Bubble Watch: Would 'Fringe' Rate as Well on the CW as 'Supernatural' Does And How Bad Would It Be for 'Nikita' If It Did?

Categories: Bubble Watch

Written By

April 22nd, 2012


The season is winding down and there’s not much new under the sun and I’m not very interested in writing 1,000 words about the fates of Private Practice, Scandal and GCB which ends with them still all on the bubble anyway (I’m not ready to lower GCB just because it was sunk by Titanic on April 15).

Could Syndication Really Save 'Fringe'?

The bold text above was the original headline for today's post.  But I decided I wanted to spice it up and rather than go with "What's More Likely To Save 'Fringe:'  Syndication Or Anna Torv's former Uncle-in-Law?" I worked 'Supernatural and Nikita' into the headline instead.

I’ve had Fringe as “likely to be canceled” for a long while now which basically means I’m not a buyer when it comes to the notion of wheeling and dealing to get more episodes for syndication. I don't completely rule it out or I'd have Fringe as 'certain to be canceled'

The main reason I don’t buy into the “more episodes for syndication” thinking for Fringe is basic economics. First, there doesn’t appear to be any demand for it and that it has been more serialized and targeted at hard core fans in later episodes probably doesn’t help.

There are definitely a few cases where "more is better for syndication" is clearly the conventional wisdom.  Those cases are:

  1. wheeling and dealing to get to the minimum number of episodes for stripped (Mon-Fri) syndication (88)
  2. shows that are still very popular in their broadcast runs (like The Big Bang Theory) and don't require much wheeling and dealing
  3. shows that were popular enough (had decent ratings) for five or more years where it's pretty clear the renewals are purely to pad numbers for syndication (like According to Jim).

Fringe only fits the “get to 88” model and Warner Bros has already taken care of that*.

*Make sure you break the long pilot episode into two episodes for syndication purposes when you’re counting the episodes on Wikipedia.

The basic factors of the "more is better" approach are that there will be more episodes getting the per episode fee and that as a result of those extra episodes the potential fee for ALL episodes is higher. A simple (and completely fictional) illustration: let’s say Syfy teams up with ABC’s affiliate stations and tells Warner Bros. “We’re willing to pay you $400,000 per episode for the 88 episodes of Fringe, but if you make 13 more, we’ll pay you $500,000 per episode for all 101 of them.”  This is a very unlikely scenario from either aspect.  Fringe is not a highly sought after target and  I don’t think there’s any chance that the 13 extra episodes would add that much to the per episode pricing across all episodes. Even if it did, the extra money wouldn’t pay for the 13 additional episodes unless they planned to make them for less than $800,000 each*.

*This simple look only looks at domestic syndication. Also, presumably the Warner Bros spreadsheet analyzing the economics factors in stuff I don’t like “how much will we be making from Fringe syndication in the year 2032?” but I look around and see “Lost” isn’t currently airing anywhere in the USA. I’m sure more than one of you is thinking “Lost’s finale wrecked its syndication prospects!” but I still think it can't bode well at all for Fringe’s syndication economics.

But They Did It for ‘Chuck!’

No, "they" didn't.

Perhaps the revisionist history will spin the Warner Bros’ wheeling and dealing to get a fifth and final 13 episode season of Chuck as the feel good story everybody’s talking about. But if it gets spun as Warner Bros loved the cast and crew and NBC did it because it loves its fans, that’s nonsense. Although Chuck had four seasons under its belt before the final renewal, due to the WGA strike in 2007 and a not quite full third season (if full = 22 episodes) Chuck did not have enough episodes for stripped syndication at the end of its fourth season. It was still ten episodes shy.

So "more is better for syndication" doesn't make much sense to me with Fringe. That doesn't mean it won't happen. If Fringe gets renewed rest assured that it's more likely that there is a spreadsheet somewhere that says more episodes for syndication makes sense than Kevin Reilly just loves Fringe so much he'll say “Screw it, I don’t care if it costs more than it’s worth, I have to have one more little season of Fringe!” or  that Warner Bros loves Fringe so much that if Reilly doesn’t say that Warner Bros will step in and say “Screw it, we don’t care if we can never make the money back, we have to make one more little season of Fringe!”

