The Future of the Night: ABC Thursday

Welcome to a segment I call "The Future of the Night". The format is I take a look at a night on the network's schedule, see what could use improvement, and come up with scenarios which could potentially solve it. First, I present a short argument as to why it could work, then play Devil's Advocate with my reasoning, and then present the bottom line. Enjoy, and fee free to leave your opinions by leaving a comment!
Just last year, ABC Thursday was Must-See TV. It went by many names: Shondaland, TGIT, Shonda Thursday, etc. Now, Grey's Anatomy remains on top of ABC's ratings, now their #1 drama, but Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder have fallen mightily. Scandal is no longer the show that seemingly there's someone walkabout about it at all times, and many associate a decline in quality with the ratings decline. At 10pm, the highly serialized nature of How to Get Away with Murder may have lost many old fans. In addition, spring replacement The Catch premiered to very low ratings, and is definitely not a force that can bring TGIT back up to where it once was. Thursday is far from being ABC's worst day, but it's also far away from its heyday not too long ago (in raw and relative ratings).

Option 1: Stay Steady
Why It Will Work: With Sunday and Tuesday being a mess, as well as holes on Monday and even Wednesday, does ABC really have the time to mess with Thursday? A network can only move so much in a season. Grey's Anatomy and Scandal are both expected to be above-average performers
next season, and Murder is still ABC's #1 10m show, so why not keep the block together?

Why It Won't: With declines like this, by next season How to Get Away with Murder risks going fractional. How do you promote the block as "Thank God It's Thursday" with ratings like that? Additionally, The Catch indicates that Scandal can't launch a show. And keeping the schedule stable would mean no launching a new show out of Grey's Anatomy, their #1 drama.

Bottom Line: This season, ABC played it safe by keeping almost every returning show in its old time slot. If ABC wants TGIT back, they should probably get experimenting. If they're OK with what they have now (and expect to get next season) and want to work on other nights instead, that's equally plausible, if not more plausible.

Option 2: New Drama at 10pm
Why It Will Work: Despite ratings declines, Scandal is still relatively high up there in terms of ABC scripted show rankings. Instead of having it leads into what is bound to be the weakest link of the night, move Murder to a problem slot and give a new drama a chance at Thursdays. Plus, there's barely any competition in the time slot. For promotional purposes they would probably choose Shondaland's Still Star-Crossed.

Why It Won't: Murder is bound to see declines next season just by its nature, but moving it from Thursday will do even more damage, and there's no way of telling if this new drama is going to be DOA or not.

Bottom Line: Trying a new drama at 10p after Scandal would be optimal to moving Scandal to 10pm and trying something at 9 just for the purpose of stability. If ABC thinks that it could better utilize Murder in a trouble time slot, then they should go for it. I don't see it as being utmost priority though.

Option 3: New Drama at 9pm
Why It Will Work: Opening up a spot after Grey's Anatomy will provide a new drama with its best chance at success.

Why It Won't: As mentioned earlier, a network can only do so much in one season. TGIT isn't what it once was, but that doesn't necessarily mean they go and move 2 of 3 shows.

Bottom Line: Grey's Anatomy is aging, so is it time that ABC use its lead-in on something other than Scandal? If they do go ahead and not only move Murder to another night but also shift Scandal back to 10pm, I wouldn't expect many other moves to be made on the schedule. I just don't think it's worth it.

What do you think? Are there any other somewhat-plausible options that I didn't cover? Let me know in the comments below!

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