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
  • Tessa

    I went with “Fringe will do worse than Supernatural” because being on the CW is in and of itself a death blow. The netlet’s image (“Eww, that’s a channel for tweeeeens!!!”) and its limited availability causes damage to many of their shows’ ratings. People look at Gossip Girl and 90210 and think Supernatural and Nikita are also shows about good looking people with relationship dramas. What would the casual viewer think of Fringe if it ends up on the Blake Lively train?

    The only reason Supernatural is still breathing is because of its fanbase. I once got into an argument with a bunch of denizens on this site when I claimed Supernatural’s fanbase was bigger than that of NCIS LA. They asked for proof and my brain didn’t churn well enough to point them to the facebook pages. If you go and take a look at Supernatural’s facebook page you’ll have a glimpse of the tip of the iceberg. It’s the biggest online fan following I’ve seen since Buffy and the X-files. I would imagine that at least a portion of that translates into ratings. I know I’m basically saying it’s only the fandome that watched the show but it is true and it is why the audience is so small yet steady and competition like Fringe and Grimm doesn’t affect it. I don’t see Fringe having as strong a fanbase, at least not in terms of numbers since it is a newer show, so putting it on the CW would mean losing the casual viewers it may have had on FOX and branding it with the tween label. It may not fare as well for an already struggling show.

  • The End

    Fringe/Supernatural crossover ep anyone?

  • halloween

    CW might actually air a good show surprisingly with LA Complex

  • SarahL

    I love the magical head switch in the picture. It made me laugh. Many kudos, Robert.

  • pandorajinel(formerly Erin)

    Oh come on! If Petar gets to call tv guide award for Fringe, I get to call tv guide award and PCA for Supernatural. Neither really means anything dude.

  • Freyja

    Fringe/SPN huh that would be a good Friday combination and why not, the CW could use it. But then that leaves the question which show would be at 9pm lol

    But I would say it would do just as well as SPN :)

  • Millie

    Okay as far as fringe nd supernatural go I don’t think cw will pick up fringe. My question is y do u have secret circle on the bubble. It’s a good show that holds 2/3 rds of vampire dairies audience nd looking online the only compliant I c about it is that it’s not as gr8 as vd. That makes sense. Vd wasn’t gr8 in its 1 st season. Cw gave nikkia (sorry if I spelt that wrong) another chance last year nd wasn’t their ratings worst then tsc is this year. I think cw will renew it.

  • SarahL


    After perusing the comments, I see that your headline succeeded in bringing out “the crazy.” No doubt more will soon arrive so kudos on that too.

  • LJ

    It’s really hard to imagine FOX giving Fringe a renewal if its syndication demand is as bad as it has been reported to be. Let’s face it, only Seefee is a viable candidate and they seem to have no interest in showing any actual scifi these days. Expecting/hoping for an abbreviated final season feels more like bargaining (as 1 of the 5 stages) than it does logic or reason. That leaves streaming and dvd sales. A regular season of any length doesn’t make much sense for these business models either. What might make sense though is 1 or 2 direct to dvd/streaming movies (or shot together as a miniseries). That model has seen some success in the past with other series and the costs might be low enough that it would take the pressure off finding a network.

  • joko ono

    Deep inside I cry,cry,cry
    Don’t want this shoooow (Nikita)
    to die,die,die!

  • KS

    I don’t understand why CW can’t bring Blue Mountain State to their network. It would be a huge success considering the young audience on CW.

  • marsinvestigations1

    I’m still unclear where the magic “88” came from for syndication now. I think it’s less of a “rule” and more “many shows with 4 seasons (22×4 = 88) have made it to syndication in recent years…”

    For example, some people going on and on about a show hitting 82-87 episode as being “shy” of the magic 88 number. Personally I think 88-100 is a stronger sell but I highly doubt if a show falls a few episodes short they’d have a significantly harder time selling it.

    Friday Night Lights managed to get a spot on ABC Family with just 76 (?) or so.

  • mdmb

    SPN should not have been moved on friday

  • KS

    1.Why is the number 88 favorite number for Syndication deals?
    2.Is Gossip Girl syndicated? Why? Why not?

  • rob60990

    Call me a retentionista all you want but i think the CW should renew Hart of Dixie over The Secret Circle. I can’t see The Secret Circle doing any better in another timeslot since it’s already in the best one the CW can provide for it while Hart of Dixie has had the crappy Gossip Girl lead-in and bigger competition. Ringer is dead and so is Nikita which seems to be settling with .4 ratings. If the CW renews that mess, I see .3s next year.

  • Johnny

    So are you forgetting that sources with insider knowledge say that Fringe will very likely get a 13 episode final season? TVline, anyone?

    Look, I know that TVbythenumbers might be better at predicting renewal/cancellation. But this is what’s weird about TVline and Fringe. They don’t have Fringe listed as “Could Go Either Way”, or even “A Safe Bet”. They have it as “A Sure Thing”.

    Surely, they must have some piece of info that nobody else does, if they’re ranking it that high, right?

  • rob60990

    @Bee, I wouldn’t necesarily be shocked if ABC renewed all 3 but so far it seems Scandal has the best chance at renewal though I think GCB has a lot of potential if ABC can just stick with it and retool is. As for PP, if it does end on a cliffhanger, I can’t see ABC cancelling it. They seem to like to keep Shonda happy. If anything it will be a very very short final season to air in midseason.

  • rob60990

    retool it*

  • Rebecca

    I hope that isn’t the end of Cougar Town (but I’m prepared for it to be), and I saw where someone here a while back said some ABC media site reported that 2 episodes of CT will air on May 29th. Futoncritic STILL doesn’t have that info posted (and I emailed them about it) – they just have it airing through May 15th, with episodes #12 and #13 (out of 15 that are in this season). So I will tune in those two Tuesdays after May 15th to see if more CT is airing (I’ll trust that May 29th is correct, but what about May 22nd? I haven’t looked to see what will be on that night. All I’ve written down for May 22nd is the Glee season finale).

  • Dennis

    @ Johnny
    I do find it strange that Fringe has been upgraded to “A sure thing” on tvline in the last few weeks

    Fingers crossed eh?

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