With the November sweeps ending this week, broadcasters can fully assess the strength of their fall lineups—and begin to shore up those lineups at midseason. But some are finding their midseason plans hinge on those of one other network: Fox.
Following reports that American Idol may move from Tuesdays and Wednesdays to Wednesdays and Thursdays, other networks—most notably NBC—have put their own plans on hold until they can determine how best to avoid what one executive called "Fox's behemoth."
At issue for NBC is whether or not to move My Name is Earl from Tuesdays to Thursdays. Putting the freshman comedy up against Idol could prove disastrous. Even without Idol there, NBC execs questioned the switch. "The risk is that you can end up doing worse on both nights involved in the move," said Mitch Metcalf, evp of program planning and scheduling for NBC Universal.
CBS also could suffer from an Idol move—about which Fox executives wouldn't comment at press time. Speculation about the switch has focused on Idol's so-called results show airing at 9 p.m. on Thursdays, because competing against NBC's declining The Apprentice would seem more strategic than going up against CBS' Survivor. But CBS isn't sweating—at least, on the record. "We're No. 1 on Thursdays," said Kelly Kahl, CBS evp of program planning and scheduling. "It's taken a while to get there. And, frankly, everyone can schedule around us."
Of course, there are risks for Fox if it moves idol. Shifting the results show to Thursdays could diminish the program's audience share, which might have financial implications for the property as a whole. Still, many advertisers believe the move is so bold, it may be worth it. "I think there are enough viewers to go around on Thursday, for Fox to get a good piece of it," said Shari Anne Brill, vp/director of programming at Carat.
Wherever Idol lands, some networks already have begun to make midseason decisions. CBS said last week that it would premiere its male-skewing romantic dramedy Love Monkey, starring Ed's Tom Cavanagh, on Tuesday, Jan. 17 at 9 p.m., as a bridge between cycles of The Amazing Race. Bumping Out of Practice, comedy The Jenna Elfman Show will launch Monday, Jan. 23 at 9:30 p.m.
ABC announced its post-Monday Night Football schedule earlier this month: Wife Swap at 8 p.m., the comedy Emily's Reasons Why Not at 9 p.m., followed by the return of Jake in Progress at 9:30 p.m., and a new cycle of The Bachelor at 10 p.m.
Like CBS, ABC enters midseason from a position of strength. But that strength limits the number of time periods in which either can test out new shows. NBC—underperforming on Thursdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays—may have the most riding on program changes. Among its new series are comedy Four Kings from the creators of Will & Grace and drama Book of Daniel, starring Aidan Quinn as a pill-popping priest.