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
  • Alex Roggio

    I really liked this post. You wrote a lot, rambled a bit, and made bold predictions with lots of analysis plus presenting us with farfetched but cool ideas like CW saving Fringe. It was an interesting read, very different from the norm. I’d love it if you wrote long columns like this more offen for the Bubble Watch. It would be a far more interesting read than the Renewal/Cancel index which is traditionally just short posts featuring “This is getting renewed, this isn’t, the end”.

    Great job!

  • Ultima

    @The Big Toe
    *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.

    CBS cancelling a show in its 8th season would shock you, but CBS running new drama episodes on Saturdays wouldn’t?

  • Richard Steven Hack

    Matt Roush: “The reboot to a future war-against-the-Observers storyline, which I also quite enjoyed, is almost certainly driven creatively…”

    That was what he thinks of as “creative”?

    That was the writers absolutely out of ideas and just pulling stuff out of their butts…

    An Observer war makes absolute zero sense based on the show to date. Worse, it makes time travel a central element to the show, which as I’ve harped on numerous times is quite literally DEATH to most sci-fi shows. Worse, it’s just STUPID…

  • Richard Steven Hack

    Just saw the Masked Scheduler line about Fringe having better than 50/50 chance of being renewed.

    If this happens, yes, my head WILL explode. It will be a Dollhouse-level miracle – and the Fringe ratings next season will definitely drop below Dollhouse season two levels. I’m amazed they didn’t this season given how utterly crappy the entire season was.

    At least Joss in Dollhouse season two fixed most of the problems the show had and provided a nice closure for the series. I do NOT expect the clowns at Fringe to fix the problems THEY had in seasons three and four.

    And ANY closure they come up with is likely to be on a par with Lost’s and Battlestar’s “God did it”… Right now the only closure I’ll accept is if David Robert Jones proves to have been the Good Guy all along and he’s the only one left standing when the universe collapse clears…

    In fact, I’m still amazed that Fringe will air all its episodes. It should have been pulled in October or November.

  • iknowgoodshows

    @Richard Steven Hack
    why waste your time went Fringe if its been downhill since season 2? how about they end Fringe with it was just a big LSD trip Walter was having or he was in the mental hospital the whole time.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Bill Gorman

    “Just saw the Masked Scheduler line about Fringe having better than 50/50 chance of being renewed.

    If this happens, yes, my head WILL explode. It will be a Dollhouse-level miracle – and the Fringe ratings next season will definitely drop below Dollhouse season two levels. I’m amazed they didn’t this season given how utterly crappy the entire season was.”

    It think that “50/50″ tweet attributed to the Masked Scheduler was a complete fabrication. No link was ever provided.

    It would not be a Dollhouse level miracle. Don’t kid yourself. Dollhouse was a rookie show with terrible ratings. Fringe is a fourth season show with terrible ratings.

  • AO

    The Masked Scheduler link was the 6th post on page #10:


  • AO

    I like the idea of Fringe moving to the CW. I supported the idea when it was discussed last year too. I’d actually prefer to see it on the CW than Fox, as I think it would be interesting to see just how many viewers would switch Networks and I think that a pairing of it and SPN would benefit both shows.

  • AO

    Meanwhile, I’m 99% sure that I heard an ABC advertisement encouraging viewers to tune in to the last 2 Episodes of GCB before it’s series finale. I could have heard incorrectly, but I don’t think that I did. Likely a mistake by the advertising department, either in the series ending, or that they announced it in such a fashion.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Bill Gorman

    “The Masked Scheduler link was the 6th post on page #10:”

    I stand corrected.

  • AO

    I don’t think that Dollhouse‘s renewal should be classified as a “miracle”. Reilly knew that Kitchen shows and repeats of House & Fringe could do as well, or better than, original scripted content on Fridays. But he still stated back then that he wanted original scripted content on Fridays, a position that he’s maintained ever since. Perhaps the numbers that he sees that we don’t help to justify this position, perhaps he’s a fanboy with a unique position, perhaps this strategy makes sense for another reason, probably the truth lies somewhere in between.

