2013 TV Upfronts: Media analyst on network presentations: ‘Meh’
A sense of “meh.”
That’s the takeaway of one top media analyst after sitting through programming presentations to advertisers from ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC this past week.
“Our overwhelming impression is this: the more we see of the broadcast lineups, the more excited we get -- about the cable lineups,” said Todd Juenger of Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.
Of particular concern to Juenger was Fox’s schedule, which he called “disappointing.” The new dramas -- which include J.J. Abrams’ “Almost Human” -- “struck us as shockingly and uniformly violent.” The comedy trailers Fox showed “didn’t evoke a single laugh from us. It felt like we had seen these same shows (and heard these same jokes) many times before.”
But it wasn’t all bad. Juenger noted that “Fox throws the rowdiest after-party for the masses, hands-down.”
ABC did a better presentation, in Juenger’s eyes, and he says it could be the most improved network in the ratings next season.
“It feels like each show is a blockbuster movie, and leaves you tantalized to see more,” he said. That perception is shared by many. ABC is always given props for its upfront presentation. The problem is that the shows don’t always deliver on that promise.
Juenger predicts that CBS will again finish first next year in viewers. Interestingly, while CBS is putting a greater emphasis on comedy this year by launching four new sitcoms, the analyst was most impressed with its two new dramas -- “Hostages” and “Intelligence.”
Overall, Juenger wishes network executives would take the kind of chances exhibited by cable networks such as FX (“The Americans,” “Sons of Anarchy”) and AMC (“Breaking Bad,” “The Walking Dead”).
“Breaking Bad,” he said, is the kind of “TV that’s breaking through and gaining audiences in a world of unprecedented entertainment choice. As opposed to sitcoms about a fish-out-of-water young woman, or awkward multi-generational familial relationships, or a tragically flawed lawyer who brilliantly defends eccentric cases.”
The broadcast networks would counter that the audience for “Breaking Bad” is too small to sustain on broadcast TV. Then again, if it was on broadcast TV it would have a bigger promotional platform and more potential to attract a mass audience.
Juenger does like that the broadcast networks are spending more on development and moving to scheduling programming year-round in an attempt to slow rating declines.
Maybe Juenger should pitch a show about a hotshot analyst who tries to convince an industry to take more programming risks.
Follow Joe Flint on Twitter @JBFlint.
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