How ‘Scorpion’ Became CBS’s Highest-Rated Drama

CBS Primetime senior executive vice president Kelly Kahl tells TheWrap: “It’s surprising how good it is”

PILOT scorpion review cbs
From left, Jadyn Wong, Ari Stidham, Elyes Gabel, Katharine McPhee and Eddie Kaye Thomas. (Monty Brinton/CBS)

You don’t have to be a super-genius to know that CBS’s’ new drama “Scorpion” is a big hit in the early going. And it’s doing even better than the most-watched network that houses it ever anticipated as it’s the highest-rated drama series on the network.

On the freshman show’s early success, Kelly Kahl, senior executive vice president, CBS Primetime, told TheWrap: “It’s surprising how good it is.”

How good are the numbers? Well, in the advertiser-sought 18-49 demographic, “Scorpion” is the network’s top drama. That statement is consistent per both Live + 7 numbers — with a 4.5 in the key demo — and Nielsen’s most-current numbers, where “Scorpion” weighs in with a 3.7.

Also read: From ‘Murder’ to ‘Utopia’: 17 Highest and Lowest-Rated New Fall TV Shows (So Far)

CBS correctly foresaw in the freshman drama an opportunity to improve and grow its Monday night, which needed the help.

“Our Monday kind of got away from us last year,” Kahl admitted. “We had a real rough patch at 10 o’clock, with ‘Hostages.’ Our comedies slipped — it’s a very tough night.”

So far, so good: This fall, CBS’s Monday night has improved the most out of any night across the so-called “Big 4” networks.

Also read: Fall TV Show Renewals and Cancellations: TheWrap’s Early Predictions

To get the Scooter Braun-executive produced show off the ground, the network gave it a “Big Bang Theory” lead-in for the first few weeks of the season, while other new property “Thursday Night Football” singlehandedly conquered the week later on.

That kindred nature with TV’s top comedy provided a much-needed initial boost, especially in the key 18-49 demographic, which is a little younger than many of CBS’s’ biggest shows skew.

“We really looked at it as kind of an extension of “The Big Bang Theory,” but in the drama world,” Kahl said. “We loved that it had some fresh faces, we loved that it had some younger characters.”

Also read: CBS Hands Full Season Orders to All 4 New Dramas

The last few weeks, “Scorpion” has not had “Big Bang,” which is back on Thursdays. Still, it has held up as the No. 2 new show of the season in total viewers. “Scorpion” has also grown CBS’s’ year-ago time period by 65 percent in total viewers and by 23 percent in the advertiser-sought 18-49 demographic.

Kahl’s network is also quite pleased with “Scorpion’s” delayed viewing numbers. Through the available three weeks of Live + 7 Day viewing, “Scorpion” has jumped 55 percent in 18-49, from a 2.9 to that aforementioned gaudy 4.5. It’s also gained 4.8 million viewers — up 37 percent — to nearly 18 million.

While CBS, cousins of youngest-skewing network The CW, swears it’s happy with its demographic position in the industry, Kahl copped: “You’re never going to turn down an 18-49 hit, you’ll gladly take them.”

Also read: ‘Scorpion’ EP Nick Santora Promises ‘Great Rides’ in Both Stunts and Character Arcs

In the older-shifted 25-54 demo, one that CBS focuses quite a bit on, “Scorpion” is averaging a 4.9, also ranking as the No. 2 new show there. By that metric, it has improved the network’s year-ago time period by 29 percent. In the L+7 25-54 measurement, “Scorpion” rises to a 6.0.

Throwing away all demos, “Scorpion” is also the network’s most-streamed new show this season to date — which generally means younger eyeballs are catching the program across multiple platforms.

“This is just one of those quintessential big tent shows for us: Big viewer number, terrific demo numbers, male/female appeal — it’s a balanced show that gets a big audience and it touches all the bases,” Kahl summed up. “It’s just an unqualified success.”

Read Fall TV’s Renewals and Cancellations: TheWrap’s Early Predictions

The CW, CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox/Ada Guerin, TheWrap
The CW, CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox/Ada Guerin, TheWrap