What Does NBC's Future Look Like?
NBC has been facing a major struggle in recent seasons in a particular area, comedy. The network headed into the 2013-14 season with the hope that Parks and Recreation would hold up the network's comedic slate, and that they would find new hits in one or more of Welcome to the Family, Sean Saves the World, The Michael J. Fox Show, About a Boy, or Growing Up Fisher. However, Parks and Recreation only did okay up against CBS's huge hit comedy The Big Bang Theory, and only About a Boy out of those five new series was renewed. The following season would have Parks and Recreation quickly end its run with 13 episodes aired over 7 weeks and About a Boy fail in its second season, ultimately getting pulled from the schedule. Additionally, all three of the network's in-season new comedies failed. All NBC was left with was Undateable, which aired during the summer almost as a burn off in its first season, and ran for 10 episodes after The Voice in its second season. In the fall of 2015, NBC learned that Undateable truly didn't have even a decent-sized audience, even with the attraction of airing live each week. Similar to Undateable, NBC is trying to make The Carmichael Show work, after a somewhat successful first season after America's Got Talent, and decent ratings following new unscripted hit Little Big Shots in its second season, but weeks where Carmichael aired with a small lead-in in season two showed that it is a flop, even though it will be entering season three this upcoming season. Why is this NBC comedy history important in an article about the future of the network? Because it shows what the network has been facing, why they must be so grateful for Superstore, and how desperately the network needs another hit comedy.
Superstore isn't a big hit, but its solid ratings in season one in an unusual timeslot gives NBC a lot of hope. It is vital to NBC that the show performs well this season, and that it isn't affected too much when The Big Bang Theory shows up a few weeks into the season. But the network can't rely on one solidly performing comedy, which is why it is important that one of the network's four new single-camera comedies this season performs well. Personally, I think that Great News and Powerless have the best shot at being this show, and NBC would be very lucky if both earned solid ratings. Luckily, comedies aren't filling up NBC's schedule, with only one hour of comedy in the fall, so if the new shows fail, NBC isn't in the situation where they have holes to fill. But NBC can't rely on The Voice and Dick Wolf's shows forever, and the network whose past includes Cheers, Seinfeld, Friends, and The Office can't just give up on comedy.
Like comedy, Dick Wolf has a major presence in the past of NBC, and that remains true in the present. He has four shows returning to the network this fall: Chicago Fire, Law & Order: SVU, Chicago PD, and Chicago Med. These procedurals make up half of the network's returning dramas. The first three are all sure to rate well and get renewed. Chicago Med is entering its second season, and is moving to a much more difficult timeslot, so it isn't certain like the others, but it is still very likely to get renewed. There is one more Dick Wolf show coming to the network this season. Chicago Justice is set to begin at mid-season, currently scheduled for Sundays at 9:00. Considering the success of the rest of the Chicago franchise, it is likely to perform well. These shows are mostly young (the exception being the very old SVU) and likely to last long.
The other half of the network's returning dramas aren't quite as successful. The Blacklist performs decently, and should be able to get renewed for a fifth season. But the other three can't be as sure about their fates. Blindspot is likely to perform poorly in its new timeslot, and Shades of Blue is a mystery, as it is currently intended to air in a difficult timeslot, but Chicago Justice could be the perfect lead-in. Also, Shades of Blue was very stable in another very difficult timeslot for NBC. Meanwhile, Grimm doesn't need to worry because it is scheduled to end this season.
Unlike other networks, NBC may need a more than quick look at unscripted. Currently, The Voice is still a hit. But how long will that last? The show has been on the decline, and we have to wonder how expensive it is with four judges who are popular singers. The Voice's end isn't that soon, but it could be soon enough to start worrying, considering that it takes up three hours of the network's schedule and provides great lead-in support to shows on Monday at 10:00 and Tuesday at 9:00. NBC's schedule is also filled by Dateline and football, the former of which is a reliable performer on lower rated nights, and the latter of which gets huge ratings. I don't know the details of NBC's Sunday Night Football deal, but losing Sunday Night Football at some point would be a huge loss for the network.
The only aging show the network needs to worry about replacing is The Voice, which means that this is a good place for NBC to grow from. In particular, they need to grow their comedy slate. If they can do that, the future of the network is bright.
What do you think NBC's future looks like? Leave your thoughts in the comments!