Procedural Franchises Dominate Premiere Week Ratings, Reinforcing Broadcasters’ Programming Strategy In Streaming Era

It’s depressing to look at Live+Same Day ratings these days as linear viewing’s decline continues. There have been a few bright spots this Premiere Week, and they have one thing in common — they are part of established procedural drama franchises or competition reality staples.

While NFL football remains the biggest draw on broadcast television, with Monday Night Football on ABC towering over the rest of the field with 12.9 million viewers in Live+Same Day to lead Premiere Week four days in, the next three spot on the most watched programs are held by Dick Wolf’s FBI (6.8 million), Chicago Fire (6.7 million) and Chicago Med (6.6 million).

Beyond NFL (NBC’s Sunday Night Footfall is expected to jump to the top of the rankings by the time the week is over) and reality stalwarts The Voice and Survivor, the top 17 most watched programs over the first four nights of Premiere Week consisted of all three FBI and Chicago series, Law & Order: SVU and Law & Order: Organized Crime as well as the two Monday NCIS dramas and 9-1-1. CBS’ comedy The Neighborhood came at #18, followed by the Law & Order revival at #19 to round out procedurals’ dominance.

All the dramas finished either first in their time periods in viewers or were only topped by NFL football and/or The Voice. It’s worth noting, in light of reports of NBC exploring a move to return the 10 PM hour to affiliates, that Chicago P.D., which airs at 10 PM, was a Top 10 show in total viewers.

Already valued for their great repeatability, classic (cop, doctor, lawyer) procedurals have emerged as a top genre on broadcast, with familiarity a factor, leading to a push to expand existing franchises with the recent new NCIS and Law & Order additions and the upcoming The Rookie offshoot and planned The Good Doctor spinoff. (ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy and Station 19 combo is yet to premiere but is expected to rank in the upper echelon of most watched series, along with The Good Doctor and The Rookie.)

While in this day and age congloms’ goal is to build assets that only start off on broadcast before a long tail on streaming, linear ratings still matter as advertisers pay premium for them. In light of procedurals’ continuous strength, we are likely to be seeing more of them.

Because of that long tail, it’s too early to judge the performance of a serialized drama like Fox’s new country music soap Monarch but the sizable audience drop from the first to the second episode is concerning. NBC’s new high-concept procedural, a Quantum Leap sequel, did OK in its premiere but did not show the instant breakout potential predecessors in the post-Voice Monday slot like The Blacklist, Blindspot and Manifest have shown.

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