A marketer's guide to fall 2017 network TV

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The prognosis is mixed for the upcoming freshman class, but returning shows mostly look promising for advertisers.

With Fourth of July now a memory, broadcasters have their eyes set on the new and returning primetime series this fall. Summer, for any prospective advertiser, is a time to assess just where these brands want to place their valuable marketing dollars.

To help in that decision-making, let me take you through each of the big four networks—ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox—with an early snapshot of what shows look hot, and which do not, in the upcoming fourth quarter.

Included are the season to-date broadcast network rating averages in total viewers and adults 18-49 (through June 18, based Live + 7 through June 4, and Live + Same Day for the most recent two weeks). Change versus the previous year period is in parentheses.

CBS
Total Viewers: 9.26 million (no. 1 rank: -11%), A18-49: 1.7 rating/6 share: (no. 3 rank: -19%)

While CBS should have no trouble extending its total viewer victory to 10 consecutive years in 2017-2018, the immediate negative is the 19 percent loss—and third place ranking—among adults ages 18-49 this season. The challenge for CBS is attracting that coveted millennial crowd with its many generic crime solvers. 

But there are a few bright spots. "The Big Bang Theory," no doubt, will remain the top-rated sitcom next season on any network, and leading into prequel "Young Sheldon" (once it moves back to Thursday after football concludes) means 9-year-old Sheldon Cooper is a lock for leadership among the six new half-hour network chucklers. News show "60 Minutes" continues to successfully tick, as that reality/competition mainstay, "Survivor." 

But dumping Erinn Hayes for the return of Leah Remini on sophomore "Kevin Can Wait" on Monday is an unnecessary risk that can negatively impact lead-out newbies "9JKL" and "Me, Myself & I." Why mess with a formula that worked in season one? Plus, that clip of "9JKL" – yeesh! 

In the new drama department at CBS, "SEAL Team" on Wednesday has a better chance of attracting an audience, as does the upcoming revival of "S.W.A.T." in the Thursday 10 p.m. hour. But both, like any typical CBS crime-solver, will be attractions for the 50-plus crowd that advertisers just do not want. And the Sunday 8 p.m. drama "Wisdom of the Crowd" looks like a temporary filler until the network wisely moves "NCIS: Los Angeles" back to its original time.


NBC
Total Viewers: 7.92 million (no. 2 rank: no change), A18-49: 2.0/7 (no. 1 rank: - 5%)

Ignited by "Sunday Night Football" and three weekly hours of "The Voice—not to mention "Super Bowl LII" in January 2018—consider NBC a lock for leadership among those aged 18-49.

On Monday and Tuesday, two returning series will precede new shows. "The Voice" will air before "The Brave," and sophomore sensation "This Is Us" will open for "Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Brothers." Both new scripted dramas will likely resonate on the channel.

Anything with "Chicago" in the title, not to mention granddaddy "Law & Order: SVU," should remain a marginal success. And moving "Blindspot" and surprise returnee "Taken" into the Friday 8-10 p.m. slot could siphon some of those older viewers away from CBS’s combo of "MacGyver" and "Hawaii Five-O."

Initially, NBC said it would also resurrect its brand, "Must See TV," on Thursday. But shipping "This Is Us" back to Tuesday (after announcing its move to Thursday) made the network look indecisive and just plain chicken. Plus, the late announcement of a two-hour sitcom block as its replacement—"Superstore," "The Good Place," the revival of "Will & Grace" and "Great News"—looks more like "Must Flee" than "Must See." Don’t be fooled.

While the return of "Will & Grace" may certainly attract the curiosity seekers, don’t forget what the track record is for recreating a classic series. It rarely works.

ABC
Total Viewers: 6.28 million (no. 3 rank: -10%), A18-49: 1.6/6 (no. 4 rank: -16%)

At last, ABC will air a sitcom minus dysfunctional parents and three typical TV kids! It’s called "The Mayor," and it takes over the Tuesday 9:30 p.m. half-hour where "black-ish" used to be. Newbie medical-themed drama "The Good Doctor" on Monday could also work as a compatible fit—if fans of "Bates Motel" can remember that Freddie Highmore is no longer a young Norman Bates.

But not everything’s a shoo-in at ABC. The new angel-themed, fantasy drama "The Gospel of Kevin" on Wednesday has no shot opposite "Law & Order: New Orleans" on CBS and "Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders" on NBC.

"Marvel’s Inhumans" on Friday will only potentially survive via the social media usage and DVR interest. And newbie sudser "Ten Days in the Valley" in the Sunday 10 p.m. hour is unlikely to benefit out of relocated "Shark Tank." Not even those mega-rich entrepreneurs will be able to stop the "Sunday Night Football" juggernaut on NBC, and my prediction is it will be back on Friday by midseason.

As for the highly touted 10-episode revival of ABC’s "Roseanne," that won’t launch until October 2018, so, why waste the value promotional time on it now?

Fox
Total Viewers: 5.58 million (no. 4 rank: + 1%), A18-49: 1.8/7 (no. 2 rank: no change)

Without "The Super Bowl LI and that seven-game baseball "World Series" last fall, Fox faces an uphill climb with its regularly scheduled programming. 

In the promising department is relocating sophomore "Lethal Weapon" into the Tuesday 8 p.m. anchor position, which could give deserving sophomore sitcom lead-out "The Mick" a much-need boost.

Moving "Empire" up one hour on Wednesday into returning drama "Star"—both from Lee Daniels—makes sense. But why break up the season of both serialized dramas in two parts again when taking a three-month (December through February) hiatus has never been beneficial?

Elsewhere, the results could be slim. On Monday, new Fox drama "The Gifted," like any Marvel TV show, is an attraction for sponsors looking to reach the Comic-Con crowd—aka, young and trendy and not necessarily watching television the old-fashioned way.

On Thursday, new Fox dramedy "The Orville" from creator and star Seth MacFarlane could be a prosperous opportunity for advertisers if creative translated to ratings. But why the network is pitting modest "Gotham" against the final season of "Scandal" on ABC and "Thursday Night Football" on CBS (the latter at least initially), I’ll never know.

Finally, there is new Sunday 8:30 p.m. comedy on Fox, "Ghosted," which will be a limited run sandwiched between deteriorating "The Simpsons" and "Family Guy."

For any advertiser supporting the network, I would keep the overall expectations low. No one ever said rebuilding a network would be easy.