Outrunning The Cancellation Bear: Why Relative Ratings Matter For Your Favorite TV Shows

Categories: 2-Featured,Cancel/Renew Index,RC2

Written By

September 24th, 2012

When the new broadcast television season begins on September 24, so will the fan laments over their favorite shows.

"Oh no! It needs to get a 2.0 rating to survive!"

"That's too much of a drop, it'll never make it!"

"Look at how well Big Bang Theory did, my show's a goner!"

Fortunately for fans of individual TV shows, their renewal and cancellation decisions are a lot like the old joke about two guys being chased by a bear.

You don't have to outrun the bear, you just have to outrun the other guy!

In the broadcast TV world, for scripted shows "the other guy" is the other scripted shows on the same network. And you don't have to outrun them all, even being a little below average in the adults 18-49 ratings (~10%) for the show's network still means pretty certain renewal.

Fans wanting to see where their favorite broadcast scripted shows stack up on a relative basis vs. the other shows on their network should read our Renew / Cancel Index posts beginning tomorrow with posts for NBC and Fox. next Tuesday October 2. After that, I will have new posts for each broadcast network every Tuesday with the newest ratings results and updated renewal and cancellation projections once they have premiered new shows.

You can always reach our latest Renew / Cancel Index posts by clicking on the Renew / Cancel link in the white navigation bar above.

This season you can follow the Cancellation Bear on Twitter via @TheCancelBear. The Cancellation Bear will retweet all the Renew/Cancel Index post titles and URLs as well as engage in a little more back and forth banter than we do on our standard @TVbytheNumbers Twitter feed.

Note: Of course, it's the absolute ratings that matter to each network's bottom line. So when all the shows on a particular network have ratings drops, it's not bad news for any one of the shows in particular, but it is bad news for the network.

 
  • One

    So, any particular reason why the RC Index didn’t launch early for the networks who already have scripted product in the wild?

  • charles

    Surely the executives feelings on the prospects of the shows in development and the older shows nearing syndication all have an impact on the shows renewal prospects

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Bill Gorman

    @One, I’m trying to be more slothful, but I may have to do one for Fox because MD may be gone before next Tuesday!

  • a p garcia

    For me, there are so many “BAD” shows to choose from as to who gets to feed the bear first!

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Bill Gorman

    @charles, they certainly do, but likely only in isolated edge cases. Lack of knowledge about them hasn’t prevented predictive success in the past.

  • Dan

    Well the networks are still predictable in the fall but here’s my predictions for each network.

    CBS will have 1 of their 3 dramas cancelled after a few episodes while the other two will get full seasons. That was always their case until the last couple of seasons but something tells me CBS will go back to form and whichever drama they cancel will last about 3-8 episodes and my guess is Made in Jersey. Partners will likely last a full season but if it doesnt perform well, it may only last 16-20 episodes to make room for Rules in the spring.

    FOX will have their fall drama cancellation, The Mob Doctor and then a domino effect to cover it until their winter replacements. I expect and hope Touch will move to Mondays where it will last 13 eps until The Following premieres. Its possible both new comedies could get full years but at the very worst one will get a full year and one cancelled by December.

    ABC may have a couple of shows starting out well and possibly a drama cancellation but even if they don’t have any hits some under performing shows will get full seasons to save face. If The Neighbors doesn’t perform well ABC has midseason comedies so they are covered if they need shuffling. I doubt How to live With Your Parents and Family Tools will air Tuesdays at 8-9 midseason.

    NBC is desperate as usual to get drama going but this year they have their secret weapon The Voice to help out Revolution. It could become a hit or it could turn out like The Event but I expect it to get a full season as I expect Chicago Fire to get a full year.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Bill Gorman

    “CBS will have 1 of their 3 dramas cancelled after a few episodes while the other two will get full seasons. That was always their case until the last couple of seasons but something tells me CBS will go back to form and whichever drama they cancel will last about 3-8 episodes and my guess is Made in Jersey. “

    I just don’t see that happening this season. Unless they want to pull Unforgettable into the regular season (instead of summer) they only have one more drama ready to go this season (Golden Boy). An early drama cancellation leaves them with a hole in the spring.

  • Rebecca

    I saved this article from Yahoo News since it talked about Nielsen and the “changing times.” I’ll take paragraph breaks out so it doesn’t seem as long. Anyway, I think it was a good article relevant to today’s TV show viewers (and how we watch the shows, since obviously we don’t and can’t see it all “live” or even via DVR sometimes), and this seems to be a good thread to post it in for anyone who cares to read it (not referring to any particular network but more in general).

    “Nielsen shows how people use TV differently
    By DAVID BAUDER | Associated Press – 9/11/12

    NEW YORK (AP) — The number of U.S. homes that don’t get traditional television service continues to increase, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have TVs.
    The Nielsen company said in a report issued on Tuesday that three-quarters of the estimated 5 million homes that don’t get TV signals over the airways or through cable, satellite or telecommunications companies have televisions anyway.
    Many of these homes are satisfied to use their TVs for games or get programming through DVDs or services like Netflix or Apple TV, said Dounia Turrill, senior vice president for client insights at Nielsen.
    The company’s report shows how the nature of TV service is slowly changing. Before the percentage started declining about three years ago, more than 99 percent of TV homes received the traditional TV signals. Now that has dipped just below 96 percent.
    Part of the decline is also economic — service deemed expendable by people struggling to make ends meet, Nielsen said.
    Because of the changes, Nielsen is considering redefining what it considers a television household to include people who get service through Netflix or similar services instead of the traditional TV signals, Turrill said.
    During the first three months of 2012, the average consumer spent about 2 percent less time watching traditional TV than the previous year, Nielsen said. They more than made up for that by spending more time watching material recorded on DVRs or on the Internet through TVs, computers and mobile devices.
    The typical consumer spends 14 minutes a day using gaming consoles, although it’s more for owners of Wii, XBox and PlayStation 3, Nielsen said. Many of these devices are also popular sites for accessing video, Turrill said.
    “The gaming devices are becoming entertainment hubs,” she said.
    People over age 65 spend nearly 48 hours, on average, watching television each week, Nielsen said. At the other end of the spectrum are teenagers aged 12 to 17, who spend an average of 22 hours per week watching TV.
    Blacks spend an average of 210 hours per month watching TV, more than whites (nearly 153 hours), Latinos (131 hours) and Asians (100 hours), Nielsen said.”

