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Fans Should Enjoy Life, Terminator, Knight Rider While They Can

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December 3rd, 2008

The Renew or Cancel Index is updated on a weekly basis, if you're reading this after December 9, 2008 click here to see the latest list.

Now that we've settled into the hoilday TV doldrums, there is unlikely to be much action for quite some time on show cancellations or renewals. New shows will be introduced to the network lineups beginning in January and we'll begin tracking them and their chances when they do, but until then all we can do is look at the marginal shows that survived past mid-season and forecast their chances today for renewal for 2009-10.

These categories are my guesses that may deviate a bit from the numbers in the Index, as I try and do a bit of fortune telling.

Prognosis Negative: Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles, Life, Gary Unmarried, Prison Break, Knight Rider, The Unit.

Fans of Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles and Life hope new timeslot opportunities save them, I highly doubt they will. Gary Unmarried likely doesn't get the "veteran benefit of the doubt" that Christine *may* get. Besides Prison Break's bad ratings, it's rumored to be on the way out. Only a ridiculously good deal with Ford (that we have no inside info about) could save Knight Rider. The Unit's numbers don't inspire hope, and it has CBS's worst ratings for a scripted drama.

A Fighting Chance to Survive: Law And Order, Ugly Betty, Life on Mars, Privileged.

Law & Order numbers are marginal now, but I think NBC's 18-49 average may fall enough in the spring to keep the old warhorse alive. Ugly Betty will be largely unscathed by American Idol which could boost it enough on a relative basis to survive. I'd give Life on Mars between a 25% and 50% chance of survival at this point based on nothing more than tea leaf reading. The fact that Privileged is being taken off the CW schedule in March with no word on its future is ominous.

Future renewal based on factors I cannot quantify: Everybody Hates Chris, The Game.

While their numbers are terrible, there are a number of factors that cannot be translated into numbers (from the data we get) that may keep them alive: (1) Low Friday night expectations; (2) Syndication potential; (3) "Political" concerns (can the CW cancel both its shows prominently featuring African Americans?). It's anybody's guess what will decide the fate of these two shows.

I Have No Idea: The New Adventures of Old Christine.

The ratings are bad, but are they significantly worse than CBS expected for the move to 8pm on a new night? Only Nina Tassler knows for sure.

As I wrote earlier, I’m going to begin taking into account the 18-49 ratings trends for the shows near last season’s Renew / Cancel line of 0.92 in projecting their fate at the end of this season. For example, while Cold Case and Without a Trace have Indexes below 0.92, their trends are positive and I think, on that basis, renewal is likely for both. If you see shows now indicating green that have Indexes below 0.92, it’s because their 18-49 trend has been positive. And even though Privileged currently seems to be "safe" the fact that it's being taken out of the schedule in March with no word on its future puts it in doubt.

While the Renew / Cancel index is most geared toward predicting potential renewal for *next* season, my color coding of the shows are guesses on what might happen this season: Cancelled/Not Returning, Cancellation by May, or Renewal Likely for 2009-10.


