Will NBC Have a Sunday Night ‘Crisis’ With its New Serialized Dramas?

With the Olympics over, NBC is ready to launch its spring Sunday lineup this weekend. But while 'Believe' and 'Crisis' are both strong series, will that be enough to get audiences to commit?

Mar 15, 2014 at 10:10AM

Sunday nights have become the new "it" night for TV, but if you're a network without one of those "must-watch" shows it's not easy to break into the mix. This Sunday, NBC (a subsidiary of Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA)) is going to attempt to do just that, but the odds don't look to be in its favor.


NBC's 'Believe' (Credit: NBC)

Battleground Sundays

AMC's The Walking Dead, HBO's True Detective, PBS' Downton Abbey, and Showtime's Shameless are just a few of the shows that have thrived on Sunday nights this winter, and that's not counting broadcast series like Fox's Family Guy and CBS' The Good Wife. In other words, it's a stacked deck and audiences have clearly picked favorites.

For NBC, while the network is bulletproof in the fall thanks to the highly successful (and profitable) Sunday Night Football franchise, come spring it's vulnerable. For the past few years NBC's business model has been football in the fall and Celebrity Apprentice in the spring. Yet with Donald Trump becoming increasingly polarizing, NBC hedged this season and decided on a new approach that could prove just as risky.

Serialized siblings


NBC's 'Crisis' (Credit: NBC)

The network will launch Believe and Crisis, two new scripted dramas back-to-back starting this Sunday. Both have star power in front of the camera and behind it, but both are highly serialized and require a time commitment from audiences. That's asking a lot of viewers who are already gun shy about getting involved with new shows because executives have itchy trigger fingers and they aren't shy about canceling a series.

Believe comes from J.J. Abrams (Lost) and Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity) and centers on a mysterious group charged with protecting a young girl with special powers. Crisis is more celeb-driven with Gillian Anderson (The X Files) and Dermott Mulroney (My Best Friend's Wedding) among its more well-known names. The drama looks at the calculated kidnapping of a group of students at a prestigious D.C. area school and the impact it has on some of their very influential family members. Both are quality series and in any other situation would likely find a following. However it's hard enough to get audiences to commit to one open-ended event-type series, much less two.

The 'Resurrection' effect

Now it's certainly not impossible to break through on a busy night, but this is going to be tough for NBC. While True Detective and Downton Abbey have wrapped for the season, Game of Thrones is just weeks away from debuting, as is Mad Men. In addition The Walking Dead is still going strong and The Good Wife is in the middle of a three-part game-changing storyline. You also have to take into account the shocking success of ABC's Resurrection, which last Sunday bowed to 13.5 million viewers and a 3.8 rating in the coveted 18-49 demo.

Resurrection's success is an outlier in this scenario though as the show was backed by a well-received marketing and PR campaign and was sandwiched between two popular established shows that were coming back after a long break. It was the perfect storm of opportunity and despite huge competition it worked. Those numbers will likely drop in week two, but regardless it was an impressive debut.

Reindeer ratings games

NBC gave Believe a sneak preview airing last Monday with The Voice as its lead-in and drew a solid 10 million viewers. In order to stack the deck, the network will air a Voice special this Sunday prior to Believe that recaps the best of the blind auditions to help ease the transition. Yet if you missed Monday's Believe premiere you need to either tune in Saturday night for the replay or go online and catch it earlier because Sunday's episode is brand new.

Personally, I've never been sold on the "preview" approach because the pilot of a show is so important (especially for a serialized series) and if audiences miss it they may not want to try and jump in with the next episode. NBC loves the preview approach though and did it with a number of top shows last season during the Summer Olympics. Remember though that while all three "sneaked" shows were high profile, none lasted the season.

NBC has had better luck so far with its winter previews of About a Boy and Growing up Fisher, but the network also did an about-face and reran both pilots during the shows' timeslot debuts instead of going with new episodes. The move worked initially as Boy ended up pulling the same ratings in both slots and has been respectable in the weeks since, while Fisher has slipped but continues to win its timeslot in the demo.

Heading into a crowded field Sunday evening, do you believe in Crisis? Will the ratings be a crisis for Believe? Are there enough viewers left over after all those strong competitors to build a Sunday night audience, and if not, will viewers have enough room on their DVRs for these upstarts? And why can't the networks spread out the good shows a little? 

All these questions will begin to be answered Sunday night.

The opportunity for you

With intense and innovative competition combined with its dysfunctional business model, you know cable's going away. But do you know how to profit? There's $2.2 trillion out there to be had. Currently, cable grabs a big piece of it. That won't last. And when cable falters, three companies are poised to benefit. Click here for their names. Hint: They're not Netflix, Google, and Apple.

Brett Gold has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

Click here to learn about this incredible technology before Buffett stops being scared and starts buying!

David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

©1995-2014 The Motley Fool. All rights reserved. | Privacy/Legal Information