'The Americans' as tl;dr "Ratings 101" Lesson - Scripted Cable Renew/Cancel Status Through February 15, 2013

Categories: Cable Renew/Cancel Status,Cable TV

Written By

February 16th, 2013

No predictions, just statuses. If it's past the date below, click here to see if there are updates.

Last Updated February 16, 2013

Fortunately, live viewing isn't the only — or even most important — audience measurement anymore, and the second episode [of The Americans] shot way back up when DVR viewing was added in. (Advertisers will pay for the first three days of DVR viewing.)

-Hitfix’s Alan Sepinwall from his review of the third episode of The Americans, ‘Gregory.’

I’m rooting for FX’s The Americans to succeed, but that doesn’t mean much. Like Alan Sepinwall, I was a fan of Terriers and Lights Out, and as Sepinwall notes in his post, The Americans is off to a much better start than either of those two shows. Even though the third episode of The Americans fell a little from its second episode (which was way down from its first), the third episode of The Americans was still ahead of where Lights Out premiered (a 0.6 adults 18-49 rating and ~1.5 million viewers).

Date Live+SD 18-49 Rtg Live+SD Viewers (Millions)
Wednesday, January 30, 2013 1.2 3.22
Wednesday, February 06, 2013 0.8 1.97
Wednesday, February 13, 2013 0.7 1.65

Nielsen TV Ratings: ©2013 The Nielsen Company. All Rights Reserved.
It’s too soon to have a good feel but even though we don’t make predictions for cable shows, I’d predict FX will renew it if there isn’t a large fall off. If it drops down into the 0.3 A18-49 rating range, I’d worry. But if it holds up at a million viewers and a .5, my guess (and this isn’t like broadcast shows where I can be more certain, it’s just a guess which could be wrong) is FX will give it a shot to grow. It’s no Sons Of Anarchy (though in its first season, neither was Sons Of Anarchy!) and it’s slipped comfortably below the Justified range. But so far, it’s doing miles better than Lights Out (and miles and miles and miles better than Terriers).

What’s the Most Important Audience Measurement?

I take issue with the notion that live viewing isn’t the most important audience measurement for FX. But these are the complexities of ratings and talking about them and since not much went on this week (BBC canceled ‘The Hour’) this will be variation of  “Numbers 101” posts of yore.

Indeed, the single most important ratings measure for FX are the C3 ratings.  Those represent the average commercial viewing live plus three days of DVR viewing.  All of the numbers we (and everyone else) regularly see and report are not commercial viewing, but program ratings. Program ratings measure the whole program including the commercials. The commercial ratings only measure the commercials. So, if you’re in a Nielsen household and watch The Americans on your DVR and you skip every single commercial, you will still show up in the ratings as ~.66 of a viewer in the program ratings. In fact, you’ll show up as much more than that since the way the Nielsen panel works, were you in it, you would represent thousands of viewers.

But here’s the important thing, were you that viewer in a Nielsen household who watched The Americans on DVR skipping every commercial but still counting as .66 of a viewer (that would project out to ~4,000 viewers) in the program ratings,  you wouldn’t count for anything in the commercial ratings. Squadoosh! Nada, zilch, zip, zed, etc. Now, fortunately for the TV networks even though us DVR viewers say things like “I always skip the commercials!” we don’t in fact always skip them. Sure, we skip most of the commercials most of the time, but we do not skip all of the commercials all of the time. So, were you in a Nielsen household watching The Americans two days later and purposefully or accidentally taking in a few of the commercials, that viewing would get added into the C3 ratings. For the networks, it's not optimal, but still better than nothing.

But know this, unlike their program rating counterparts, the C3 ratings don’t “shoot up” with three days of viewing added in. Sure, they do go up, but they do not shoot up in the skyrocket fashion of the program ratings for the simple reason that most DVR viewers do skip most of the commercials most of the time.

What’s a Program Rating?

As noted above, a program rating measures viewing for the period a program was on (whether that be 15, 30, 60, 90, etc.) minutes, including any commercial viewing.  There are a variety of program ratings, some of which you’re very familiar with:

Live ratings

The live program ratings are exactly what you’d expect them to be – live ratings for the program period (again, including commercials). Though live program ratings aren’t nearly as unavailable as the C3 commercial ratings, we don’t usually see them or post them. But people who work in TV see live program ratings regularly, particularly for broadcast network shows.

Live+SD (L+SD, LSD, LS = Live plus same day DVR) ratings

These are the live program ratings plus any DVR viewing the same night (up until 3am the following morning. So were you in a Nielsen household and watching Wednesday night’s The Americans at midnight Wednesday night/Thursday morning on DVR, your viewing up to 3am would count.

