Given the volume of "Why isn't there a Renew/Cancel Index for cable shows?" and "Why doesn't the cancellation bear chase cable shows?" questions, I figured I'd get something in a post that I could refer to in the future.
Our method of predicting the renewal and cancellation of broadcast primetime shows compares the relative adults 18-49 ratings of each show to the scripted show average for that show's network, and the shows with lower relative ratings get canceled, the shows with higher relative ratings get renewed. Make a few tweaks for syndication reasons and we're good about 95% of the time.
Why couldn't we just do the same thing for cable shows?
Two ways to think about the biggest reason (there are other reasons too).
- Cable networks behave differently, because they can.
- Broadcast networks are constrained by the scarcity of time in their primetime schedules.
Broadcast networks fill every Sunday-Friday primetime hour with something original, cable does not.
Broadcast networks have to cancel existing shows to make room for new shows. That makes predicting what they’ll do much more systematic.
Cable networks do not have to cancel existing original shows to add new ones, because even the ones that produce lots of original shows still have primetime hours in which to add new ones. (arguably, USA is just starting to bump into a ceiling)
Our prediction methods are based on broadcast networks canceling their lower rated shows to make room for new ones every season.
Cable networks simply don’t behave that way, because they don't have to.
And as long as cable networks don't have to behave systematically, the bear will stay away from predicting the fate of their shows!