IAG: New Fall Lineup Tracks Possible Hits

New series generating the most viewer interest this fall include a remake, a spinoff and two shows with well-known leads.

Data from IAG Research reveals that NBC's "Bionic Woman," a new take on the 1970s hit, has the highest "intent to view" scores among 18- to-49-year-olds through Aug. 12. The NBC drama is followed by ABC's "Private Practice," a spinoff of leading drama "Grey's Anatomy," and Fox's "Back to You," a comedy that stars Kelsey Grammer ("Frasier") and Patricia Heaton ("Everybody Loves Raymond"). Those two are tied for second.

Another Fox show, "Kitchen Nightmares," starring Gordon Ramsay--whose "Hell's Kitchen" is the No. 1 show this summer among 18- to-49-year-olds--is tied for third with ABC's "Pushing Daisies." That's somewhat surprising, considering "Daisies" lacks some of the characteristics of the other top series. On the plus side, it's in the popular science-fiction genre and has crime and romantic elements.

In fourth place is a tie between the much-hyped "Cavemen" on ABC and CBS' new drama "Cane," which has an A-list star in Jimmy Smits. Rounding out the top five is a five-way tie between Fox dramas "K-Ville" and "New Amsterdam," CBS' reality series "Kid Nation," NBC's "Journeyman" and CW's "Reaper."



The rankings are the results of IAG's ShowTracker, a service available weekly to the Big Four networks that tracks the ups and downs of viewer opinions about new fall shows. ("Bionic Woman," for example, has seen its "intent to view" scores grow as the summer has progressed.)

Tracking begins in May when the series are announced, and runs through their premieres. The research firm, which also measures ad effectiveness and viewer engagement with TV, derives its rankings from weekly surveys of some 4,000-plus 18- to-49-year-olds. "In the past two seasons, we've found that "intent to view" was a very strong indicator of how well a program will premiere," said Rachel Mueller-Lust, executive vice president-networks at IAG.

It's clear the recognition that comes from being a spinoff or having actors with high Q Scores gives a new series momentum going into premiere week--perhaps more than a deluge of on-air promos. IAG's research shows that the series receiving the most on-air support this summer aren't among the first batch of series in "intent to view."

And NBC's comedy "Chuck," with the third-most on-air spots, is out of the top 10. The other series receiving the highest level of on-air backing, according to IAG, are: CBS' "Cane," followed by NBC sci-fi drama "Journeyman," then "Chuck," "Kid Nation" and "Bionic Woman." Furthermore, a high level of on-air spots doesn't necessarily translate into strength in another category that IAG tracks: "awareness." However, it appears media coverage can help there.

Through Aug. 12, the most recent data available, "Bionic Woman" scored the highest in "awareness," followed by "Cavemen," which has generated interest since it is based on the popular Geico ad campaign. Another show that has piqued the interest of the media, "Kid Nation," comes in third. The CBS reality show about young people forming their own society has raised questions about whether child-labor laws were violated during filming. Still, it may also benefit from an easy-to-understand and alluring conceit. "Back to You," starring Grammer and Heaton, comes in fourth in "awareness," with "Pushing Daisies" fifth. CBS' "Cane," with its heavy on-air support, ranks sixth.

Two CW series that have gained critical acclaim, "Reaper" and "Gossip Girl," score lower on the "awareness" scale at 16th and 18th, respectively. IAG offers up a third metric for networks to gauge whether their pre-season marketing and other recognizable aspects augur success this fall. (In fairness, most marketing has yet to begin.) Labeled "intent of aware," it fuses two metrics and looks at those aware of a new show and how many intend to watch it.

On that scale, the leading series for each network are "Journeyman" (and not "Bionic Woman") on NBC; "Private Practice" on ABC; new Friday drama "Moonlight" on CBS; "Kitchen Nightmares" on Fox; and "Reaper" on the CW. Based on two years of previous tracking, IAG's Mueller-Lust said survey results, even as early as mid-August, provide enough grist for reading tea leaves about fall premiere results. A year ago, its data predicted success for NBC's "Heroes" and "Studio 60," which both had premieres that ranked in the top five for new series. Other strong debuts that were not forecast by IAG included ABC's "Brothers & Sisters" and "Six Degrees," which benefited from strong lead-ins from "Desperate Housewives" and "Grey's Anatomy," respectively.

IAG's data tracks appeal of individual shows and does not take into account the strength of lead-ins and other scheduling maneuvers.

Former longtime Fox and WB marketing executive Lew Goldstein, now at Lifetime, said he has used summer tracking data as a "guideline," but not a be-all-end-all to gauge how a new show will do. Data can provoke questions from programming and research executives at a network--not to mention at studios that question whether their shows are getting sufficient network support.

"I would never panic over a show that's not necessarily having the awareness that you'd like to see," Goldstein said. "A great campaign in the last 10 days before a premiere can be extremely effective."

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