Live+3 (L+3, L3) ratings

Over the last few years, our friendly PR folks have begun using this metric more frequently. It’s the live program viewing with 3 days of DVR viewing included. The reason this metric has become more used is for reasons of Nielsen processing – they can get the Live+3 data much quicker than the Live+7 data (the Live+7 data is typically a weekly run, and it works out that by the time those numbers are available, the last day of the measured week was nearly 2 weeks ago, and the first day of the measured week nearly 3 weeks ago).

Live+7 (L+7, L7) ratings

These are the live program ratings with a full week of DVR viewing factored in.  Popular if for no other reason than whatever numbers are reported this one will be the biggest!

None of the program ratings are COMMERCIAL ratings, but which program ratings are the best proxy?

Some people will say “well, since the commercial ratings include 3 days of DVR, the best proxy for the commercial ratings would be the Live+3 program ratings!” Those people would be right if commercial ratings and program ratings measured the same thing, but they don’t, and they aren’t the best proxy of them.

Of the program ratings, the best proxy for commercial ratings plus 3 days is actually the LIVE viewing with no commercial viewing factored in. And I’m not saying that makes it necessarily a good proxy, just the best one of the program ratings. Sadly, for cable shows, we can’t easily get our hands on Live program ratings even if we wanted to. The live COMMERCIAL ratings which are pretty much never seen in the wild or the Live+SD COMMERCIAL ratings would make the best proxy for the C3 commercial ratings, but alas, nobody sees those. Good news though – C3 numbers are so rarely available in the wild that they’re not worth sweating over either!

Update: USA's head of research Ted Linhart tweets they find the Live+SD program ratings the best proxy of the C3 ratings. That's even better (for us) since that's the most commonly reported/available metric.

Because Relative Ratings Matter, Live+SD Program Ratings Are A Great Proxy of How a Show Is Doing

How a show is doing is generally measured in terms of how other shows on that network do. But because cable networks generally air so much less original programming than their broadcast cousins, relative ratings alone don’t always tell the tale, it’s still easy to predict at the extremes (nobody spends any time wondering if The Walking Dead or Sons Of Anarchy and are going to get renewed, at least around here, and we talked in about a renewal for Terriers with terms like “Miracle.”), but shows that toil in the middle of those extremes (and The Americans is setting up to do just that) frequently can’t be reliably predicted, so we don’t.

But what is the most important audience measure?

For advertising supported networks like FX, the C3 ratings which are almost never seen are the most important. That’s how they get paid. While the Live+SD ratings might not be an excellent proxy for the commercial ratings, they are still a darn good proxy for relative comparisons. Almost none of us have ever seen the C3 ratings for Sons Of Anarchy or Justified, but you can comfortably know that the C3 ratings for SOA are higher than the C3 ratings for Justified which are higher than the C3 ratings for The Americans which are higher (at least currently) than the C3 ratings for Anger Management.

Though it is unseen by us, the live program ratings for advertising supported networks are still very, very important (and I’d argue most important) because most (overwhelmingly) commercial viewing comes from live viewing.

It’s easier to be HBO than USA, FX, TNT, etc.

Live viewing of the premiere telecast doesn’t matter much (it could be argued it doesn’t matter at all) to HBO since they don’t sell commercial spots. What matters to HBO is happy subscribers and more of them. The truth is you can still tell what the most popular HBO shows are from how the premiere telecasts fare, but it’s pretty typical for HBO that most of the viewing of a show does not happen in the premiere telecast.  So, even though the premiere telecast of a new episode of Games or Thrones might have the single largest aggregate audience, it could be that 70% of the viewing for that episode happens via DVR, encores, on-demand/HBO Go. And guess what, HBO is perfectly content with that!

It’s much, much rougher on the advertising supported networks if it plays out like that. If 70% of the viewing of Suits isn’t live, that’s much worse for USA than HBO. HBO doesn’t care because it still adds up to happy customers. In this completely made up example*, USA can (and would!) celebrate the overall popularity of the show, but internally they wouldn’t be nearly as joyous as the folks at HBO because effectively that means “Hey, we have this show viewers love, but we can’t monetize most of the viewing.”  Not a fun place to be.