    In any event, as long as he keeps to this strategy then I still think it a mistake to assume that the usual renewal rules apply to scripted Fox content on Fridays. Sometimes they do, but just as often, as seen by Dollhouse, Fringe last year, and Fringe again this year (if it gets renewed), they don’t, (or it’s a lot more of a question). I won’t be at all surprised if/when he does change this pattern, but until he does, I give such shows a better chance at renewal than they otherwise would have had.

  • Justin121

    – Kennith, what do you know about revenge?

    – Well, the Bible says it’s wrong but it’s the surprise hit of the season on ABC so… :D

    30 Rock [6.16]

  • observer

    The first Gaga’s song I have ever heard was when I was watching Fringe with Starstruck playing on the background! I’d hate to see the show get axed.

  • The Big Toe


    What the heck are you talking about? CBS does not run new drama episodes on Saturdays.

  • Richard Steven Hack

    Bill: Yes, Dollhouse was a rookie show but Joss made budget adjustments and fixes to the show to get a second season. Still, EVERYONE expected it to be canceled, including you. That’s what I mean. Fringe by all measurements should be canceled. If it gets renewed, it’s a miracle.

    Fringe is a show in its fourth season which should have been canceled after its third season. Which makes it even more unlikely that it will be renewed. At least Dollhouse had the POTENTIAL for growth in a second season – Fringe has ZERO potential for growth, and clearly the discussion is over whether it will be allowed to finish gracefully.

    I don’t buy the argument that the WB can give Fringe to Fox SO cheap that Fox will accept minimum ad rates for those 13 weeks when it can run almost anything including repeats of other better performing week night shows and get more revenue. Especially since the episodes of Fringe are likely to drift into second season Dollhouse ratings, i.e., .7-.9, by episode three or four.

    Also I don’t buy the argument that 13 more episodes of Fringe will raise the revenue from a potential syndication deal enough to justify the production expense for WB. And that’s even assuming Fringe actually gets any sort of significant syndication deal (i.e., other than in Outer Slobovia for ten cents an episode.)

    All of which means a renewal is a “miracle.”

  • Richard Steven Hack

    AO: You raise an interesting point about Reilly’s preferences for original content on Fridays, but against that there is the fact that at some point revenue has to come into play.

    If Fringe is renewed, the ratings will be sub-1.0 next season. I’m surprised they haven’t been that way this season. I see no reason to believe they will maintain current ratings after the usual new season drop off.

    So I find it hard to believe that Reilly is prepared for absolute minimum ad revenue for an entire 13 weeks in the fall just to keep original content on when he could opt for some other new show which almost certainly would do better than Fringe will.

    Dollhouse had at least the potential to improve in its season two, as Joss adjusted the budget and made fixes to the show. The fact that it didn’t work doesn’t mean there wasn’t SOME potential there. I see no evidence there is potential for improvement in a final 13 episodes of Fringe. Based on all of season four, I think it’s clear the writers have nowhere to go with the show. And with an almost certain drop off in ratings in a fifth season, I see no reason having original scripted content on Fridays would be a overriding factor.

  • milo

    “And ANY closure they come up with is likely to be on a par with Lost’s and Battlestar’s “God did it”… ”

    Looks like someone wildly misunderstood what actually happened on LOST…

  • jerm

    “Matt Roush: “The reboot to a future war-against-the-Observers storyline, which I also quite enjoyed, is almost certainly driven creatively…”

    That was what he thinks of as “creative”?

    That was the writers absolutely out of ideas and just pulling stuff out of their butts…”

    I believe that the problem of Fringe lies in that the producers and writers of the first 3 seasons have barely been invovled in the 4th season. Season 1 was basically a “Monster of the Week”, with a handful of shows hinting towards a main story arc. Personally, I believed that Fringe got better from Season 1 to 2 in that they began to move away from the model of “Monster of the Week” to developing a season long arc. Besides the first four shows of the Season 2, the main story arc did not truly start until roughly the last show before they went on break. However, the main story took off like a rocket for the last 1/3 of the season (Of the last 8 shows all but 1 involved devloping the main story arc). IMO, this was when the producers made a commitment to developing the future show towards a weekly show that was either part of the main arc, or it contained some type of background/mythology towards the main arc. During Season 3 was similar to the last 1/3 of Season 2, were if the show was not directly related to the arc, then it still contained some type of background mythology throughout the eposide.