Sadly, I think Fringe getting canceled is a more likely outcome than any of those scenarios (or the Anna Torv's former uncle-in-law scenario -- but I leave room open for the "we have compromising pictures of you" scenario.)

Warning: Train Wreck Ahead

Hold on a minute, did he really just completely blow off writing about Private Practice, GCB and  Scandal to basically write the exact same things about Fringe that he’s written 10 times already this year?

I did do that, yes.  You know how some people have “trains of thought?”  This winds up a “train wreck” of thought -- if I ever have one about GCB and Scandal, I promise I'll share that one with you, too but since you’ve already ridden this far…

If You're Gonna Go Crazy, Go Crazy!

Why Not The CW?

If you believe that Warner Bros really wants 13 episodes of Fringe no matter what (for the record, I don't believe that) then why not also believe that if Fox passes even at a deeply discounted price, that Warner Bros would offer it to the CW for similar pricing? After all, at least the CW is half-owned by the Time Warner mother ship. If you buy into the notion that Fringe would rate at least as well as Supernatural, then why wouldn't the CW want it at a discount? It would be tied as CW’s second highest-rated scripted show at that level.

I definitely don’t buy into the notion that Fringe would rate as well on the CW as it does on Fox, but it’s conceivable that it could rate as well as Supernatural. It’s also conceivable that it wouldn’t rate as well as Supernatural.  It’s easy to say “hard core fans will find it no matter where it is” but in the hierarchy of clichés, “out of sight out of mind” packs a much more powerful punch than “if you make it, the faithful fans will come.”

Still, I’d love, love to see another season with Supernatural and Fringe both on the Friday night schedule and in this train wreck scenario, that would be more bad news for Nikita fans.

Or Straight to Netflix!

For the record, I think it's more likely that you will see the headline "Netflix Eyes 'Fringe'" than the headline "CW Saves 'Fringe.'" I'm pretty sure Nellie Andreeva has boilerplate for the "Netflix Eyes" pieces and it's pretty easy to write the Fringe piece now:

Fringe's ratings are anemic. But it is the type of show — a heavily serialized genre series — that works well on streaming services like Netflix. Fringe's Live+7 ratings bump, 66.7% vs. Live+Same Day according to the most recent available data, is solid and much better than that of Terra Nova (44%), which Netflix opted to pass on even though it was higher-rated overall than Fringe. DVR ratings are indicative of how many viewers prefer to “stream” a show on their own timetable instead of watching it the night it airs.

When it comes to bubble status, like the Renew/Cancel Index we're focusing on the likelihood that a show will be renewed **for next season** (2012-13).  Certain shows are toss-ups where based on the ratings, the renewal decisions could go either way and not be surprising.

Here, “canceled” is used interchangeably with “won’t be renewed for next season” and is not meant to imply a show will be yanked off the schedule in the current season though obviously the two outcomes are not mutually exclusive. The semantics police and lawyers should feel free to break out the handcuffs and plead their cases in the comments. Besides, no matter what anyone at ABC says, reasonable people know with certainty that Pan Am isn't coming back next season.

This Isn't The Renew/Cancel Index

Though the basic methodology is the same (intra-network relative ranking of shows by adults 18-49 ),unlike the Renew/Cancel Index which predicts what would happen if the season ended now, Bubble Watch prognosticates about what will happen by May. The two are still usually closely aligned, and almost certainly very closely aligned towards the end of the season.


Note: only scripted shows that have aired at least one episode this season are in the table below.


