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
  • Bunny

    I guessed ABC changed their mind about early renewals or….Michael Ausiello (tvline) report is wrong…


  • Sophia

    Your bubble watch list is ridiculous. Why is Nikita STILL “on the bubble”? Because it’s a Friday show means it can hit whatever ratings it wants? And Hart of Dixie on “likely cancellation”? You know the CW have different standards considering shows are now getting 0.5s as a normal number, a 0.6 is like the new 0.8. And that’s exactly what Hart of Dixie has been getting.

  • Dennis

    Fringe season avarage 3.10 million
    Supernatural season average 1.77 million

    So ya, even if Fringe lost alot of viewers it would probably still get more viewers then Supernatural

  • Tested

    One aspect of moving Fringe to the CW is that it could potentially give that network viewers who NEVER EVER watch any show there. (like me)
    That might make it more valuable to CW than its current ratings indicate.
    That said, I think Fringe would have far fewer viewers than it does now, but more viewers than current CW programming at that time.

    Netflix is an interesting idea, but they sure wouldn’t want to pay much per episode for it. I am not currently a Netflix subscriber, but I might sign up if they got Fringe. So then figure how many people would have to join Netflix to make Fringe worth its while. If they paid say 800k an episode for Fringe, they’d have to gain say 100k subscribers to break even for say 12-13 episodes a year. That’s not going to happen. They’d have to pay a lot less than 800k per episode, presumably in a deal with the WB so they could then turn around and sell another season on DVD for a nice profit.

    As for syndication.. you all realize that syndication of this show would likely fall along the lines of Grey’s Anatomy – where it airs only on weekend late nights on network affiliates. You’re not going to see Fringe stripped 5 nights a week on your local TV station. There’s not a lot of value in this show for syndication in the US. It has more value as a show sold to a cable network, either as a strip or a weekend show. I have no idea how popular Fringe is around the globe, but you have to imagine that the vast majority of the revenue (75%+) for this show comes from the US.

  • Tessa

    Lol, that picture!!!

    Now I want a crossover. It would be glorious if the Winchesters met Walter. The amount of comedy that would generate would hit the roof. Maybe the SPN writers see this headline and get inspired to give us another meta like “Changing Channels” only with just Fringe. :D

  • C4M

    @Petar last year the hardcore fans were 1.9 demo. This year the hardcore fans are 1 demo. The definition of “hardcore fan” is pretty fluid IMO when half of them are gone in the space of a season.

  • Dennis

    I’m not sure how big Fringe is around the world but I do know that it gets great ratings in the UK on Sky, and the ratings haven’t really dropped much since season 1

  • gustavo

    CW should air sitcoms instead:For example every sitcom CBS dump could be picked up by CW.I mean all the shows cancelled by CBS are performing better than every show on CW.

  • Bunny

    It’s interesting that syndication improved BBT’s ratings but didn’t help 30 rock

  • Dennis


    Every show losses viewers each year

    Supernatural last year averaged 1.0 in the demo, this season its average is 0.7

  • pandorajinel(formerly Erin)

    At first I thought Fringe would do just as well on CW and it has on FOX, but then I remembered that CW puts full episodes up the next day and I wonder if that would screw up Fringe’s numbers even more than a network move.

    @Petar personally, I don’t know anyone (not even most of the people here) who wouldn’t watch a show that they liked just because of the network on which it airs. That isn’t the same as not giving a show a chance because of a network’s reputation (which I think we can all agree is feasible).

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Bill Gorman

    “Every show losses viewers each year”

    “Every” isn’t correct.

    “Most” of “The majority of” is correct.

  • suzie

    @Bill please answer my question as to why Nikita is still on the bubble?

  • Petar

    Well keep in mind that friday is “graveyard” for big 4 networks! Thats they call it! And its really do! When show go to friday usually lose 50% from the viewers! For example The finder last time after Idol was with 2.3 rating(now touch dose’t look so “likely” aren’t Seidman)and first time in friday was 1.1rating! While fringe lose very slowly his demo! And all season 4 is 1.1 in the fall and 1.0 in the spring! Most of the shows go in fridays for last 3-4 ep to die! Fringe save full season stable!
    May be most people choose to watch via internet than watch tv in friday in us i don’t know but i know this fans are still there! You just can’t win fan award after fan award if people are stop to watch fringe!

    Fringe Wins TV Guide Magazine Fan Favorite Award

  • Brandy

    Nikita should be likley/certain to be cancelled, its gotten three 0.4s & except for possibly the finale, wont get 0.5_0.6 ever again. Hart of Dixie should be on the bubble.One of SC or HoD will be cancelled if cw can afford it after cancelling Ringer, Nikita,OTH, H8tr,Remodeled,Framed/The Frame.I believe that Arrow will be paired up with SPN next fall. I really want gg, vd, sc,hod,probably 90210 renewed.

  • Forgedias

    The only way I ever see Warner Bro. produce those 13 extra episodes is if Fringe gets renewed for another season. But lets say Fringe doesn’t get renewed, but WB wants to leverage Fringe in the syndication market. Well they have a possible way of going about this. They could produce those 13 extra episodes even though they don’t have a network paying for them and then go straight to the DVD market with that last season.

    There must be some diehard hardcore fans of Fringe out there, fans who after all these seasons, would pony up the cash to buy a last season DVD collection. If you could manage to get sales of 1 million or so copies done, you would make all the money back that you used to produce the last season.

    Normally this wouldn’t work, since after a season or two, after a show gets cancelled, you wouldn’t find enough fans to buy a season if it was produced for DVD only. But because its Frings, and there is a market in places like England and Canada as well. You could find enough buyers for a last season order.

    Fringe already meets the 88 episode number, so would WB go about this? I have my doubts, but if they are serious about trying to get Fringe into syndication, you might see a strategy like this.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Bill Gorman

    “@Bill please answer my question as to why Nikita is still on the bubble?”

    That’s Robert’s question to answer. Or not.

  • suzie

    @ Bill

    Why do you think Nikita is still on the bubble? ;)

  • C4M

    @Dennis Every show losses viewers each year

    Thanks for stating the obvious, what I was alluding to was that the notion that any show has “bottomed” out and it’ “Just hardcore fans” watching any more is completely wrong

  • Bee

    cougar’s 1-hour season finale is airing may 29th i heard. is that another nail in the coffin?

    and the GCP/PP/scandal battle is gonna come down to the wire. i’m REALLY REALLY hoping all 3 are renewed for at least 13 episodes. PP is a vet that deserves to wrap up it’s storylines (amongst a bunch of other reasons) with one final season, while scandal and GCB got the misfortune of premiering during this awful spring. they’re both, especially scandal, very well-received and deserve a chance to build on their existing buzz in the fall. besides, they’ll both be on DVD in june, which allows people to catch up and their super short seasons make them very easy to repeat over the summer, though i doubt it since it’s ABC and they lack brains soemtimes.

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