PROGRAM Net STD 18-49 (LIVE+SD) (000) Network Avg. STD 18-49 Renew/ Cancel index Status
EASY MONEY (1) CW 288 1,300 0.22 cancelled
VALENTINE (1) CW 345 1,300 0.27 cancelled
CRUSOE (2) NBC 1,543 3,640 0.42 now Sat
DO NOT DISTURB FOX 2,097 3,730 0.56 cancelled
LIPSTICK JUNGLE NBC 2,121 3,640 0.58 cancelled
THE EX LIST (2) CBS 2,443 4,050 0.60 cancelled
PUSHING DAISIES ABC 2,470 4,070 0.61 cancelled
ELI STONE ABC 2,545 4,070 0.63 cancelled
TIL DEATH FOX 2,364 3,730 0.63 off sched
DIRTY SEXY MONEY ABC 2,658 4,070 0.65 cancelled
LIFE - WED (4) NBC 2,461 3,640 0.68
EVERYBODY HATES CHRIS (2) CW 890 1,300 0.68
BOSTON LEGAL ABC 2,795 4,070 0.69 final season
NEW ADVS OF OLD CHRISTINE (3) CBS 2,837 4,050 0.70
TERMINATOR: SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES FOX 2,748 3,730 0.74
NUMB3RS (2) CBS 2,994 4,050 0.74
KNIGHT RIDER NBC 2,692 3,640 0.74
Law And Order NBC 2,739 3,640 0.75
GARY UNMARRIED CBS 3,059 4,050 0.76
THE GAME (2) CW 987 1,300 0.76
MY OWN WORST ENEMY NBC 2,885 3,640 0.79 cancelled
PRISON BREAK FOX 3,053 3,730 0.82
THE UNIT CBS 3,352 4,050 0.83
GHOST WHISPERER (2) CBS 3,468 4,050 0.86
WITHOUT A TRACE CBS 3,546 4,050 0.88
UGLY BETTY ABC 3,575 4,070 0.88
LIFE ON MARS ABC 3,616 4,070 0.89
KATH & KIM NBC 3,239 3,640 0.89
Private Practice ABC 3,642 4,070 0.89
COLD CASE CBS 3,646 4,050 0.90
SAMANTHA WHO? ABC 3,703 4,070 0.91
CHUCK NBC 3,326 3,640 0.91
Last Season Shows Below This Line Were Typically Renewed
PRIVILEGED CW 1,201 1,300 0.92
MY NAME IS EARL NBC 3,523 3,640 0.97
ELEVENTH HOUR CBS 4,011 4,050 0.99
WORST WEEK CBS 4,088 4,050 1.01
BONES FOX 4,199 3,730 1.13
American Dad FOX 4,259 3,730 1.14
The Big Bang Theory CBS 4,757 4,050 1.17
THE Mentalist CBS 4,784 4,050 1.18
CSI: NY CBS 4,798 4,050 1.18
BROTHERS & SISTERS ABC 4,823 4,070 1.19
NCIS CBS 4,812 4,050 1.19
KING OF THE HILL FOX 4,475 3,730 1.20 not renewed
E.R. NBC 4,588 3,640 1.26 final season
Criminal Minds CBS 5,198 4,050 1.28
How I Met Your Mother CBS 5,238 4,050 1.29
CSI: MIAMI CBS 5,259 4,050 1.30
Law And Order:SVU NBC 4,767 3,640 1.31
Fringe FOX 4,994 3,730 1.34
30 ROCK NBC 4,992 3,640 1.37
Supernatural CW 1,825 1,300 1.40
Simpsons FOX 5,537 3,730 1.48
HEROES NBC 5,485 3,640 1.51
Family Guy FOX 5,680 3,730 1.52
Gossip Girl CW 2,065 1,300 1.59
Two and a Half Men CBS 6,531 4,050 1.61
OFFICE NBC 5,955 3,640 1.64
90210 CW 2,132 1,300 1.64
One Tree Hill CW 2,136 1,300 1.64
Smallville CW 2,230 1,300 1.72
CSI CBS 7,159 4,050 1.77
HOUSE FOX 6,792 3,730 1.82
Desperate Housewives ABC 7,915 4,070 1.94
GREY'S ANATOMY ABC 8,174 4,070 2.01

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The Renew/Cancel Index is a show's Season To Date adults 18-49 viewership divided by its networks Season to Date average 18-49 viewership.

(1) CW MRC Sunday - The CW leased its entire Sunday night to Media Rights Capital (MRC). 11/20 Update: That experiment is now at an end, the MRC shows will air for the final time on 11/23/08 and the CW will begin airing repeats and movies starting on 11/30/08.

(2) Friday night - Friday is quickly becoming an 18-49 wasteland, so these shows may be allowed a lower threshold for success than shows on other nights.

(3) New Adventures of Old Christine: Perhaps CBS is willing to accept low numbers in its new timeslot indefinitely to build a new "comedy block". Perhaps CBS will return Christine to the warmth and safety of Monday night and cut Worst Week or Gary Unmarried loose. And perhaps not.

(4) Life moved to Wednesday beginning November 5. This is its Wednesday only STD 18-49 average as calculated by me. For past reference, the 4 Life episodes that aired on Fridays averaged 2.043 million adults 18-49.