* in actuality, and in round numbers, based on eyeballing it has been more the case that USA’s shows have 60+% of their viewing happen Live+SD (we don’t see the pure live ratings) and while shows like White Collar can frequently see 75% jumps in ratings from the L+SD numbers to L+7, that still means ~60% of the viewing was L+SD. Made up example: let’s say Suits had 1.5 million viewers adults 18-49 in the Live+SD ratings that jumped to 2.6 million in the L+7 – that’s a 73% jump, but one that means that most of the viewing, 58% in this case, was still L+SD (1.5/2.6).

What about On Demand, Internet, iTunes, etc?

Nielsen has made strides to include any commercial viewing on demand or online within three days so long as the same national commercial ads that ran in the original telecast are included.  Remember, the Nielsen TV ratings aren’t attempting to measure the overall popularity of a show, their primary purpose for advertiser supported shows is to measure the number of people who watched the commercials. So while something like iTunes does get counted somewhere, because it has no commercials, it isn’t counted in the Nielsen TV ratings, nor should it be.

There’s always a fair bit of squawking  about the need for better measurement from TV executives, and a fair bit of those complaints are reasonable. But it should be noted there’s always a relative dearth of any such complaints from the advertisers.  Measurement can always be improved, but I’ve thought for quite a while that mostly the squawking about it from executives at TV networks is usually a slight-of-hand distraction technique from other realities.

One of those realities, and a cumbersome and annoying one for the advertising supported TV nets is that at this point, TV networks can’t easily monetize a lot of their viewers. Even if it’s not “most of the viewers” that they can’t easily monetize, it’s often still a significant chunk of them. Another reality appears to be that for all the squawking over measurement, advertisers really don’t want to pay as much for ads that don’t run on TV. My best guess at this point is that the reason that most of the stuff I watch on demand within three days still doesn’t have full commercial loads isn’t because it can’t be measured, but because advertisers don’t want to pay for it the same way as TV even if it can be measured.

It’s easier (and I’d argue better) for the TV executives to complain publicly about Nielsen who the TV networks pay, rather than the advertisers, who pay the TV networks!

All hope is not lost, though It’ll probably get uglier before it gets prettier (if it ever does)

While the fictional situation I outlined above where an advertising supported network has shows where most of the viewing can’t be monetized, is fictional, it’s definitely true that there are a lot of viewers who can’t be monetized.  This is a problem for the networks. But that fictional example has a silver lining, at least in theory. If you have a bunch of hugely popular shows, even if you can’t monetize a lot of the viewing via advertising, the more popular shows you have, in theory, the more you can obtain in carriage fees (the amount DirecTV, Comcast, Time Warner etc. pay the networks per subscriber to carry the network).

But that’s a big pile of money all the networks are vying for and there are many complexities – e.g. Comcast owns several networks so USA isn’t vying for those carriage dollars in a vacuum since Comcast wants all of their networks (Bravo, Syfy, etc) carried, not just some of them.

Notes:

  • Kids shows and Adult Swim shows are not on the list below
  • I've seen some squawking about shows on the list below that are owned/created by networks/studios outside of the United States. For purposes of this list, which focuses on U.S. cable networks, I'm only focused on where the shows air here in U.S.
  • Shows from overseas like Downton Abbey & Sherlock that air on PBS in the U.S. are not in the list below (PBS is not a cable network), though ITV has renewed Downton Abbey for a 4th season in the UK which will ultimately air in the states.
  • Despite some current inconsistencies in the table below, I do not intend to track episode orders or return dates specifically in this table at this time. The primary goal of the table is: what's been renewed, what's been canceled, and what shows fates haven't been decided yet.

Last Updated February 16, 2013

Most of the shows on the list have statuses - if there isn't a status that just means there has been no announcement at the time of the most recent update (see date at top of post and/or above the table below).