Show Network Status
Charlie's Angels ABC Canceled
Man Up ABC Canceled
Pan Am ABC Canceled
Work It ABC Canceled
How To Be a Gentleman CBS Canceled
Allen Gregory Fox Canceled
Breaking In Fox Canceled
I Hate My Teenage Daughter Fox Canceled
Terra Nova Fox Canceled
The Firm NBC Canceled
Free Agents NBC Canceled
Prime Suspect NBC Canceled
The Playboy Club NBC Canceled
Body of Proof ABC Certain Cancellation
Missing ABC Certain Cancellation
The River ABC Certain Cancellation
A Gifted Man CBS Certain Cancellation
NYC 22 CBS Certain Cancellation
Ringer CW Certain Cancellation
Alcatraz Fox Certain Cancellation
The Finder Fox Certain Cancellation
Awake NBC Certain Cancellation
Bent NBC Certain Cancellation
Best Friends Forever NBC Certain Cancellation
Harry's Law NBC Certain Cancellation
Unforgettable CBS Likely Cancellation
Hart of Dixie CW Likely Cancellation
Fringe Fox Likely Cancellation
Are You There, Chelsea? NBC Likely Cancellation
Cougar Town ABC On The Bubble
GCB ABC On The Bubble
Private Practice ABC On The Bubble
Scandal ABC On The Bubble
CSI: Miami CBS On The Bubble
CSI: NY CBS On The Bubble
Rob CBS On The Bubble
Rules of Engagement CBS On The Bubble
Gossip Girl CW On The Bubble
Nikita CW On The Bubble
The Secret Circle CW On The Bubble
Bob's Burgers Fox On The Bubble
Napoleon Dynamite Fox On The Bubble
Up All Night NBC On The Bubble
Castle ABC Likely Renewal
Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 ABC Likely Renewal
Happy Endings ABC Likely Renewal
Last Man Standing ABC Likely Renewal
Revenge ABC Likely Renewal
Suburgatory ABC Likely Renewal
Two and a Half Men CBS Likely Renewal
90210 CW Likely Renewal
Supernatural CW Likely Renewal
Touch Fox Likely Renewal
30 Rock NBC Likely Renewal
Community NBC Likely Renewal
Law & Order: SVU NBC Likely Renewal
Parenthood NBC Likely Renewal
Parks & Recreation NBC Likely Renewal
Whitney NBC Likely Renewal
Grey's Anatomy ABC Certain Renewal
Modern Family ABC Certain Renewal
Once Upon a Time ABC Certain Renewal
The Middle ABC Certain Renewal
Vampire Diaries CW Certain Renewal
The Office NBC Certain Renewal
2 Broke Girls CBS Renewed
The Big Bang Theory CBS Renewed
Blue Bloods CBS Renewed
Criminal Minds CBS Renewed
CSI CBS Renewed
The Good Wife CBS Renewed
Hawaii Five-0 CBS Renewed
How I Met Your Mother CBS Renewed
The Mentalist CBS Renewed
Mike & Molly CBS Renewed
NCIS CBS Renewed
NCIS: Los Angeles CBS Renewed
Person of Interest CBS Renewed
American Dad Fox Renewed
Bones Fox Renewed
The Cleveland Show Fox Renewed
Family Guy Fox Renewed
Glee Fox Renewed
New Girl Fox Renewed
Raising Hope Fox Renewed
The Simpsons Fox Renewed
Grimm NBC Renewed
Smash NBC Renewed
Desperate Housewives ABC Final Season
One Tree Hill CW Final Season
House Fox Final Season
Chuck NBC Final Season
  • nerv

    Fringe is not a smart show, just like most shows on broadcast TV. It’s the fact that the show has been heavily serialized lately that it only attracts few viewers, mostly hardcore fans like me.
    I mean, come on, would you watch a serialized show like this and not know how and why those weird plot devices and twists happened? Some viewers would recommend watching or downloading previous episodes but that would take a lot of time so most would decide to just focus on their favorites.

  • nerv

    And if I were to recommend Fringe, I would always say to the person to watch it from the start.

