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
  • billy martins

    they shall consider fringe move from fox to cw network they shall also consider an extendence adding an extra day like say sunday to their lineup

  • Kevin

    This article is such troll bait lol. It’s like you guys are trying to start a fight :P

  • KS


    You are absolutely right. I don’t know, how far I can trust TV Line. But, I am sure no one would upgrade the lowest rated and the costliest show on a network to “Certain renewal”, unless they have a very strong info to support that. I don’t think upgrading it to “Certain renewal” even generates any buzz, as much as it does, when its “on the Bubble”.

    I am sure Fox is going to renew Fringe. This is a clear example of TV not only by the numbers.

  • Doug

    I just don’t believe that syndication is that big of a consideration with highly serialized shows. Lost played almost nowhere in syndication and I don’t recall seeing Desperate Housewives anywhere other than Lifetime. That’s why it surprises me that WB would take a bath on Fringe to get it to that number, when the potential upside is probably very limited. That’s also why I don’t think that CBS renewing TGW had really anything to do with syndication, but was rather because it’s their only show that’s highly critically acclaimed and wins awards.

  • mr.helloween1313

    i hope fringe will get its final season as it looks now none of the new episodes make for a final season and i hope they would give it a proper farewell for all the talk about renewal and fan base, and just remember its 3 mill who watch it live what about all the fans who view it later on dvr or on demand like i do. i watch supernatural live cause cw is not on tv on demand. i would also wouldnt mind if it did go to the cw i mean cw has to grow up sometime i mean its the old fox network remember the old 90210 and melrose place same audience,untll fox grew up and realized they were grown ups out there with money to spend. all in all i hope to see all my favorite horror and syfy shows on next year even if the audience is small.

  • Brandy

    Millie, no nikita was not doing worse last year than SC this year, SC is doing worse this year than Nikita did last year. For Example, the last two original episodes of SC rated 0.6, 0.5.Nikita was getting 0.8 and got a 0.7 fo rseason one finale while SC has had half a season or more of 0.7 this year.Both Nikita last year &SC loose half or more of VDs audience in demo & total viewers.SC is on the bubble because it looses half or more of VDs audience, has lost the second most amount of viewrs this season out of the new shows, its declined in ratings all season& its last two original episodes got onlya 0.6, 0.5 demo.These are unacceptable for a show with the best lead in on CW& arent great for a freshman show.If its getting 0.5_0.7 now with VD as a lead in, how will it do next season without VDs lead in?(SC will move timeslots if renewed).With all that said, SC still has a fair chance at renewal.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman

    @johnny: I think it is “surely” the case that Fringe producers whisper in TV Line’s ear, but I don’t pay much attention to that. The chatter has been all over the place though from “the only conversation is over how many episodes” to “if Fringe isn’t renewed, they plan to continue on in Comic Books.” It’s not that I’m not aware of the chatter, I’m ignoring it.

    @mr.hello: actually that’s not the case. Last Friday (4/13) when Fringe had a Live+SD adults 18-49 rating of a 0.9, only 2/3rds of that was “live” (a 0.6) the rest of it (0.3) was same day DVR viewing.

  • DW

    fringe is done this year. it’s not going to make a great deal of money in reruns. TNT isn’t going to put it in its prime time slot it would be more with angel and supernatural. unless dvd/ BR sales are great ,i don’t know the numbers , but that could be a factor that’s what happened with family guy but that’s rare.also wb relationship with netflix isn’t the best although money talks.

  • V

    Heroes might be the best comparison.
    It had 4 seasons, it was NBC produced.
    Its ratings the last season were average for NBC, but it was one of the more expensive shows to make.

    The only chance i see is if there are paycuts, like Jericho on CBS.
    But that really was noticable and affect the quailty of the show.

  • scifi

    Fox is targeted for men, CW is targeted for women. So Fringe will never be on CW, until they change their politics.

  • Fringecatraz

    How much is the production budget of Fringe per Episode? 4 million?

  • Fringecatraz

    Another question: By when will we know if Fringe is renewed or not?

  • Lucard

    Well, the world is full of things we don’t understand. Like I don’t understand if striping is for five days then why isn’t the required number something which is divisible by 5 (which 88 isn’t)

  • Dennis


    Well they have an alternative ending shot incase it is cancelled so I presume they would have to announce cancellation/renewal within the next two weeks

  • The Big Toe

    @Robert, I love your bubble watch, but I have a few changes. Here’s what I would change:

    *Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 – Likely Renewal to On the Bubble – This show does have some controversy over the name, so either way would not surprise me. In my opinion, I think Apartment 23 will be canceled due to controversy, like Work It and The Playboy Club.
    *The Finder – Certain Cancellation to Likely Cancellation – Come on, the ratings were up on Friday!
    *Fringe – Likely Cancellation to On the Bubble – Once again, the show filmed 2 endings, so it could go either way.
    *Nikita – On the Bubble to Likely Cancellation – The ratings are not good at all, so it’s more likely to be canceled than renewed.
    *Parenthood – Likely Renewal to On the Bubble – I can’t remember, but I saw this site of shows in danger of cancellation, and Parenthood was one of them.
    *The Office – Certain Renewal to On the Bubble – I LOVE this show, but the thing is there are a few of characters that may have little or no parts next season, so either way would not surprise me.
    *Once Upon a Time – Certain Renewal to On the Bubble – The show gets a bunch of series lows, so a cancellation would not be shocking.
    *Whitney – Likely Renewal to On the Bubble – Another comedy I like, but it is in some danger of being canceled, so either way would not surprise me.

    That’s all I have this week. Please take these changes into consideration and see you next week!

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Robert Seidman
  • The Big Toe


    I LOVE Fringe and I hope it is renewed, so just like @Dennis, probably the next two weeks or so.

    Alcatraz will be announced a week before the upfront, and I hope it gets renewed, but a cancellation would not shock me.

  • NYC_Lover

    Free Agents – Cancelled

    Bent – Been in the range of 0.7-0.9 (Definitely Cancelled)

    BFF (Off Their Rockers lead in) – Been in the range of 0.8-0.9 (Definitely Cancelled)

    Are You There Chealsea(Whitney Lead In)? – Been in the range of 1.0-1.3 (Likely Cancelled)

    Up All Night(Office Lead In) – Been in the range of 1.2-1.5 (Bubble)

    Whitney (Self Starter – against more powerful idol, as was Bent and Bff) been in the 1.4-1.7 range (Likely renewal)

    There is no way that Whitney is not getting renewed. Those are all of NBCs new comedies and it definitely has the best shot.

  • iwantmorefringe

    I don’t know if someone already talked about this, I didn’t read all the messages, I’m sorry, but I just wanted to copy what Joel Wyman said yesterday on Twitter when someone asked him if we were going to see more of that future (4×19) in the remaining episodes of the fourth season, I’m just copying it:

    @ryanwilsonmedia No, Ryan. Not THIS season… ; )

    I don’t know, isn’t it pretty clear we’re getting a 5th season? :D

  • Val

    LOL at the picture! :)

    I think Fringe would still stay above SPN.

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