Secret network research reveals which shows you're most likely to watch

By James Hibberd
Updated September 08, 2015 at 12:00 PM EDT
Credit: Fox; NBC
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The fall TV season might not launch for a few more weeks, but broadcasters already have a pretty good idea which shows are likely to be hits.

Networks enlist reserach companies like Nielsen and Ipsos to conduct private weekly polls among likely viewers about all the new shows — just like political campaigns during an electoral race. EW spoke to broadcast network insiders who use these tracking services to get an idea of which titles are looking the strongest and weakest at this point.

First, some key context: The polls track two metrics. The first is “awareness” — whether the viewer heard of the title (and in the case of reboots, specifically have they heard of the title as a new fall series, not as a previous movie or show). The second is “intent-to-view” — among only those who have heard of the show, whether they actually plan to watch. Posting a high number in either metric is good, and doing well in both is terrific (though if you have to pick only one, having strong awareness is better — it’s easier to convince people to watch a show they have heard of, whereas it’s almost impossible to get viewers to check out a title they don’t even know exists).

So which new fall shows are doing well in the polling?

— CBS’s Supergirl: The Girl of Steel is poised to leap rivals with a single bound. The DC Comics drama starring Melissa Benoist is doing well in both metics, and that bodes particuarly well for the show since the pilot leaked online months ago (so many fans already know what they’re getting, and apparently like it).

— NBC’s Heroes: Reborn. That viewers have heard of the Heroes revival isn’t surprising. But they’re planning to watch too, despite online fan skepticsm about the way the original series was handled. Like Supergirl, this revival scores well on both charts. The show’s tough Thursday night time slot might prove challenging, however.

— ABC’s The Muppets. The reboot is a nuclear blast in awareness — The Muppets’ score is twice as high as every other new show. Of course, few people are going to say they haven’t heard of “The Muppets” even if they haven’t necessarily heard of ABC’s grown-up update. The show’s “intent-to-view” score is more modest, but this one is still expected to open strong.

— Fox’s Scream Queens. This is impressive: Ryan Murphy’s horror dramedy Scream Queens has the highest awareness of any title that’s not based on a known brand.

— NBC’s Blindspot. The reverse of The Muppets: Somewhat low-ish awareness, but among those who have heard of NBC’s mystery drama starring Jaimie Alexander, Blindspot scores very high “intent-to-view.” So once viewers are aware of the show, they want to watch it. If you’re wondering why it seems like nearly every commerical break on NBC has a commerical for Blindspot, that’s probably why. (Some of NBC’s previous awareness/intent split-polling headaches were Constantine and Dracula).

Honorable mentions that are also doing pretty well in the tracking: NBC’s Chicago Med, NBC’s The Player, ABC’s Quantico, CBS’ Limitless, CBS’Code Black(a recent surge) and ABC’sDr. Ken.

And now, for shows that fans are seemingly less convinced to put on their DVRs.

— NBC’s Truth Be Told. The lowest awareness score of the fall and I bet you haven’t heard of this show either. Truth Be Told is the new title for the sitcom People Are Talking (which received a name change after, yup, nobody talked about it).

—The CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. The CW only has one new show this fall, and it’s a musical dramedy rescued from Showtime’s development slate about a stalker-ish protagonist. So far, viewers are not tempted by that concept. Last year, however, Jane the Virgin likewise had one of the lowest scores in this data set, yet won at the Golden Globes and survived to receive a second season (The CW’s ratings renewal standard is lower than its Big 4 rivals, which helps).

— ABC’s Wicked City. Scoring low-ish on awareness and intent, the Los Angeles murder thriller set in 1982 has its work cut out for it.

More shows that are currently scoring low in key metrics: CBS’ Life in Pieces (awareness is extremely soft, but that might not matter given its Big Bang Theory lead-in and positive early buzz), CBS’ Angel from Hell (surprisingly struggling for awareness given its punchy title and star Jane Lynch), ABC’s Blood and Oil(Don Johnson’s return to primetime is another title change casuality trying to get more recognition), Fox’s Rosewood (that vauge title doesn’t help) and Fox’s Minority Report (good awareness, but worrisomely low “intent to view” — meaning fans of Steven Spielberg’s film are not yet sold on the TV sequel).

The scores will continue to rise and change in the coming weeks as network ad campaigns continue to ramp up. Just how predictive are the scores? My post using the same data last fall correctly predicted Fox’s Gotham, CBS’ NCIS: New Orleans, The CW’s The Flash and ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder would debut well, whereas titles that were expected to struggle largely did too. A couple of the weakest-scoring titles managed to survive, however — such as NBC’s Mysteries of Laura — proving that, like with elections, poll numbers never tell the whole story.

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The Muppets

ABC revival – 2015 series
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