--

Show Network Current / Last Season Status
Breakout Kings A&E 2 Canceled after 2nd season
Glades, The A&E 3 Renewed for a 4th season
Longmire A&E 1 Renewed for a 2nd season
Baby Daddy ABCFAM 1 Renewed for a 2nd season
Bunheads ABCFAM 1
Jane by Design ABCFAM 1 Cancelled after 1st season
Lying Game, The ABCFAM 2
Melissa & Joey ABCFAM 2 Renewed for a 3rd season
Pretty Little Liars ABCFAM 3 Renewed for a 4th season
Secret Life of the American Teenager ABCFAM 5 Upcoming 2nd half of 5th season will be its last
Switched At Birth ABCFAM 2
Breaking Bad AMC 5 Ending after 5th season
Hell On Wheels AMC 2 Renewed for a 10 episode 3rd Season
Mad Men AMC 5 Renewed for a 6th season
The Killing AMC 2 Renewed for a 12 episode 3rd Season
The Walking Dead AMC 3 Renewed for a 4th Season
tvbythenumbers.com
Bedlam BBCA 2
Being Human BBCA 4 Renewed for a 6 Episode 5th Season
Copper BBCA 1 Renewed for a 2nd season
Doctor Who BBCA 7 7th Season Resumes March 30th, 2013
Luther BBCA 2 Renewed for 4 Episode 3rd Season
The Hour BBCA 2 Canceled after 2nd season
Ripper Street BBCA 1 Renewed for an 8 episode 2nd season
tvbythenumbers.com
Game, The BET 5 Renewed for a 6th season
Let's Stay Together BET 2 Renewed for a 3rd Season
Real Husbands of Hollywood BET 1
Reed Between The Lines BET 1 Renewed for a 2nd Season
Second Generation Wayans BET 1
tvbythenumbers.com
Futurama CMDY 7 Second half of 26 episode S7 still to air in 2013
Kroll Show CMDY 1 Renewed for a 2nd season
South Park CMDY 16 Renewed through 20th season (2016)
Workaholics CMDY 3 Renewed for 13 episode 4th & 5th Seasons
tvbythenumbers.com
American Horror Story FX 2 Renewed for a 13 hour third season
Americans, The FX 1
Anger Management FX 2 Renewed for a total of 100 episodes including first season
Archer FX 4
It's Always Sunny... FX 8 Renewedfor a 9th season
Justified FX 4
League, The FX 4 Renewed for a 13 episode 5th season
Legit FX 1
Louie FX 3 Renewed for a 4th season but will not return until 2014
Sons of Anarchy FX 5 Renewed for a 6th season
Unsupervised FX 1 Cancelled according to Glenn Howerton
Wilfred FX 2 Renewed for a 3rd Season
tvbythenumbers.com
Boardwalk Empire HBO 3 Renewed for a 4th season
Bored to Death HBO 3 Canceled after 3rd season
Curb Your Enthusiasm HBO 8 Unknown. "It's always up to Larry," says HBO
Eastbound & Down HBO 3 Renewed for a 4th season
Enlightened HBO 2
Game of Thrones HBO 2 Renewed for a 10 episode 3rd Season
Girls HBO 2 Renewed for 12 episode 3rd season
How to Make it in America HBO 2 Canceled after 2nd season
Hung HBO 3 Canceled after 3rd season
Newsroom HBO 1 Renewed for a 2nd season
Treme HBO 3 Renewed for 5 episode 4th and final season
True Blood HBO 5 Renewed for a 10 episode 6th season
Veep HBO 1 Renewed for a 10 episode 2nd season
Bullet in the Face IFC 1
Portlandia IFC 3
Todd Margaret IFC 2 Ended after 2nd season
Army Wives LIFE 6 Renewed for a 13 episode 7th season
Client List, The LIFE 1 Renewed for a 15 episode 2nd season
Drop Dead Diva LIFE 4 Canceled after 4th season
tvbythenumbers.com
Banshee MAX 1 Renewed for a 2nd season
Hunted MAX 1 BBC One not moving forward with 2nd season, Cinemax is considering its options.
Strike Back MAX 2 Renewed for a 3rd Season
Awkward MTV 2 Renewed for 20 episode 3rd season
Beavis and Butt-Head MTV
The Inbetweeners MTV 1 canceled after 1st season
Teen Wolf MTV 2 Renewed for 24 episode 3rd season
Underemployed MTV 1
Californication SHO 6 Renewed for a 7th Season
Dexter SHO 7 Renewed for an 8th (and presumed final) Season
Episodes SHO 2 Renewed for a 3rd season, But Probably Not Returning until early 2014
Homeland SHO 2 Renewed for 12 episode 3rd season
House of Lies SHO 2 Renewed for a 3rd Season
Nurse Jackie SHO 4 Renewed for a 5th season
Shameless SHO 3 Renewed for a 4th season
The Big C SHO 3 Renewed for a 4th and final season
The Borgias SHO 2 Renewed for a 10 episode 3rd Season
Web Therapy SHO 2 Renewed for a 10 episode 3rd Season
Weeds SHO 8 Series concluded after 8th season
Alphas SYFY 2 Canceled after 2nd season
Being Human SYFY 3
Continuum SYFY 1 Already renewed for a 2nd season in Canada
Eureka SYFY 5 Canceled After 5th Season
Haven SYFY 3 Renewed for a 13 episode 4th season
Lost Girl SYFY 3
Merlin SYFY 5 Ending after 5th season
Sanctuary SYFY 4 Cancelled after 4th season
Warehouse 13 SYFY 4 S4 expanded to 20 episodes (half have aired)
Boss STARZ 2 Canceled after 2nd season
Magic City STARZ 1 Renewed for a 10 episode 2nd season
Spartacus STARZ 4 Renewed for a 4th and final season
Cougar Town TBS 4
Men At Work TBS 1 Renewed for a 10 episode 2nd season
Sullivan & Son TBS 1 Renewed for a 10 episode 2nd season
Tyler Perrys: For Better Or Worse TBS 2 currently airing *35* episode 2nd season
Tyler Perrys: House of Payne TBS 8 concluded after 8th season
Wedding Band TBS 1 Cancelled after 1st season
tvbythenumbers.com
Dallas TNT 2
Falling Skies TNT 2 Renewed for a 3rd Season
Franklin & Bash TNT 2 Renewed for a 3rd Season
Leverage TNT 5 Cancelled after 5th season
Major Crimes TNT 1 Renewed for a 15 episode 2nd season
Monday Mornings TNT 1
Perception TNT 1 Renewed for a 13 episode 2nd season
Rizzoli & Isles TNT 3 Renewed for a 15 episode fourth season
Southland TNT 5
The Closer TNT 7 Concluded after 7th season
Exes, The TVLAND 2 Renewed for a 10 episode 3rd season
Happily Divorced TVLAND 2
Hot In Cleveland TVLAND 4
Retired At 35 TVLAND 2 Canceled after 2nd season
Soul Man, The TVLAND 1 Renewed for a 10 episode 2nd season.
tvbythenumbers.com
Burn Notice USA 6 renewed for a 13 episode 7th season
Common Law USA 1 canceled after 1st season
Covert Affairs USA 3 Renewed for a 16 episode fourth season
Fairly Legal USA 2 Canceled after 2nd season
In Plain Sight USA 5 Canceled After 5th Season
Necessary Roughness USA 2 Renewed for a 10 episode 3rd Season
Political Animals USA 1 mini-series, USA says there won't be more
Psych USA 6 Renewed for an 8th season, S7 premieres 2/27/13
Royal Pains USA 4 Renewed for 5th & 6th Seasons (26 episodes total)
Suits USA 2 Renewed for a 16 episode 3rd season
White Collar USA 4 Renewed for a 16 episode 5th season
Single Ladies VH1 2 Renewed for a 3rd season

