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:
- wheeling and dealing to get to the minimum number of episodes for stripped (Mon-Fri) syndication (88)
- shows that are still very popular in their broadcast runs (like The Big Bang Theory) and don't require much wheeling and dealing
- 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.
|How To Be a Gentleman||CBS||Canceled|
|I Hate My Teenage Daughter||Fox||Canceled|
|The Playboy Club||NBC||Canceled|
|Body of Proof||ABC||Certain Cancellation|
|The River||ABC||Certain Cancellation|
|A Gifted Man||CBS||Certain Cancellation|
|NYC 22||CBS||Certain Cancellation|
|The Finder||Fox||Certain Cancellation|
|Best Friends Forever||NBC||Certain Cancellation|
|Harry's Law||NBC||Certain Cancellation|
|Hart of Dixie||CW||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|
|Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23||ABC||Likely Renewal|
|Happy Endings||ABC||Likely Renewal|
|Last Man Standing||ABC||Likely Renewal|
|Two and a Half Men||CBS||Likely Renewal|
|30 Rock||NBC||Likely Renewal|
|Law & Order: SVU||NBC||Likely Renewal|
|Parks & Recreation||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|
|The Good Wife||CBS||Renewed|
|How I Met Your Mother||CBS||Renewed|
|Mike & Molly||CBS||Renewed|
|NCIS: Los Angeles||CBS||Renewed|
|Person of Interest||CBS||Renewed|
|The Cleveland Show||Fox||Renewed|
|Desperate Housewives||ABC||Final Season|
|One Tree Hill||CW||Final Season|