  • 092112

    C’mon…RENEW FRINGE….please renew at least one show that appeals to an intelligent viewing audience over 12 yrs old. That Idol continues to go on ad nauseum is obscene. Time to bury the faux reality shows and give the well-scripted, well-acted shows their due.

    DON’T CANCEL FRINGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Simon

    LOVE seeing RENEWED next to Person of Interest! Considering the rough & rocky start to the show ratings wise it has become TV#1 new Drama, hugh fan of the show too! Now all I need to see is:

    Once Upon A Time RENEWED
    Castle RENEWED
    Fringe RENEWED
    Nikita RENEWED
    Supernatural RENEWED

  • What?

    @Robert Seidman: Sorry it took so long, but here it is:

    Reply to my comment, to make sure you saw it.

  • Chris B

    It just sucks that quality matters so little. Fringe is the best drama on network tv. To my fellow Fringe fans, don’t blame the execs when it gets cancelled. Blame the average tv viewer for having such awful taste.

  • Percysowner

    Well, as someone predicted, the idea that Fringe will move to the CW is now going even more mainstream. I don’t think it was this column, but great (?) minds think alike.

    Matt Roush: The reboot to a future war-against-the-Observers storyline, which I also quite enjoyed, is almost certainly driven creatively, not by some ulterior motive to keep the show alive on another platform — although the creators have spoken in the past about continuing the franchise in graphic-novel or webisode form if Fox does indeed pull the plug. The likelihood of Syfy (in particular) picking this up is very slim, mostly for economic reasons but also because they’ve got a fairly full slate of shows already, including several in development. I’ve begun to wonder if Warner Bros., which produces the show, might turn to one of its primary distribution arms, The CW, to keep Fringe alive for however much of a fifth season they need to wrap things up. (Just speculating here; haven’t heard a thing and wouldn’t necessarily expect it to happen.) One of my favorite aspects of the Fringe experience is watching it reinvent itself every season. I’d love to see it get this last chance.

  • AC75


    “C’mon…RENEW FRINGE….please renew at least one show that appeals to an intelligent viewing audience over 12 yrs old. That Idol continues to go on ad nauseum is obscene. Time to bury the faux reality shows and give the well-scripted, well-acted shows their due.

    DON’T CANCEL FRINGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

    Your overuse of the Caps Lock button and of the exclamation point would suggest you’re actually a 12 year old. But thanks for touting your intelligence.

  • BL

    HL is NBC’s highest scripted show in viewership, yet it has a pathetic demographic 18-49 rating. I feel that it should move to Saturday nights if it skews that old for next season. If it does get cancelled this season, it’s not only because of terrible rating (18-49 category) despite getting 8-9 viewers a week but also the reviews are not very impressive.

  • HotLatino4GayMarriage

    FLOP OF DIXIE- Still likely cancellation! YAY!

  • HotLatino4GayMarriage

    Fringe is a show that only very smart people can follow, that’s why it isn’t as popular as a dumb show like H-5-0.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    @What: thanks. I had not seen that.

  • JJJ

    Joel Wyman has just tweeted he gives Fringe a 9.99 out of 10 chance to be renewed this week. So it’s really a done deal–and this being said from someone who annoyed by Fringe fans talking about how intelligent they are.

    They will get a final 13 episode season–Wyman was asked last week and he said it looks like 13 episodes…which is also the same number that UK website gave when they said a final season was a done deal.

  • JJJ

    *who is annoyed*

  • milo

    Doesn’t it make at least a little bit of difference whether a show ends with closure or not, in terms of the value of having a completed series in the can? Giving a series even a partial final season or canceling it but giving the producers a heads up with a few episodes to go, they can write an actual ending and tie up loose ends. The alternative is a cancelation with no warning which often ends up with a show ending with no resolution or worse a cliffhanger.