-

 
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
  • Grimman

    Too bad about The Hour. BBC shows are mostly amazing and The Hour was great IMO.

  • CurefortheItch

    Very enlightening piece, thank you Robert. Can’t say enough about how much I’m enjoying The Americans, it’s only three episodes in but already it’s top of my (very short) must watch list. I sincerely hope it hangs in there in the ratings, not getting a second season would be extremely disappointing.

  • Joe

    2/19/13: I tried watching this show tonight and gave up. Yes, it was the pilot episode. I was confused right from the start as to the premise of the show. The biggest problem I had with the show was the timeline for Keri Russel’s character. The show takes place in 1981, after President Reagan is inaugurated. Then, there is a flashback scene to Russia, 1960; which is minus 21 years. We see Keri Russel’s character training physical combat. So, hypothetically speaking, if Keri Russel’s character is (let’s say) 35 in 1981, 35 minus 21, is 14. She certainly didn’t look like a 14 year old in 1960 Russia. So, that means the viewers are to believe that she is in her mid 40’s at the youngest possible age to make the timeline work? I don’t think so. Keri Russel is only 36 in real life. The creators should have worked on their math a little better.

  • JD

    It’s easily the best new show of the 2012-2013 season, and I hope it succeeds. As Joe mentioned, the flashbacks in the first episode are hard to believe with regards to Keri Russel’s age, but that’s a small point and hardly a justifiable reason not to enjoy the show.

  • Derek

    Americans is great, and cable shows especially tend to grow if you give them more seasons as people watch the shows on DVD and Online.

  • Lodak

    The Americans moves way too slow. I’m about to drop it.

  • BigBrotherFan

    Lena Dunham hangs out with Lisa Lampanell.

    What a sloppy LOSER! HBO NEEDS TO CANCEL GIRLS(PIGS) ASAP. RATINGS LOSER. WRITER LOSER.

  • Steve Hampton

    The AMERICANS is by far one of the best shows on now. I sometimes have a hard time watching it is so suspenseful!

  • Shaz!

    Terriers was brilliant!
    BOSS was stunning!

    It is a crime against the integrity of television that these two shows were not renewed! SHAME!

© 2014 Tribune Digital Ventures