Fox paid big money for its Batman-prequel series Gotham and touted its September 22 premiere all summer via billboards, transit posters, and on-air promotional spots. According to research that measures viewer interest in the new fall shows, the effort is going to pay off. Research firm Ipsos MediaCT surveys viewers each week throughout the summer and asks if they are familiar with the name of a new show and whether they plan to watch it. The results of the company's TV Dailies Study from the period of Sept. 1—7 were provided to TV Guide Magazine and show Gotham with the highest awareness score of any new show and the second highest score in the intent to view category.
The strong data on Gotham isn't surprising. Series based on established franchises tend to do well in preseason research surveys because respondents are already familiar with the characters and story. The CW's The Flash and NBC's Constantine, both based on popular DC Comics characters, also rank in the upper tier. Last year, The Avengers-related Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. topped studies and delivered a strong rating when it premiered.
However, ratings for S.H.I.E.L.D. dropped throughout the season, proving that initial research isn't an indicator of a show's potential for long-term success. Networks primarily use the data to determine the effectiveness of their promotional campaigns for their fall launches and don't expect to learn if viewers will stick around until, say, Episode 4.
But a big opening night certainly helps. Another series expected to have a strong premiere, based on high scores in both awareness and intent to view, is How to Get Away With Murder, the new ABC drama from Grey's Anatomy and Scandal creator Shonda Rhimes. "It's a very [unfamiliar] title, so it shows you the strength of Scandal," says Ipsos vice president Gavin Bridge. The CBS drama Stalker, starring Dylan McDermott and Maggie Q, also ranks high in intent to view, a sign that the network's promos are connecting with viewers drawn to the type of scary, suspenseful fare executive producer Kevin Williamson (The Following) is known to deliver.
While the name Stalker kind of says it all, titles can also work against shows. The CW's critically acclaimed Jane the Virgin comes in dead last in intent to view, an indication that some respondents may have been put off by the show's provocative name. CBS has one of the best-loved names in television with NCIS, so it makes sense that spinoff NCIS: New Orleans was right behind Gotham in awareness levels. But the show's intent to view level falls closer to the middle of the pack.
The most surprising figure is for ABC's supernatural cop drama Forever. It had the highest score in intent to view of any new show in Ipsos's research — even though it ranked second lowest in awareness. That means the positive response came from a very small portion of the survey sample. Still, the data should be encouraging for ABC. "It suggests there is a core niche that's interested in the show," says Bridge. "It could be a sleeper hit."
Network executives say half-hour comedies are tougher to promote than dramas and typically don't score well in pre-season surveys. Nearly all of the new comedies were on the lower end of the intent-to-view spectrum, according to the Ipsos research. The exception was ABC's Cristela, but that series, which stars Mexican-American comedian Cristela Alonzo, finished last in awareness.
A chart with the awareness and intent to view levels for all of the new fall shows appears in the new TV Guide Magazine out this week.