    Doesn’t a satisfying ending give the show more value in the long run? Besides syndication there’s DVD sales as well as streaming rights (which as you point out would seem to be a good fit for serialized shows)? Regardless of how much people love a show, ending it in a bad way is going to hurt some of that goodwill. And won’t that give the show worse word of mouth which will steer people away from checking it out on DVD or streaming? Personally when I’m deciding what shows to stream on Netflix I’ll often find out under what circumstances it ended and make sure it didn’t end in a way that annoyed everyone.

    In the case of Fringe, I’m pretty shocked they didn’t see the end coming and just decide to let them finish out this season but declare it the final one early enough that they could work their way to an endgame. At this point I’d love to see them get 8-13 more episodes to finish it off. And heck, why not get it on Netflix this summer including this season’s episodes. I wouldn’t be surprised if having it there, more people would check it out and get caught up and even provide a boost in ratings for new episodes.

  • Dennis

    I am a Fringe fan but I cannot stand seeing postings saying “People are too stupid to enjoy Fringe” or “viewers just aren’t smart enough to like it”

    It as simple as this: It a four year old show, which each season it gets more and more complicated for the average tv viewer to understand, if they are just jumping in the odd week, therefore loses viewers.
    The whole thing of rebooting Fringe for its 4th season so that new viewers can just jump in is bull.
    the 4th season has by far been the most complicated season

  • FringeCW

    Fringe on CW, could be, most of the viewers love soap:

    This is what on twitter/tumblr goes on in Fringe world”:

    Olivia having to fall for Pter over and over , and over, even giving up her being, woman sacrificing for the man.

    Olivia giving Peter his child, crying that she must be pregnant now, seeing that as her ultimate goal.
    (Remember she was calle the hero and Chosen one once).

    Crying as a woman who never knew her father but when meeting him calls him dad.

    Wanting pictures of Etta, daddy Peter and granddad Walter.

    Loving and praising someone who instead of playing Etta, copies Olivia , mimicking not acting, and not caring that the actress Anna Torv who created Olivia Dunham the past 4 years, has been backstabbed by the showrunners.

    With this so called smart fanbase CW could be the place.

    And episode 419 not only had a copycat äctress, but the entire episode was copycat B-movie , set in 1936, not 2036. Black and White 1920 movie Mephisto , had more scifi feel than this episode.

    I watch the last episodes for what may be her last as FBI agent Olivia Dunham awesome Emmy worthy Anna Torv.
    Season 5 will be watched by even less viewers, as Fringe without Anna Torv is No Fringe.

  • The Big Toe

    Fringe is awesome! Why cancel it when it is SOOOOO well-made?

    At least Grimm got renewed. I love Grimm; I am a Grimm.

  • The Big Toe

    @HotLatino4GayMarriage I agree with you, but Hawaii Five-0 can’t be dumb even when it’s a remake of the 60s show. In fact, my friend thinks it’s okay, but I’ve never seen it. I love Fringe though!

  • The Big Toe

    Here’s my bubble show predictions:

    *Cougar Town — Like the show, but this is the usual amount of seasons a comedy would get, so…canceled.
    *GCB — I would expect a cancellation for this one.
    *Private Practice — It has to be renewed, but it depends on Scandal’s future. I’m not making a verdict on this one yet.
    *Scandal — It just started; give it a chance.
    *CSI: Miami — This will be renewed.
    *CSI: NY — With the new cast, it’s a tough call, but a cancellation would shock me, so…renewed.
    *Rob — I don’t like this show that much. I do predict a cancellation, but not because of that.
    *Rules of Engagement — This is one of those comedies that must be renewed, and it will be.
    *Gossip Girl — Of course it will be renewed; who would even want to cancel it?
    *Nikita — OMG, why renew it! It will be canceled; totally! I want it in likely cancellation for once.
    *The Secret Circle — I think this will be renewed because it’s the same guy who created The Vampire Diaries.
    *Bob’s Burgers — What the…it got renewed already!
    *Napoleon Dynamite — I think that this show is a real bubble show.
    *Up All Night — Either way would not shock me.

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