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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?
Like Tuesday nights, Wednesdays are relatively stable, with just three new series debuting in the fall and only a couple of veterans moving around. The night features last season’s biggest breakout in The Masked Singer and at least one strong performer on every network.
New Shows, New Time Slots
The trio of newcomers are all dramas: Fox’s Almost Family and The CW’s Nancy Drew both air at 9 p.m. ET/PT, and ABC’s Stumptown follows the network’s comedy block at 10 p.m.
The Masked Singer, which aired at 9 p.m. on Fox last season, moves to 8 o’clock to lead off the network’s night. CBS’ SWAT moves to 10 p.m. Wednesday after two seasons on Thursday nights.
Top-Rated Returning Series
(All numbers are live-plus-7 for 2018-19)
Adults 18-49: The Masked Singer (3.8 rating), Modern Family (2.4), Survivor (2.2)
Total viewers: Chicago Fire (11.66 million), The Masked Singer (11.57 million), Chicago Med (11.14 million)
Though its total viewership is small compared to its broadcast counterparts, FX’s American Horror Story remains competitive in adults 18-49. The fall also brings two new pro-wrestling shows to cable on Wednesdays in USA’s WWE NXT and TNT’s All Elite Wrestling, which could siphon some additional viewers away from the networks.
Vote of Confidence: Almost Family
Aside from late-afternoon NFL games on Sundays, Fox currently has no better lead-in than The Masked Singer. So it’s notable that Almost Family gets that boost, since the drama about a woman (Brittany Snow) discovery she has a whole lot of siblings thanks to her fertility-doctor dad (Timothy Hutton) having used his own genetic material to conceive children for his patients doesn’t exactly lend itself to an easy description. (See the preceding sentence.) If a decent number of Masked Singer viewers stick around, it will be a boon for the first-year series.
Tough Spot: Stumptown
ABC’s private-eye drama starring Cobie Smulders will probably be saddled with the smallest lead-in of any of the 10 p.m. network dramas (second-year comedy Single Parents was a middling performer last season). There has been some positive early buzz around the show, but it may end up relying on delayed viewing for a sizable chunk of its audience.
The Masked Singer was, by a sizable margin, the top-rated new series of 2018-19 in the key ad demographic of adults 18-49. If it can keep even some of that momentum rolling into its second run, Fox should come away as the demo leader on Wednesdays.
NBC’s stacking of its Chicago dramas paid off last season as well, with all three averaging at least 11 million viewers (including a week of delayed viewing) and ranking in the top 25 among adults 18-49. Some declines may be inevitable this year, but the network is still poised to claim the most-watched crown.
Survivor keeps chugging along as the show nears its 20-year anniversary on CBS. SEAL Team and SWAT are decent utility players with steady audiences, but not much more at this point.
ABC comedy veterans The Goldbergs and Modern Family both declined by double digits last season, and with the latter set to end its run in 2020, a younger heir apparent hasn’t really presented itself yet. Schooled and Single Parents just need to avoid huge sophomore slumps to be considered successes, and Stumptown will likely have to fend for itself somewhat.
The CW is high on its Nancy Drew adaptation, whose eerie vibe could make it a decent fit with lead-in Riverdale. The network puts less stock in traditional ratings than its fellow broadcasters, so any kind of pulse for Nancy Drew should keep it in safe territory.
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