What Can We Expect from the $20 Billion Network TV Industry This Fall?

Jacob Harper  |

September marks the launch of the major network’s fall TV schedules, and thus the beginning of the new television season. Network TV is big business: between the “Big Three” and FOX, there’s over $20 billion a year in advertising revenue at stake. With that in mind, Equities takes a look at the network's programming slates, and how they stack up against each other in this year's battle for the almighty advertising dollar:


Owned by: 21st Century Fox (FOX)

The unofficial fourth addition to the “Big Three” of major networks, Fox has gained a considerable amount of success in recent years, especially in the key youth marketing segment. Along with reliable talent show hit The X Factor, Fox is rolling out a couple new comedies to reasserts their place as the network of choice for younger viewers.

With his movie career on hiatus following his flop That’s My Boy, former SNL cast member Andy Samberg finds himself back on TV and heading up new Fox cop sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine. The show is Fox’ major play to increase viewership in the much-vaunted “demo”— the name for the viewers between the ages of 18-49 most coveted by advertisers.

Fox had been “king of The Demo” for eight straight seasons on the success of live action comedies New Girl and The Mindy Project and ongoing animated hit like Family Guy. However, last season they slipped to a tie with CBS, and barring a big win with Brooklyn Nine-Nine that slide will probably continue.


Owned by: CBS Corp. (CBS)

CBS is riding high since last season they topped all networks in the demo for the first time in 20 years, and became the first network since Fox in 2007-08 to head up both total viewership and the demo. The network has long been a leader in total viewership, but had been dogged by a reputation of being the out of touch with young people.

The network has bonafide hits in procedural series NCIS and comedies How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory, which have both scored big in the demo The station is looking to continue their success with the youth with comedy The Millers starring Netlfix’ Arrested Development star Will Arnett and drama Hostages.  

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Barring a major hit from Fox, CBS looks to repeat their success from last year, and once again top the major networks in both viewers and the demo.


Owned by: Comcast (CMCSA)

In the 90s this network was undisputed king, both in total viewers and the demo with mega-smashes ER, Seinfeld and Friends. Those days, however, are long gone, and this network trails behind the other three majors – and trails badly. NBC had found a decent niche in the demo with cult comedies Community, Parks and Recreation and 30 Rock, but with the departure of 30 Rock (andCommunity not coming back until mid-season) NBC needs another hit to shore up younger viewers.

NBC has the biggest show in the country with signing competition the Voice, which helped NBC edge up to third in the demo last year. NBC further looks to solidify their place as the Comedy Central of network TV with laffers Sean Saves the World, Welcome to the Family, and Michael J. Fox’ return to the small screen with The Michael J. Fox Show.

While NBC looks to continue languishing, there are bright spots. NBC is looking to increased viewership on internet streaming site Hulu, where clips from the venerated Saturday Night Live (entering its 39th season) continues to find renewed success online as a viral-video machine.


Owned by: The Walt Disney Company (DIS)

ABC has sat solidly in the middle the last few years, and this upcoming season looks ot be no exception. Unlike the other majors, ABC generally stays away from comedy (save modest success The Middle and hit Modern Family) to stick with dramas and procedurals. ABC plans on returning the hit soapy dramas Scandal and Nashville, and reality show/ dancing competition Dancing with the Stars.

This fall the network will debut fantasy send-up Once Upon a Time in Neverland, starring former LOST cast member Naveen Andrews.  But the most anticipated premiere this fall for ABC is definitely Marvel’sthe Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, a spinoff of the massively successful Avengers franchise.  

Through ABC lags behind CBS in total viewers, they are making headway in the demo. In July ABC scored a big win in evening news when World News with Diane Sawyer ended the five-year demo streak held by Nightly News with Brian Williams, scoring 1.917 million viewers to NBC’s 1.817 million.

(image of 30 Rockefeller Plaza courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

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