Good News From Network TV Land

Everyone loves a good comeback story.

We’re happy to report that a sizable list of network TV shows are attracting interest and excitement this Fall, according to a recent Maru/Matchbox national survey. The titles may sound familiar: “MacGyver,” “Lethal Weapon,” “Kevin Can Wait,” “Designated Survivor” and “The Exorcist.”

What do these shows have in common? As you’ve likely noted, they’re either reboots of existing franchises (“MacGyver,” “Lethal Weapon” and “The Exorcist”) or shows featuring major TV stars playing familiar roles (“Kevin Can Wait” and “Designated Survivor”).

And what about Fall’s returning programs? “The Voice” added megastar hosts Miley Cyrus and Alicia Keys to generate the most awareness, and “Dancing with the Stars” offered up various high-profile contestants—from Ryan Lochte to Amber Rose—to turn up the heat a bit.

In an on-demand, what’s-hot-right-now, internet-driven entertainment space, full of constant treats and expectation-blowing options – a surprise “Lemonade” album drop by Beyoncé here, an out-of-the-blue “Horace and Pete” TV series release by Louis C.K. there – attention comes at a premium. Maybe there’s something comforting about the familiar that’s getting TV viewers’ attention this Fall. To quote the late Hollywood great Harry Cohn, who once headed Columbia Pictures, “Give ‘em what they want.”

How to meet viewers’ expectations? At Maru/Matchbox, finding insights that matter – that help shape future decision-making rather than simply looking in the rear-view mirror – requires connecting with customers via online communities. And sector expertise plays a critical role to translate customer data into strategic guidance that’s actionable. So as you prepare next Fall’s season (and even your next surprise drop) you can engage with and get to know your audience better – earlier.

Of course, awareness of this crop of shows hasn’t been huge – less than 50% even for the top programs. But the current awareness levels seem more a sign of the times than a commentary on the quality of the content. Indeed, it’s harder than ever to launch a new show in a 500-network, 500-scripted-show environment. Exponentially increased viewing format options mean that the stakes are lower for viewers, who don’t have to be aware of a show before a premiere in order to see the series; they can view it anytime, almost anywhere.

That’s not to say the networks are cruising down Easy Street. But even though there haven’t been any home runs this season, we’ve seen few strikeouts, along with a number of doubles and triples. Which is pretty good considering that to “Give ‘em what they want,” you’ve got to know what they want – and that is far from easy in today’s entertainment business.