZ I don't really have a hard-and-fast formula, but the major factors we look at are: viewership across all of the various platforms, fan engagement on social media, the ancillary potential, and consistent quality throughout the season.

GELLER Quality plus audience equals pickup.

→ Will you be more or less patient with canceling shows than in years past, and why?

SALKE I truly hope [more]. In such a fragmented world, with viewing habits as they are, it's crazy to judge the performance of a show right out of the gate. We need to look for growth potential more than anything else.

MADDEN We no longer look at same-day numbers (or even live-plus-3-days) as the determinants of our success.

PEDOWITZ With people consuming our programming on different platforms and on their own schedule, we have to take the time and see all of the data to really know who's watching.

GELLER With so many metrics available, it's easier to be patient when you love a show and you want the audience to find it.

→ Which campaign or stunt has impressed you most?

MADDEN Our campaign for Scream Queens has been remarkable. We started back in February, and the excitement around the show now is palpable.

PEDOWITZ The live stream of Fox's Empire panel and performance from Carnegie Hall.

GELLER Supergirl

SALKE I'm excited about our Blindspot campaign, and those Muppets are everywhere!