    As I have already mentioined, from Season 1 to Season 2, there were a group of 5 people, J.J. Abrams, Jeff Pinker, J.H. Wyman, Josh Singer, and Akiva Goldsman (wrote both the movies A Beautiful Mind and American Beauty) who were involved with every eposide that was about the main arc, and they worked in teams of either 2 or 3 people. Of the 45 shows between Season 1 and 2, they were involved in 18 of them.

    The production of Season 3 was different than the previous two seasons. In the past, when an eposide was not prouded by 1 or 2 of the latter group of 5 producers, then the majority of the time they “outsourced” the eposide to someone who was only involved with just that show (an expection to this was Season 1, when Zack Weadon produced 6 shows). During Season 3, there were 8 people who produced every show. From the original group of 5 was the same except Abrams was not involved with producing Season 3, but both David Wilcox and Ethan Gross worked with the other 4. Together, these 6 people were involved with 19 of the 22 shows, and the other 3 shows were produced by the same two people. IMO, the “forumla” used for the producers for Season 3 was the main reason it flowed better than the previous 2 Seasons combined. At the end of Season 3, it felt like the show was moving into a very positive direction. However, I also believe that the decision to make just about every eposide of Season 3 part of one long arc was the reason for the decline in viewers.

    IMO, the reason the quality of Season 4 has declined is because the of the core group of producers during the first 3 Seasons only 3 of them remained, Akiva Goldsman, J. H. Wyman, and Jeff Pinkner. Furthermore, of the 19 shows aired this season, only 5 of them have been produced by the original producers. The remaining 14 shows were produced by 11 different people, 9 of them had produced a show or two in previous seasons, but 2 of them had never worked on the show before. They are they are using a model similar to some of the shows on USA, like Burn Notice, were the first 5 and last minutes of the show are devoted to the arc, and the rest of the show is a “Moster of the Week”, while sprinking in shows that are produced by the orginal core of producers. As a result, this is why Season 4 feels very choppy and honestly, boring.

    Personally, I believe that the “Suits” within Fox wanted the show to go back to the “Monster of the Week” model, which was the main model used thoughout Season 1 that brought 9 million viewers to the television set on a weekly basis. However, assuming the latter is true, then the “Suit or Suits” that thought and implented this plan are some of the dumbest people in television, honestly they made the Suits at NBC look like geniuses. Think about the following for a second. Over a period of the 3 Seasons, 65ish shows, the show slowly moved towards a weekly story arc. As a result, how would 6 million the viewers, which steadily left for the previous 1.5 seasons, either did not or could not follow a weekly televison show know that the show was going back to a model were you did not have to understand what happened the week before. Not to mention that as they try to maintain some resemablance of a story arc, they are using a different producer(s) each week when none of them have ever been involved in the main story arc. I will say that the 3 million fans who continue to tune in each week are hardcore fans.

    If Fox renews Fringe, for either 13 of 22 shows, then they need to go back to the model used in Season 3 with a core group of producers that all work on the show together. This way the same group of people that created the show can give the show the proper send off that it deserves.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    Re: Dollhouse. Dollhouse was a rookie show, a Fox produced show and a Joss Whedon show. My guess is they renewed in hopes the S1 DVD performed well.

    As far as Whats original question about @maskedschedulers tweet I will certainly upgrade Fringe to the bubble on Sunday if it isn’t renewed before then! Joel Wyman thinks there will be news this week.

  • Ugh

    There’s something wrong with your 800,000/episode calculation. Using your, admittedly unlikely, 100,000/episode increase per cumulative episodes, that would be 8,800,000 for the existing plus 500,000/episode for the remaining 13. (8.8M + 6.5M)/13 episodes = 1,177,000 per remaining episode. Probably still not enough to pay for each episode, but it’s a pretty good start.

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