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As the 2018-19 season approaches, The Hollywood Reporter is handicapping the broadcast networks’ chances for success on each night of the week. We’ll look for potential breakouts (and flops), veterans with the best chance to improve (or stumble) and any intriguing time-period battles — inasmuch as those still matter in an on-demand world.
With one very big exception, the broadcast networks didn’t fiddle much with their Sunday slates for fall 2018. That exception is The CW, which rejoins the night after nearly a decade of being a five-day network.
New shows and new nights
“New night” has a different connotation than in THR‘s other forecast posts, as The CW will have network programming on Sunday for the first time since the 2008-09 season. Supergirl moves from Mondays to start the night, leading into a remake of Charmed.
ABC has a pair of new shows: Dancing With the Stars: Juniors at 8 p.m. and talker The Alec Baldwin Show at 10. Light drama God Friended Me fills the 8 o’clock spot for CBS, and comedy Rel closes the night for Fox at 9:30. Also at Fox, Bob’s Burgers makes 8:30 its permanent home after bouncing between 7:30 and 8:30 in recent seasons.
(All ratings are Live +7 for 2017-18 unless noted, not including football pre- and postgame shows)
Sunday Night Football (NBC), 5.9 in adults 18-49
The Simpsons (Fox) and Family Guy (Fox) (tie), 1.7
Shark Tank (ABC), 1.5
(American Idol Sunday episodes averaged 2.1 on ABC; the show returns in early 2019)
Top cable competition
Though its linear ratings have declined precipitously in the past two seasons, The Walking Dead still pulls bigger adults 18-49 numbers than anything else on Sunday outside of football.
Biggest makeover: The CW, obviously
When The CW launched in 2006, Sunday quickly became the new network’s weakest night, a hodgepodge of comedies and dramas shipped into and out of the night with troubling frequency. By fall 2008, the network had farmed out the night to indie producer Media Rights Capital, then gave up altogether by November of that year.
For the past nine seasons, Sunday was given to affiliates to program. That changed in February when The CW announced its expansion. Supergirl was a solid performer on Mondays last season (0.9 in adults 18-49 and just under 3 million viewers in Live +7), and Charmed has high name recognition and deep ties to CW predecessor The WB (where it aired on Sundays for half of its eight-year run).
Potential breakout: ‘Charmed’
Some of those involved in the original Charmed — notably star Holly Marie Combs — have spoken out against the idea of a remake, but a pilot screening was well-received at Comic-Con, and the show’s creative team insists they’re not trying to usurp the original. The show’s focus on three young women coming into their power is also fairly smart counter-programming opposite a slate of dude-heavy shows on the other networks.
DVR overload: 9 p.m.
With the largest share of the audience watching football live, Family Guy, NCIS: Los Angeles, and Shark Tank all increased their 18-49 ratings by better than 50 percent in Live +7 ratings last season; Charmed will likely do the same. The Walking Dead is a factor here as well: It scores some of the biggest delayed-viewing gains of any show, broadcast or cable.
Everyone is playing for second place behind the NFL on Sundays. Ratings for primetime football may be down, but it could literally lose half its audience and still outrate everything else on the broadcast nets. Its No. 1 spot is ironclad for now.
The biggest question is how The CW will do on Sundays, but the not-entirely-satisfying likely answer is, “It probably doesn’t matter too much.” Whatever linear ratings the network gets are probably less important than opening up space for more programming, which in turn means more content for its digital service and rich output deal with Netflix.
God Friended Me is a bit of an outlier in CBS’ procedural-heavy drama lineup, but the network has had success in the past with lighter dramas following 60 Minutes. The buzz around the show is not exactly deafening, however.
Having a full-time berth after The Simpsons should be nice for Bob’s Burgers, particularly in the fall when the Fox lineup benefits from having NFL doubleheaders as a lead-in every couple of weeks. Rel had a decent post-football start Sept. 9 but will be furthest away from the NFL halo.
DWTS: Juniors and Shark Tank will probably do fine for ABC. The Alec Baldwin Show, premiering Oct. 14, has yet to make much of a marketing push (and doesn’t start taping until Sept. 24). The 10 p.m. Sunday slot has been a problem for ABC in recent years, and a talk show represents a fairly low-risk play. But since previewing the show after the Oscars in March, there’s been precious little from ABC to remind viewers Baldwin will be there.
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