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
  • One


    (for the record, it took me five tries to spell GCB right in the above. Shows you how much I care about the show…)[bazinga]

    At least your thousand words were spent ruminating on the thousand scenarios surrounding Fringe and how there’s still the strong probability of it being canceled – which is a fact I’ve come to terms w/, and did long ago…

    I just wish I didn’t keep having that happen w/ new shows, since I inevitably get into one a year that doesn’t draw enough ratings and then ends on a life-or-death cliffhanger that will never get resolved…(this year’s entry: Alcatraz)

  • Tessa

    You honestly think advertisers care how many people watch a show illegally to decide who to give their business to, or are you being extremely sarcastic?

  • Richard Steven Hack

    One should point out that shows obtained via illegal downloads usually don’t have ads in them… Therefore it’s utterly irrelevant to advertisers how many people download shows versus “live” viewers. Downloads could be a hundred times higher than live viewers and it wouldn’t help the advertisers a whit.

    In fact, it could logically count AGAINST a show if most of its viewers never saw the commercials…

  • Tony

    @ The Big Toe

    your “changes” are crazy. Why in the world would Once Upon a Time be on the bubble? a few series lows of 2.8 in the spring for a drama on Sundays at 8pm is not bubble worthy, and considering it is one of the biggest hits this season specifically drama wise and is helping ABC keep Sundays a float post-DH, there’s no way in hell ABC would cancel their one drama hit in years.

    The Office is coming back whether the cast comes back or not, it’s ratings say cancellation, but in the state of NBC, it is their highest rate scripted show.

    Apt. 23 is coming back, just like Happy Endings in it’s first season, ABC sees potential and the critics love it.

  • IwuvDean

    I’ll say nice work on the headline, definitely got my attention!

    I totally agree with Tessa!

    For many, it’s never about the show; it’s always about the network.
    That’s why they hold this prejudice against SPN&Nikita simply because they air on the CW.

  • Jenna

    Syfy network having Fringe would work better than CW.

  • Mark

    @Bill or Robert

    Are you going to do a fall fantasy schedule thread for each network again this year?

  • George Zimmerman

    Nikita, Whitney, and Chelsea all aint going nowhere as this is women power on television right now.

  • Chet

    Oh my god, I hope Fringe gets cancelled, just so we don’t have to read about it any longer!

  • Tim

    I don’t see the Secret Circle (the 3rd highest rated show on The CW being on the bubble..I think it should be moved to likely renewal, unless the network is going to kill all shows other than Supernatural and The Vampire Diaries and launch 5 new shows next year.

  • Sid


    I wouldn’t say TSC is the 3rd highest rated show on The CW anymore(especially after how bad it performed last Thursday).

    My rank for CW shows IMO are:


  • AppleStinx

    The votes are in, the commenters spoke and it’s unanimous: Bill Gorman is 100% nice guy!

  • Michael

    I have to say it’s quite alarming how low Secret Circle has gotten, especially being in its first season.

  • luisl

    It would do the same or worse than Supernatural.

    The series low of Fringe was 0.9
    Another season on the CW. Yeah probably 0.5-0.7

  • mrdoubleb

    Of course advertisers don’t care about illegal downloads – at least not in a positive way. I was not suggesting adding torrent numbers to ratings like dvr…

    What i meant was if it makes sense to question the accuracy of Nielsen. I know it is the industry standard metrics, however, ever since Nielsen in my country showed 400k viewers for the biggest network during a court enforced, hour long program break (normal avg viewership 2 mill), i have my doubts.

  • Heart of Mica

    I’m pretty sure the Nielsens are accurate in at least relative terms, for what they actually measure.

    Whether what they’re measuring is actually significant, on the other hand…I sincerely doubt. In a world with so many entertainment options (TV or otherwise) and different ways to see TV shows and ads, the only reason what the Nielsens are counting matters to *anyone* is because the networks and the advertisers are still using it to set commercial prices. It doesn’t matter if the ratings are completely unmoored from any reality that a normal person would care about: all that matters is that both sides agree that they’re going to use them to negotiate prices.

    I suspect that if a rational, fact-based system for counting how many people watch a given TV show (not to mention how, when, etc.) were created, the whole industry would be shaken to bits. God only knows what a 30-second commercial on a primetime show is *genuinely* worth: they’ve been basing it for so long on this hallucinatory fantasy Nielsen provides, finding out that they’ve been over- or under-paying for what they get would give them all heart attacks.

  • Brian

    There was an article on NIKITA that I read and it inspired me to watch the latest episode and I must say, I loved it. I went back to watch the episodes i missed and Nikita is on great show.

    Here is the article:


  • Justin121

    I didn’t like the headline.

    One about GCB, Scandal, and Priavte Practice would’ve been more interesting to your long time readers but I see you’re now officially catering to the CW crowd who are the worst imaginable heirs to the Chuck ‘n’ Fringe Occupy TVBTN Crazy Fanatics movment.

    My post from another thread:

    Breakout hits of the season:

    2 Broke Girls
    Once Upon A Time
    Person of Interest
    New Girl

    CBS and ABC dminate.

    Other successful first-year series that I wouldn’t neccesarly call “breakout”:

    Last Man Standing

    (ABC and NBC)

    Still early:

    The B in Apt 23

    Ranking based on several factors includig absolute ratings, relative-to-network ratings, length of program, number of episodes aired, where and how fast they stabilized, timeslot, playback ratings, genre, and buzz.

    Note it was the year of female sitcoms:

    2 Broke Girls CBS
    The B in Apt. 23 ABC
    New Girl FOX
    Whitney NBC

    By network:

    CBS: 1 hit drama 1 hit comedy = 2. No other successes, overall strong

    ABC 2 hit dramas + 3 successful comedies = 5. Overall stable

    FOX: 1 hit comedy + 1 successful drama = 2. Overall big decline

    NBC: 1 semi-successful comedy 1 semi-successful drama + 1 Friday hit. Overall big decline

  • Justin121

    It’s the writers and studio’s responsibility to end with a proper conclusion for:

    A) future DVD sales or any kind of source-of-revenue viewing like iTunes, Netflix and even syndication


    B) reputation and probability of success in future jobs/projects which in turn will add more revenue

  • Sara

    Honestly, this site. It’s gotten to the point where I almost want to see Fringe renewed simply for the opportunity to watch the haters tweak out about it.

© 2015 Tribune Digital Ventures