As a non-sports person, the start of the fall TV season is like my Super Bowl, March Madness and World Series rolled into one. I make a spreadsheet to cover the lineup months in advance and schedule any activities around important shows. I’ve been doing this for years, but this year, a lot of the fall premiere dates gave me pause.
The majority of fall 2015 tv premieres don’t start until Sept. 21 with the rest of the shows coming back the week after that, but leaving me baffled, the CW won’t premiere anything until Oct. 6.
Some of you may not understand why this is so weird to me, but I remember a time when TV shows premiered at the beginning of September, not the end of it. Some shows even started in August! (If you don’t believe me, I have googled evidence.)
So, since I obviously can’t change the premiere dates, my major question is why? Why have the premieres been moving back? I may have tried to ask my TV, my bastion of all show content, that question, but of course, as every time I yell at it about Brain Games or plot twists in Mr. Robot, it merely stared implacably back at me.
And when I can’t get answers, I like to make them up. Or more precisely, hypothesize about what the answers might be. Which is what I did regarding late TV premiere dates, and here is what I came up with:
Blame Summer TV
I’m not sure how much you know about the wasteland of TV in the summer because I’m under the impression that no one but me (hardcore, die hard television fan to the end) watches summer TV. Suffice it to say, anything that premieres after May has a bad rap.
But in the past few years, the TV studios have been trying to change that. After all, having the entire audience dismiss every show for three months can’t be good for their revenue streams. If the major buzz this summer around players like UnREAL, Wayward Pines and Mr. Robot means anything, summer TV might be seeing some success.
The problem is that these shows might not premiere until July, and even with abbreviated seasons, that means that they can run through August. There has always been a gap between summer and fall TV, and I suspect that pushing fall premiere dates away from summer finales could be one reason why the fall premieres are so late.
Binge Watching is the Worst
Yeah, okay, binge watching isn’t terrible. I indulge in it myself all the time. But judging from most of the TV news I’ve been reading for at least the past two years, binge watching is terrifying everyone. The studios simply don’t know how to handle it, and they think this means viewers want their content back-to-back-to-back.
So, now let’s do some math. Bear with me, it won’t be as scary as it sounds.
Say you premiere your shiny new fall show at the beginning of September. There are approximately four weeks per month, and most shows start winter hiatus in mid-December. With three and a half months of programming, this means that by winter hiatus you’ve already aired 14 or so episodes. Even if we’re stingy and say the shows skipped a couple of weeks – this often happens for holidays like Thanksgiving or other circumstances – that’s still about half of a standard 22-episode season.
The other half of your show likely premieres in January, but it’s expected to run until May. Which is a whole five months or 20 weeks/episodes, and you have what, 11 episodes left at best? That means missing some weeks, and if you want a two-hour season finale to draw in the viewers, you have even more of a mess on your hands.
Clearly, the TV studios didn’t think this was a problem several years ago since this was standard operating procedure. Of course, mid-season premieres in March might pick up some slack, but with the shift in the way people watch shows, TV studios want to give the people as many weeks in a row with content as possible. (You can tell by the commercials advertising this.)
This isn’t inherently a problem – I like my content uninterrupted too – but pushing the fall premiere dates back means a show spends less episodes in the fall and can come back with longer sustained runs in the spring.
Thankfully, there’s only so far these shows can be pushed back. No one wants to attempt going up against Christmas programming, and I doubt the divide between fall and spring seasons is one that will go away quickly.
But it’s mid-August. I should be gearing up for TV premieres to happen soon, and there’s still a month to go! It gives me a headache trying to wrap my brain around it all, so please, please, I’m bored out of my mind. Summer TV only soothes the ache so much, and I’ve resorted to doing TV show math. Can’t something premiere soon? Something that isn’t a reality show? Is that really too much to ask?