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Kiefer Sutherland May Have TV’s Biggest New Show: Fall Tracking Report Predicts Hits and Flops

Exclusive: TV Dailies' Fall TV Matrix also singles out new network shows "Bull," "Kevin Can Wait" and "This Is Us" as "potential winners."

Designated Survivor, Bull, Kevin Can Wait

Kiefer Sutherland, Michael Weatherly, Kevin James



TV vets Kiefer Sutherland, Michael Weatherly and Kevin James could have another smash series on their hands.

Sutherland’s new ABC drama “Designated Survivor,” Weatherly’s new CBS series “Bull” and James’ freshman comedy “Kevin Can Wait” (also for the Eye network) are among the shows testing highest among potential audiences, just days before next Monday’s launch of the 2016-2017 TV season.

Research firm Ipsos Connect has regularly polled an average of more than 2,000 TV viewers age 18-49 over the past three weeks, gauging their awareness of this fall’s new TV titles – and whether or not they intend to tune in. IndieWire obtained a copy of Ipsos’ TV Dailies report, which is organized by lead product manager Tom Kelley.

For IndieWire, Kelley went one step further and devised a matrix combining all of his data — including whether audiences are aware of a show’s title, and if they knew what network aired it; whether respondents say they “definitely will watch” or “definitely will not watch” a show; and “buzz” — whether potential audiences were talking about the show.

Here’s that chart:

Fall TV matrix

Fall TV matrix

Ipsos Connect TV Dailies

As a result, TV Dailies and Kelley are predicting that “Designated Survivor” (in which Sutherland plays a low-level cabinet member thrust into the presidency) could be tops among all new dramas, followed by “Bull” (Weatherly plays a trial consultant, inspired by Dr. Phil McGraw’s previous career), “Kevin Can Wait” (James as a retired cop) and NBC’s relationship drama “This Is Us.” He cites those four shows as this fall’s “potential winners.”

Kiefer Sutherland, "Designated Survivor"

Kiefer Sutherland, “Designated Survivor”


“Bull” and This Is Us” will air opposite each other on Tuesdays at 9pm starting in October, which could make for an interesting battle between two high-profile freshman hours.

Among comedies besides “Kevin Can Wait,” Kelly notes that NBC’s “The Good Place,” starring Ted Danson and Kristen Bell, is leading the pack.

Kelley also predicts that NBC’s time-travel thriller “Timeless” and “ABC’s legal drama “Conviction” (starring Hayley Atwell) could be sleeper hits for their networks. The CW’s “No Tomorrow” is also “trending in the positive direction as far as interest and buzz,” he said, but the show (which doesn’t bow until next month) has low awareness.

On the flip side, even though ABC’s “American Housewife” (starring Katy Mixon as a down-to-earth mother in an upper-crust town) and Fox’s “Pitch” (about the first female MLB player) have decent awareness among viewers, Kelly said the number of respondents saying they won’t watch those shows leads him to list them as “potential flops,” along with ABC’s “Notorious” (an attorney and reporter work together on cases).

Then there’s the inflated awareness of familiar titles. If you were only to look at awareness, the initial results are what you might expect: Remakes and reboots with familiar titles boast the highest name recognition.

Lucas Till and George Eads, "MacGyver"

Lucas Till and George Eads, “MacGyver”


Topping the overall awareness list: CBS’ “MacGyver,” which was familiar to 54 percent of respondents. That was followed by Fox’s “The Exorcist” (52 percent) and Fox’s “Lethal Weapon” (51 percent).

“This is why known [intellectual property] is so popular,” said one network exec. “It just helps you start the conversation so much easier with your audience.”

READ MORE: In Defense of the Reboot: How Remakes Can Still Result in Great TV

Awareness quickly drops when viewers are asked about shows without built-in familiar intellectual property. Among original titles, ABC’s new comedy “American Housewife” leads that pack, at 28 percent awareness, followed by “Kevin Can Wait,” “This Is Us” (NBC) and “Notorious” (ABC), all at 25 percent. “Designated Survivor” is right behind at 24 percent, then “Pitch” (Fox) at 23 percent.

Lower down are CBS’ Matt LeBlanc comedy “Man with a Plan” (12 percent) and Joel McHale half-hour “The Great Indoors” (14 percent) — these shows, as well as medical drama “Pure Genius” (13 percent), have some of the lowest awareness figures. But that’s partly because they don’t launch until late October. Networks usually don’t really fire up awareness until three weeks before launch, so CBS hasn’t fired up the marketing campaigns for those series yet.

Awareness reports are important for network marketing and scheduling strategy teams, as they determine how well their messages have resonated with the viewing public, and whether they need to move their promotional dollars around to help shows that need an extra boost of attention.

But awareness only tells part of the story, of course. Last year, ABC’s “The Muppets” dominated reports, clocking in at a strong 63 percent awareness at the point. Other shows with the highest results included CBS’ “Supergirl” (34 percent), Fox’s “Minority Report” (30 percent) and NBC’s “Heroes Reborn” (24 percent).

Guess what? All of those shows were canceled — except “Supergirl,” which nonetheless moved to The CW this year.

READ MORE: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Are Making it Hard for the Networks to Launch Fall TV

One network exec warned that with so many distractions in the marketplace — including this noisy presidential campaign — it’s been harder to decipher awareness tracking this year.

“There seems to be a flattening going on,” he said. “We can’t even get the right information out of these awareness studies. Because the audience is being screamed at by so many people that nothing is resonating with them clearly.”

Network executives are just as interested in whether audiences actually intend to view those shows. (After all, it’s not enough that they know “MacGyver” is back — they need to watch.)

Hannah Kasulka, Brianne Howey, Alan Ruck, Geena Davis, Alfonso Herrera and Ben Daniels, "The Exorcist"

Hannah Kasulka, Brianne Howey, Alan Ruck, Geena Davis, Alfonso Herrera and Ben Daniels, “The Exorcist”


In those cases, familiar titles also have a leg up: “The Exorcist” leads tracking in “intent to view,” with 19 percent of the respondents familiar with the show reporting that they plan to watch. “MacGyver” and “Lethal Weapon” are both close behind, at 17 percent.

Meanwhile, in the overall network race, Kelly calls NBC the “most promising looking network,” with all of its new shows “well above average in interest and buzz, and hovering around the awareness/network linkage norm.”

ABC’s results are scattered throughout the matrix, so its prospects are a “mixed bag,” while too many of CBS’ and The CW’s new shows don’t premiere until October, making predictions tough. Fox, on the other hand, has great awareness for its shows, but the buzz and interest are “below norm,” Kelly said.

Said another network exec: “As we’ve seen the last few years, any pre-sold title, any reboot of series or a movie tends to lead the pack in awareness. We take the awareness with a grain of salt, as nothing matters until we see those first few numbers come across. But I do think, with the Olympics providing some disruption for two weeks, we’re very pleased with what we’re seeing, at least in terms of awareness and intent to view.”

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