They never even made it to the stage.
The broadcast network’s influence has waned over the past week as entertainment companies Paramount, Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery, NBCUniversal and Fox touted their upcoming products to advertisers in flashy New York presentations.
With ABC and CBS entertainment heads Craig Erwich and Kelly Kahl watching from the sidelines, nothing could be more compelling. Erwich was replaced by a boss with broader responsibilities, and NBC didn’t even have an entertainment president; instead, there was a single executive overseeing multiple networks and streaming.
Broadcasters once owned the week, revealing their fall schedules with much fanfare.They’re pretty much an afterthought in the bloated presentation, the action is now streaming, and in the coming shakes about how ads will invade that format.
However, according to their plans, ABC, CBS and NBC — Fox didn’t even bother to release a fall schedule – Show that they are well aware of their new place in the entertainment world.
“Why don’t you see reality?” said Garth Ancier, the former entertainment president of NBC and Fox. “All networks basically recognize reality through their timelines. They’re not saying, ‘We’re going to rebuild our audience.'”
Twenty years ago, the networks just wrapped up a season, and three scripted shows — “Friends,” “CSI: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and “ER” — averaged more than 22 million viewers per episode. The Nielsen Company said that this season, “NCIS” and “FBI” are almost the only such shows to exceed 10 million.
In April, less than 25 percent of U.S. households watched TV broadcasts, Nielsen said. The rest of the time is spent on wired networking, streaming, gaming, DVR usage, or video.
In 2002, with premium cable TV and streaming still a dream, web programmers were free to consume and seize the opportunity. ABC, CBS and NBC launched 19 new scripted shows in that year’s fall programming, eight of which were comedies.
This year, they have only seven new scripted shows planned for the fall. NBC’s star car for George Lopez and his daughter, “Lopez vs. Lopez,” is the only comedy.
“We’ve officially turned the page now. Everyone sees that we’re not going back to the internet,” said Aaron Barnhart, veteran critic and author of “The Beginner’s Guide to Streaming TV.” . “In some ways, it’s just the culmination of the cultural shift that happens when everyone first starts getting their hands on cable.”
Even Ancier, the network TV company that once worked for Walt Disney Studios and The WB, is now advising developers of an app to help people keep track of their favorite shows on the streaming service.
Network TV is mostly home to franchises and rebootsimprov and live events and sporting events.
NBC aired three episodes of “Chicago” produced by Dick Wolff on Wednesday night, while CBS produced “FBI”, also produced by Wolff, on Tuesday. NBC’s three “Law & Order” shows (yes, the wolf again) will air Thursday night, CBS has its “NCIS” franchise, Fox has two “911” shows, and ABC is trying to Via spinoff “The Rookie” in the fall.
“They have established audiences, require less time and money to promote, and tend to get a strong audience sample,” said veteran TV analyst Steve Sternberg.
Even CBS comedian Stephen Colbert couldn’t resist teasing his network formula on the Paramount show, saying it specializes in “sexy people solving murders of sexy bodies.”
NBC caves to tried-and-true idea of revival of old shows The TV series “Quantum Leap” and the mid-season comedy “Night Court”.
“It’s not the fall schedule,” said ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel, whose sarcastic monologue was a ritual in the annual schedule presentation. “Those are the tapes you found in your dead uncle’s VCR.”
At ABC, “we really love live events” like “American Idol,” Erwich said in an interview. The network also launched a celebrity version of “Dangerous!”, Recognize that syndicated game shows generally attract more viewers than any prime-time show. For the first time this fall, CBS is hosting an unscripted night of programming.
This fall, ABC and NBC will have more unscripted time than scripted time in their prime time. In total, 34 of the 66 primetimes for the three top networks will be written. That compares to 42 and a half hours 20 years ago, excluding 9 hours of scheduled movies.
Broadcasters are looking to save money; CBS canceled two comedy films from producer Chuck Lorre this spring, another example of tightening the belt, Barnhart said.
CBS’ Kahl noted that 17 of the top 30 shows on his corporate sibling’s Paramount+ streaming service are CBS shows.
“When it works well, it’s a virtuous cycle,” he said. “We can expose young people to our show, and they might not watch it online, they might see it on Paramount+ and come back to us.”
Viewership numbers, a lack of attention and a drop in creativity may not bode well for broadcast networks. But they’re in better shape than many cable networks, and the path to the future is clearer, Barnhart said.
“Before, they served the masses,” he said. “Still watching 25 percent of broadcast TV, it’s hard for us to think of online viewers as a niche, but it is.”
Media writer David Bowder reported from New York, and Associated Press TV writer Lynn Elber reported from Los Angeles.