How did we come up with our Index? We found that last season, the future of a show was nearly directly related to its adults 18-49 average viewers divided by its networks 18-49 average viewers. Many other factors may matter, but they all seemed to boil down to that one number. Because American Idol so skewed Fox's 18-49 average, and would make nearly all Fox shows fall into the "cancel" range, for Fox, I used the last STD 18-49 average *before* Idol. Last season, if a show had better than 92% of its network's average 18-49 viewership (0.92 in our index) it was pretty safe, below that level it was in danger.

Remember that plenty can change before the end of the season, particularly for the shows with indexes between 0.80 and last season’s renewal line of 0.92. The list is presented in a (and has to be, since I cannot predict future ratings) “what would happen if the season ended today” mode. Could the renewal line be 0.86 this season? Possibly. It might also be 0.95. Might it be 0.70? No chance.

And for folks thinking "No way would the networks cancel all of those shows", there were 25 scripted shows cancelled in the 2007-8 season. That is, shows that ran during 2007-8 that did not come back for 2008-9. These same networks cancelled at least 30 scripted shows that aired during 2006-7, although that's just from a quick look at that season to date list that could suffer from a number of possible errors on my part, but the magnitude of shows cancelled was similar.

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For unscripted shows, the results from last season were far less cut and dried. A similar relationship did seem to hold between 18-49 averages, but some unscripted shows survived with very low numbers. My conclusion was that some unscripted shows must be so cheap that they are expected to do little more than fill air time and produce little in the way of viewership. However The Closer a show is to the top of the list the more danger it's in of being cancelled or not returning when it's run is completed. Other shows can be judged by their relative position on our list ranked from most likely to be cancelled to least likely to be cancelled.


PROGRAM Net STD 18-49 (LIVE+SD) (000) Network Avg. STD 18-49 Renew/ Cancel index Status
IN HARM'S WAY CW 355 1,300 0.27 cancelled
AMERICA'S TOUGHEST JOBS NBC 1,453 3,640 0.40
DEAL OR NO DEAL-FRI NBC 1,699 3,640 0.47
WIFE SWAP ABC 1,929 4,070 0.47
SMARTER THAN 5TH GRADER FOX 1,830 3,730 0.49
SAT NIGHT FTBL PRE-GAME ABC 2,029 4,070 0.50
Supernanny ABC 2,162 4,070 0.53
OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS ABC 2,175 4,070 0.53 cancelled
48 Hours Mystery CBS 2,169 4,050 0.54
DON'T FORGET THE LYRICS FOX 2,017 3,730 0.54
COPS FOX 2,163 3,730 0.58
HOLE IN WALL THU-8P FOX 2,184 3,730 0.59
20/20-FRI ABC 2,637 4,070 0.65
AMW: AMERICA FIGHTS BACK FOX 2,440 3,730 0.65
COPS 2 FOX 2,541 3,730 0.68
FOOTBALL NT AMERICA PT 2 NBC 2,494 3,640 0.69
AMER FUNN HOME VIDEOS ABC 2,920 4,070 0.72
Kitchen Nightmares FOX 2,902 3,730 0.78
STYLISTA CW 1,107 1,300 0.85
SAT NIGHT FOOTBALL ABC 3,571 4,070 0.88
Amazing Race 13 CBS 4,185 4,050 1.03
60 Minutes CBS 4,490 4,050 1.11
Biggest Loser 6 NBC 4,077 3,640 1.12
FOOTBALL NT AMERICA PT 3 NBC 4,340 3,640 1.19
Extreme Makeover:HM ED-8P ABC 4,903 4,070 1.20
DANCING W/STARS RESULTS ABC 5,365 4,070 1.32
SURVIVOR: GABON CBS 5,599 4,050 1.38
Dancing with the Stars ABC 5,788 4,070 1.42
SUNDAY NIGHT NFL PRE-KICK NBC 5,636 3,640 1.55
THE OT FOX 6,110 3,730 1.64
AMERICA'S Top Model CW 2,562 1,300 1.97
NBC Sunday Night Football NBC 8,489 3,640 2.33

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Nielsen TV Ratings Data: ©2008 The Nielsen Company. All Rights Reserved. All viewership numbers are Live+SD.

 
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