Entering tonight’s new episode of Last Man Standing on Fox, it’s clear that the network is in a somewhat-precarious position. They have to brace themselves for a situation in which one of their most-successful series is being served to a limited audience.
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If you missed our report on it yesterday, there is a carriage dispute going on between Charter Spectrum and Tribune Media, who owns a number of local affiliates across the country. Several major markets tonight are not getting Fox programming, and we’ve already seen this take its toll on shows such as The Orville and the final-season premiere of Gotham. Is it a shame that hard-working casts and crews are being penalized for something outside their control? Absolutely, but it’s an annoying part of the industry. (There will be options for watch these shows after the fact for some viewers, but that’s still frustrating for those who want to watch live.)
Going into tonight, you have to anticipate that Last Man Standing as well as The Cool Kids are going to experience a ratings dip — don’t be shocked if the Tim Allen series hits a 0.8 rating in the 18-49 demographic, its lowest number of the season. It’s no indictment on audience enthusiasm or anything else; it’s just the reality of the situation the show is in, especially since many markets that are missing Fox are ones where it is especially popular.
Have no fear
The thing here is that Fox is acutely aware of how the carriage dispute is hurting their ratings, and they are not going to punish any of their programs for something that is going on with local affiliates. The crummy thing about this, though, is that the longer this dispute lasts, the more likely it is that some of these shows are going to be impacted in the long-term. You don’t want viewers to lose interest because they eventually found some other use for their time!
Luckily, we don’t think that’s going to happen with a show like Last Man Standing that has such a loyal audience. Beyond just that, we still don’t think this dispute will last all that long. Remember that Fox airs the NFC Championship Game, one of the most-watched TV events of the year. There’s already a chance in our head that this gets resolved before the NFL broadcast this weekend; if not, though, we definitely think that it will be before we see the latter rounds of the playoffs. This is too much of a cash cow for networks to fool around.
Are you being impacted in some way by the Fox – Tribune Media dispute? Let us know some of your thoughts in the attached comments. (Photo: Fox.)