Broadcast Nets Hope for Ratings Reset With New Fall Season Strategies

As a Rush of New Programs Debut This Week, Here's What's Worth Watching

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Broadcasters are hoping the new fall TV season is better than last year's, when they lost close to 8% of their audience in aggregate and renewed just 10 of the 37 programs that premiered. This year, the Big Four and the CW will roll out 52 scripted series throughout the season. And the success of cable shows like AMC's "The Walking Dead" and A&E Network's "Duck Dynasty" are shaping the way broadcasters will attack the new season this fall.

What to keep on your radar:

Less is more
Broadcasters will emulate cable's shorter seasons this year, filling schedules with several limited series that will run just 10 to 15 episodes compared with the traditional 22 to 24. CBS paved the way with "Under the Dome," which was the biggest hit of the summer. The EyeN Network will air two more limited-run series over the course of the season: "Hostages" and "Intelligence." ABC will premiere "Betrayal" in the first half, followed by "Resurrection." Fox will bring back "24" later in the year for a limited run, along with "Wayward Pines" and a limited-run drama about Billy the Kid. NBC has also ordered several miniseries.

'The Crazy Ones' on CBS
'The Crazy Ones' on CBS

Cooling the trigger finger
Broadcast nets have been quick to cancel underperforming new series. ABC gave "Zero Hour" the ax after three episodes last year and NBC canceled "Do No Harm" after two. But after watching audiences surge over several seasons for series like AMC's "Breaking Bad," and the expected increase in on-demand viewing, broadcasters may be less eager to pull the trigger so soon.

Wind from S.H.I.E.L.D.
After finishing in last place among the Big Four in adults 18-to-49, ABC needs a hit. While the Alphabet network typically skews upscale female, Marvel series "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." has the potential to bring in a more diverse audience. To make room for the series, ABC cut "Dancing with the Stars" to one night. Another potential hit is the 80's-themed comedy, "Meet the Goldbergs," which is already generating buzz.

All eyes on CBS
For the first time in more than 20 years, CBS not only finished first in total viewers last season but tops among the all-important 18-to-49 demo. Can it hold on to the lead? It's trying, with a big push into comedies. CBS will air two-hour comedy blocks on two nights, including Robin Williams' return to the small screen as an ad-agency executive in "The Crazy Ones."

The guys have it
Fox is targeting comedies with men, "Dads" and "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," both of which had decent premieres. But its biggest hit could be "Sleepy Hollow," which made its debut to 10.1 million viewers last Monday. This comes as the future of Fox's singing competitions -- "The X-Factor" and "American Idol" -- are questioned due to weaker ratings.

More than a pretty 'Voice'
NBC will need to prove it has more than "The Voice" this season. "The Office" and "30 Rock" will be replaced by comedies "Sean Saves the World" and "The Michael J. Fox Show" on Thursday night. The Peacock Network's new drama, "The Blacklist," is tipped as a potential hit. Jimmy Fallon will also replace Jay Leno on "The Tonight Show" in March.

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