With scant holes in its schedule and a Super Bowl on the way, CBS may have few new programs to discuss at its upfront presentation; it will probably launch just a handful of properties. Even so, buyers may want to keep their eye on the Eye Network's venerable "CSI" franchise, as speculation is that one of the three programs ("CSI," "CSI Miami" or "CSI New York") has wrapped its last case. After all, rival juggernaut franchise "Law & Order" is on its last legs at NBC. Is CBS happy with the "The Good Wife" on Sundays, where sports often push it from its time slot? Will CBS reattempt to bring something original to Saturday ? ("Rules of Engagement" was supposed to premiere there before being called up to regular prime time.)
Its last programming slate was ambitious, and Fox needs to patch a few spots going into the fall. Plans for the next season of "The X Factor" are likely to come under scrutiny as the network works to inject more life into what it hopes will grow into a hit à la "American Idol." Could NBC launch "The Voice" in the fall and draw some attention from "X"? Fox also needs to replace the reliable "House," which is leaving the schedule. And questions linger around "Idol"—it's still a powerhouse, but no longer as dominant. Fox will have to make an effort to revive the buzz that greeted quirky sitcom "New Girl" and teen-music phenomenon "Glee."
The Disney network has made great strides in replacing some of its old favorites. Though this is the last season for "Desperate Housewives," "Revenge," "Modern Family" and "Once Upon A Time " seem to be reliable performers. That said, NBC's success with "The Voice" and NFL football is giving ABC a run for those coveted 18-to-49 audiences. Look for ABC to focus on such themes as fairytale escapism, sexy soap operas or rebellion-against-establishment players.
Heading into its second season under Comcast management, the Peacock remains mired in turnaround efforts. No one can deny the power of "Sunday Night Football" or "The Voice," but the rest of the schedule is negligible -- the best you can say about a network whose best-performing scripted program is "Harry's Law," a show that most appeals to viewers heading toward retirement. In a sign that NBC can do only so much at one time, it is bringing "Law & Order SVU" and "Smash" back, despite lackluster results. But advertisers will want to see something other than front-loading the fall with extra football and a cycle of "The Voice."
Mark Pedowitz, the network's relatively new president, has talked about his ambition to make this outlet into more than a draw for young women. Look to see if "Arrow," a drama based on DC Comics character Green Arrow, gets picked up; it's said to be gritty. Signature programs like "90210," "Gossip Girl," "Vampire Diaries" and "Supernatural" are primed to return, but most advertisers will most likely be more interested in CW's pioneering work in creating ad packages based on not only viewership but digital use.
This may be the most exciting sector to watch this year, even if it doesn't generate as many ad dollars as its English-language counterpart. Univision has already fired a promotional salvo against NBC and is making a pitch to draw advertising from weaker English-language rivals. Meanwhile, News Corp. will be talking up MundoFox, a broadcast network that aims to raise the bar on programming for men. And of course there's Telemundo, owned by NBC Universal.