2020-21 Season to Date (9/21-3/10): FOX Reclaims Marginal Ground in 2nd Place Thanks to Fading Masked Singer

FOX has clever strategies in how they have run their network since American Idol.  The action always heated up after the new year, and they had NFL to boost the ratings earlier.  So they had NFL boosting weaker shows in the fall, followed by unveiling their big ticket items in January and February.  Most hits on the schedule debuted in the winter, including The Masked Singer.  Red-hot in 2019 with ratings broaching the 3.0 threshold.  It is a little saddening to see The Masked singer only two years later returning in the spring with a 1.31 rating.  Indeed a winner, it is no longer in the ultra-hit category, but above average.  But it is no longer untouchable and fading a bit.

The inflations from the Sunday animation block have series melting to lower ranks, but the other shows have exhibited surprising strength.  9-1-1 remains a solid player still above the 1.0 mark, and 9-1-1: Lonestar also holds up its end of the bargain retaining more than 80% of its lead-in.  The Resident has exhibited sturdiness this turbulent season, holding close to its seasonal debut and helping FOX colonized an evening FOX struggled with in recent years.  Formerly an evening with struggling comedies and drama series slated for disposal, The Resident broke this pattern and now is an asset the network relies on to keep open.

FOX has problem areas they need to address, namely their aging and weak comedy department.  Bob's Burgers has flipped their fortunes and remained fresh, but The Simpsons and Family Guy have long since overstayed their welcome.  And will FOX continue live-action comedies on Thursdays?  With Last Man Standing going out with a whimper, Call Me Kat hardly seems strong enough to keep a block anchored.  FOX will likely finish the season in 2nd place.  It won't fall far enough to sink to CBS' level (they held the Superbowl to boost their sagging ratings), but don't have enough strength to topple NBC out of 1st place.

How to Summarize the 5 Networks for the 2020-21 Season

Most Improved Network: ABC

Crippled with a lack of NFL, the alphabet network has stiff competition and for the last 11 years knows it will likely be resigned to 4th place.  However, they made up for their losses with impressive reality TV shows and gameshows to hold their schedule strong and give 3rd place CBS a run for their money.  Dramas struggled for years outside of Thursday evening, and now several strong entries glue many parts of the schedule.  Their comedies need an overhaul, but everything else shines and is updated on the network, a major improvement over recent seasons.

Most Updated Network: CW

Look at the chart and notice the majority of the lower end belongs to CW.  However, almost all shows have a bold green Renewed label next to them.  CW saw the writing on the wall they would never be able to keep up with the other networks and redirected their strategy to streaming online.  They also successfully showcase year-round programming and decided to commit to shows people couldn't wait for vs trying to amaze and shock everyone.  The television channel is only one portion of reaching viewers as their target audience streams anyways.  CW updated the overplayed scheduling game their competition has yet to retire.

Most Entertaining Network: FOX

A boring show on FOX?  The only boredom perhaps rests on the Sunday animated sitcoms.  Beyond that, FOX has it all.  Sports, Reality TV, Gameshows, Dramas and Sitcoms.  The Disney/FOX merger forced the network into a controversial update in 2018, changing the tempo and paring down several shows with cult followings.  Unlike some networks that let shows and concepts overstay their welcome, FOX recognized they had to downsize before growing strong.  This keeps the entries updated, fresh and entertaining.

Most Disappoint Network: CBS

America's oldest network seems to have the oldest strategies.  And that isn't a compliment.  To be disappointing, one must be capable of doing better, and CBS is in this category.  They managed to locate winning sitcoms, but the majority of their lineup consists of aged procedurals and their formulated spinoffs.  Reality TV has cooled down, and the NFL coverage is lighter than NBC and FOX.  Had CBS lacked the Superbowl this season, they likely would have tumbled to 4th Place.  CBS needs fresh blood in their schedule to attract younger viewers and needs to rethink rebooting shows and needless spinoffs.

Best Network: NBC

Tried and true, NBC is back in 1st place.  They had that trophy stolen by FOX last year (after an impressive/consecutive 8-year run) due to The Masked Singer remaining red-hot.  The tables leveled this year and NBC has returned to prominence due to their loaded deck of dramas.  NBC appears to be following the trend of CW and committed to earlier renewals, giving good faith to viewers cannot wait to return vs. "will the show be renewed or end this year?"  Yes, New Amsterdam is middling at best, but it not only serves a vital function on the schedule but has a loyal fanbase clamoring for its return.  Same for SVU, which has experienced a mild bounceback.  The pandemic left floods of timeslots vacant this season, and NBC opted to license existing shows to fill space and spice up variety (and perhaps corner new tastes for the upcoming pilot season.  Well done NBC as you knocked it out of the park under dire circumstances.

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