Media & Entertainment

Pilot Season: Viewers Fall For Select Shows

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There’s a chill in the air, and new shows on TV, so it must be fall premiere season. This summer, CivicScience explored viewer intent to watch fall network television. Since the premieres have come and gone, CivicScience will explore how many watched these new shows and if they intend to continue watching.

Picking Up Cancellation is a Boon for FOX

As speculated in the summer, there was a high intent to watch “Last Man Standing,” a show previously canceled by ABC.



Viewership of the show closely aligned with intent to watch. 26% started watching the show, and 7% of Americans polled said they will watch it in the future. Of the 26% who started watching, only 5% don’t plan to continue.

What could’ve been perceived as a high-risk move for FOX, taking on a politicized sitcom, seems to have paid off. Similar to those who intended to watch the show, “Last Man Standing’s” audience leans conservative, watches other FOX networks shows, and is a fan of FOX News as well.

The 7% who intend to watch the show in the future is among one of the highest of all the fall TV premieres CivicScience collected responses from. In some ways, comparing “Last Man Standing” to the rest of the fall lineup is comparing apples to oranges–technically a continuation of a previously canceled show, it didn’t have to work as hard for name brand recognition.

CBS’s Reboot Falls Flat

CBS’s “Magnum PI” had a high intent to watch among fall premieres, but it’s unclear if the show can maintain steam.

28% of Americans surveyed said they’d likely watch the show. In reality, 12% tuned in.

What’s more startling is how many are tuning out after the pilot. 42% of people who watched the “Magnum PI” pilot say they don’t plan to continue watching. Maybe the novelty of a reboot can’t sustain viewership. However, 5% of Americans asked said they have plans to watch it.

Perhaps CBS will pick up these viewers in the long run. 48% of those who plan to watch “Magnum PI” watch TV primarily through online streaming or on demand, meaning they might binge watch the show later in the season, or when it hits streaming platforms.

“FBI” Finds an Audience

CivicScience previously speculated that CBS’s Dick Wolf-produced “FBI” would find an audience with “Law & Order” fans from its name-brand recognition.

While likelihood to watch didn’t match up with true viewership, the dropout rate among “FBI” viewers is one of the lowest this premiere season.

Just 25% of those who watched the premiere of “FBI” say they won’t continue to tune in. Across the board, CivicScience found that dropout rates after pilot episodes this fall averaged out to 38%. The 4% who intend to watch the show in the future might make up that difference.

Who’s Laughing Now?

Among all networks, CivicScience found that premiering comedies had some of the lowest viewer audiences, paired with the highest viewer dropout rates.

Half of “Rel’s” audience on FOX doesn’t plan to continue watching the show.

NBC’s “I Feel Bad” had nearly similar viewership numbers.

As did CBS’s “Happy Together.”

Perhaps audiences aren’t in the mood to laugh, or maybe it’s the notorious nature of the hit-or-miss sitcom pilot, but across networks, viewers aren’t fans of this fall’s sitcoms.

“Manifest” is a Mystery

When CivicScience asked Americans about their intent to watch NBC’s “Manifest,” the results were surprising.

The high-concept mystery thriller is a hard logline to sell and with a season chock full of reboots and pickups. One would assume this show would be lost in the shuffle. However, viewership numbers indicate the opposite.

“Manifest” boasts the highest viewership numbers, behind only FOX’s “Last Man Standing.” Just under ¼ of viewers said they’d stop watching the show, and the 5% who indicated they’d watch in the future signals a strong word of mouth campaign for the show that could grow its current audience by 50%.

For the most part, intent to watch fall shows aligned with initial viewership, but the startling contrast between those who watched a show and those who will continue to watch highlights the challenge of keeping viewers engaged in an increasingly content-laden landscape.

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