The TV-upfront chess game is about to begin. With about $9.2 billion in broadcast-advertising commitments on the line, here's how the top six are positioned.
ABC wants to own its hits, and has ordered 24 pilots, 17 of which are from ABC Studios. It's poised to end the season in last place in the 18-to-49 demo as shows like NBC's "The Voice" steal viewers. "Dancing With the Stars" has fallen at a faster pace than Fox's "American Idol," and most of its new shows—like "Zero Hour," "Red Widow" and "666 Park Avenue"—have been flops.
The Eye Network enters the upfront at No. 1 in total viewers and among the advertiser-coveted 18-to-49 demo (see story, P. 18). Its lineup has only a few holes after CBS renewed 18 series. But as mainstays like "NCIS" and "CSI" age, buyers will be looking out for a few fresh shows to liven things up. The network has beefed up its development slate as it looks for 2014 comedies to replace "How I Met Your Mother," entering its ninth and final season, and "Two and a Half Men," expected to end in the near future.
Fox has already revealed its slate of programming as it looks to find buzzworthy shows beyond "American Idol," whose dominance is dwindling. It picked up four dramas and five comedies, nearly doubling its order from last year. Fox has surrendered the 18-to-49 demo to CBS after an eight-year winning streak and is down 20% in the demo and 21% in total viewers as "The X-Factor" failed to live up to hype (it's looking for judges to replace Britney Spears and L.A. Reid). "The Following" was one of last year's only success stories. "Glee" has been renewed for two more seasons.
NBC has lots of holes to fill. It started the fall season strong with "Sunday Night Football" and "The Voice," but by spring its overreliance on those was evident. The second season of "Smash" fell flat, and the dramedy is unlikely to return.
"Revolution" and "Chicago Fire" were the only two real success stories. Expect NBC to make a pitch for its new reality show, "Million Second Quiz," a live 24-hour game show that allows viewers to play along. Michael J. Fox will also return to the small screen in an untitled comedy.
Univision beat the Peacock during February sweeps, the first time any of the Big Four broadcasters came in fifth. Expect Univision to tout its youth, with the median age of its viewer 12 years younger on average than that of other broadcasters. More than 90% of viewing is live, another selling point.
This year CW is positioning itself as a network that appeals to more than just young women. Darker dramas like "Arrow" and "Beauty and the Beast" have already been renewed for a second season. The CW overhauled its schedule last year and made a strategic decision to delay the start of its season, and has been ahead of the pack when it comes to selling ad packages combining both linear and digital views. Late last week the network confirmed that it had picked up four drama series, three of which have sci-fi elements.