Fall TV Ratings Preview: As CBS and NBC Do Battle, Will Super Bowl Make Fox a Winner?

Tony Maglio
Fall TV Ratings Preview: As CBS and NBC Do Battle, Will Super Bowl Make Fox a Winner?

With Labor Day barbecues (and hangovers) fading into our rearview, fall is officially right around the corner. And with the cooler weather return your favorite TV shows — unless you’re really into “Wayward Pines,” that is.

Last fall, CBS won the 2015-2016 traditional Nielsen TV season, sweeping both the key 18-49 demographic ratings and total viewers. Les Moonves & Co. can thank Super Bowl 50 for much of that accomplishment, breaking an NBC winning streak along the way.

This time around, NBC has a pretty good chance to reclaim the main demo crown from CBS. After all, NBC stole half of the NFL’s “Thursday Night Football” package from the latter — a big victory. But it all could still be quite close — and it’s not just a two-team game.

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Fox has the Super Bowl rights this time around, which should boost the network’s overall demo average by about two-tenths of a ratings point. The biggest TV show of the year impacts Fox more than it does the competition — the relatively young-skewing net programs just 15 primetime hours a week, and not 22 like CBS, for example.

If we remove that aforementioned 0.2 from CBS’s 2015-2016 and tack it on to Fox’s, there would have been a three-way tie atop the advertiser-sought demo for this last fall. CBS, Fox and NBC would’ve knotted up at a 2.1 apiece.

For the record, ABC was a non-factor with a 1.8 last year. Apologies again, you guys.

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Of course, there are some new shows this fall and midseason that are going to be a factor in all of this. A brief glance:

NBC
NBC’s generating a lot of buzz for “This Is Us” — setting trailer viewership records in the process — and “The Good Place” has a good chance of being a good show, at least. So, good.

Bob Greenblatt’s also saving some of his bigger new series for midseason, which will feature Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s “Celebrity Apprentice,” the “Wizard of Oz”-world’s “Emerald City,” as well as the returns of hits “Shades of Blue” and “Little Big Shots.”

Dick Wolf‘s “Chicago Med” will debut then, and his confirmed four-way crossover for his “Chicago” shows should prove a boon, even if just temporarily. “The Voice” certainly won’t hurt NBC’s overall effort, especially with Miley Cyrus signing on to mentor.

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CBS
What of CBS?  Well, the Tiffany Network could always take total viewers — that’s kind of its forte, as the home of “Blue Bloods” always skews oldest of the gang.

By the second half of the season, CBS should be giving NBC (and possibly Fox) a run for its money. Of its new offerings, “Bull” seems best fit on the drama side, while “Kevin Can Wait” and “Man With a Plan” look like perfect CBS sitcoms.

Contrary to popular jokes, it’s not just your (old, white) dad who watches CBS. The net also has some strong performers among adults 18-49, like NFL football (CBS still has half of Thursday nights), “NCIS” and “The Big Bang Theory,” which just mop up eyeballs.

Also Read: NBC Wins Third Straight 52-Week TV Season - Even Without Rio Ratings

Fox
Fox’s entire chance of medaling in the months following NBC’s Rio Olympics can be summed up with a simple math equation: “Empire” + Super Bowl = Maybe. There’s literally no other way. More “X-Files” would have been nice, but that’s not happening (now, at least).

ABC
With no pro pigskin, ABC has no real shot, though the rebuilding channel could add a few new hits this season, like Kiefer Sutherland‘s “Designated Survivor.” Patience.

Speaking of which, we’ll just briefly mention that the still-growing-up CW will also have TV broadcasts, like “Supergirl.” So that fulfills that requirement.

But will NBC, CBS or Fox sit atop the Nielsen charts this time around? Time (and time slots) will tell, and that time starts soon.

The traditional 2015-2016 Fall TV season officially kicks off Monday, September 19, according to Nielsen. Fox’s Emmy awards, which won’t make the cut, air one night earlier.

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