  • Josh

    @Rebecca: All that article tells me is that, despite having more alternative ways of receiving television entertainment than ever before, 96% of Americans still use antenna, cable, or satellite, and that that percentage is declining at a rate of only 1% per year. At that pace, we’ve still got several decades before there is any substantial paradigm shift in television viewing.

  • Dan

    @Bill – They always have Undercover Boss if a drama really bombs, which could work on Fridays. The last time they pulled a fall series was Three Rivers after 8 episodes Fall 2009 but the remaining episodes did air the next summer and Fall 2010 and 2011 had no new fall dramas being pulled. CBS probably could’ve used Unforgettable for Spring 2013 as opposed to midseason should they have any holes to fill.

  • fringewillget5seasons

    @Bill re CBS

    Undercover Boss isn’t on the fall schedule is it? Could easily swoop in if the Friday drama fries once again.

  • toadytoady

    But we always knew this, that competition was from within the networks rather than across them.

  • KS

    @Bill

    It so appears there are going to be a lot of upgrades to your site this season, thanks to heavy traffic. Is there any chance we regular posters are gonna get an “Edit” button? I don’t think that’s too much to ask!

  • Tom

    If TheCancelBear is the kind of shenanigans we’re going to get as a result of hiring Amanda and Sara… then kudos to you, good sirs!

    As to CBS, I don’t see any way Elementary doesn’t last until at least May, with Partners the only show that has any chance of being immediately yanked. Vegas and MIJ can be swapped out for Golden Boy and UB in January if needed, with Unforgettable replacing Golden Boy in Spring ’13 if needed.

  • http://tvbythenumbers.com Bill Gorman

    Re: CBS canceling a drama prior to November sweeps as they used to.

    They *could*, and the work arounds that people have put forward are *possible* (particularly the moving up of Unforgettable into the spring), but based on them not having done so in several seasons and their relative lack of drama bench strength, I just don’t think they will.

    A Gifted Man did poorly right out of the gate, and look how long it lasted.

    “It so appears there are going to be a lot of upgrades to your site this season, thanks to heavy traffic. Is there any chance we regular posters are gonna get an “Edit” button? I don’t think that’s too much to ask”

    Certainly not too much to ask, but still highly unlikely to get!

    “But we always knew this, that competition was from within the networks rather than across them.”

    That “we” does not include the vast majority of the viewing public, and at least a noticeable plurality of the TV media!

    “If TheCancelBear is the kind of shenanigans we’re going to get as a result of hiring Amanda and Sara… then kudos to you, good sirs!”

    It is indeed time for more shenanigans! ;)

    Update: I have edited the post text. The Renew Cancel Index returns tomorrow for Fox and NBC, the impending demise of The Mob Doctor has roused the bear early!

  • KS

    I’ve decided to save Supernatural for January. I will watch all the 10-11 episodes together during the hiatus. I guess, this season I would be posting in NBC R/C index.

  • Richard Steven Hack

    Charles: “Surely the executives feelings on the prospects of the shows in development and the older shows nearing syndication all have an impact on the shows renewal prospects.”

    The problem with these two elements is that it can occasionally throw a kink in TVBTN – and my – predictions.

    Cases in point: Fringe and Nikita this past season. There was absolutely zero reason for the CW to renew Nikita – but they did anyway, even though it wasn’t yet near syndication. I’m very pleased because it’s my favorite show, but still it made little sense from a ratings standpoint as the show was next to the lowest on the network (surpassed only by the truly execrable Ringer.)

    In the case of Fringe, there was zero reason for Fox to renew it because it had already reached syndication level in its current season – although the theory has been that additional episodes would improve its syndication revenue. This, however, assumes the show will even BE syndicated and that the additional revenue will offset the loss of ad revenue in Fringe’s final (presumably low-rated) 13-week season. Since we don’t have Fox’s spreadsheets in front of us, we will never know how that calculation worked out. We can only assume it works because the show indeed got renewed.

    My theory about these cases was more aligned with the first element you cite: new show development. I think the networks are trending toward keeping the low-rated shows around longer in order to offset the cost of new show development. It’s a risk-averse strategy in a bad economy.

  • luisl

    @richard steven hack

    Fringe has already been sindicated to the science channel or something like that.

  • Dan

    A Gifted Man did poorly but I still think now that CBS has established dramas they are going to be more hard on new dramas. Besides CSI NY theres not many veteran dramas left that will be cancelled in May. Theres The Good Wife which will likely be axed in May and a lot of people say The Mentalist could be in trouble but I doubt it. With saving Unforgettable, CBS has a lot of dramas so they’re in a position where they could go either way in terms of a fall drama cancellation. I think whatever drama does get cancelled will make it to November though.

  • One @ Bill Gorman

    Posting the Index tomorrow for Fox and NBC may still not catch Mob Doctor in time, assuming it goes live at 2pm or later as in seasons past.

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