Bubble Watch: Cross Out ‘Star-Crossed’ + Predictions For Midseason Shows (With Historical Analysis)
This week’s premieres and notable events:
Star-Crossed premiered to numbers equal to what Hart of Dixie was doing before The Olympics. The CW was stuck between a rock (The Olympics) and a hard place (The Voice) in scheduling this premiere, and this way The CW at least has some idea what the show would do away from The Voice. That said, 0.4 for a show still four years away from syndication isn’t going to cut it.
NBC got into the 2015 game, ordering Shades of Blue for the 15/16 season and reviving Heroes for some point in 2015.
I may be spending too much time researching show histories, as my first response to the Heroes news was to think “There goes one of the sub-88 episode outliers. Now if only the Veronica Mars movie is a hit…”
My second response was to think “The natural end result of Fox abandoning the standard pilot process and aiming for talent earlier is just to push the start of the development cycle one year earlier for everyone.” I just didn’t expect the natural escalation of the development arms race to start this early.
Midseason – or Just Middling – Hopes?
Sight unseen, and keeping the dire historical trends for Spring in mind, here are my predictions for this year’s crop of midseason shows. Are there any Spring launches I have any hopes for? My in-depth look at the last 5 years of broadcast midseason performance follows my predictions.
ABC: None. Resurrection will either start out well and then collapse or just start out terribly, but I don’t see it being viable once we get into April. Mind Games will bring out the Kyle Killen disciples (of which I am one), but very few of them have Nielsen boxes in their homes. Mixology just seems like a complete tonal mismatch from Modern Family.
CBS: None. Spoiler alert: The later in the year you start on CBS, the dimmer your chances. (The last midseason scripted freshman renewed by CBS? Rules of Engagement, owned by CBS, way back in the 06/07 season.) Given that CBS owns neither Friends with Better Lives or Bad Teacher, and they start in April? Forget it.
CW: The 100. The CW already made this decision when they didn’t throw it under The Voice. If Hart of Dixie flops on Fridays, or if their pilot crop comes out poorly, or even if The CW just wants a spackle option, it will be renewed.
Fox: Surviving Jack. We’ll see how Brooklyn Nine-Nine settles at 9:30, but right now the survival point for Fox comedies is pretty darn low, and American Idol is still the best lead-in on the network. There is the issue of a period show taking place before the majority of the people watching the lead-in were born, though.
NBC: About a Boy. Much like Fox, the survival point for comedies on NBC is really low right now, and The Voice is a pretty solid lead-in. The reviews are pretty dire though.
(I think Alfonso Cuaron is a technically amazing director, and assume NBC has a flotilla of new promos for Believe cued up as soon as they know exactly which Oscars he’s won this year, but all the behind the scenes turmoil, and general NBC Sunday ratings, give me little hope for the series.)
Normally, we would be neck deep in midseason shows by now. As most shows post their highest ratings for their premieres, most midseason shows launch in February, to help raise the networks’ averages for sweeps. The Winter Olympics have thrown a wrench into the usual plans though, as the networks, both broadcast and cable, have mostly held their new shows and schedule changes in reserve, waiting until The Olympics are over to reboot their schedules in earnest.
Whether we should be particularly hopeful for many of those new shows is another matter. There are a number of reasons why midseason shows should have lower success rates than Fall shows:
- If a network legitimately thinks a show will be a hit, it should maximize advertising revenue by getting it on the air as quickly as possible.
- With a secondary goal of syndication sales, a network should get a show to 88+ episodes as quickly as possible, and premiering in Fall gets you there in 4 seasons, as opposed to 5 for a midseason show.
- Many midseason shows launch in a timeslot a Fall show has already failed in, meaning there are likely real competition/scheduling issues that could limit the chances for any show to succeed there.
- For years, in Spring American Idol steamrolled the competition for a third of the week.
To verify my thoughts, I summarized the total number of broadcast freshmen scripted shows that were renewed for each of the last five seasons (this avoids the Writers’ Strike and limits us to years where The CW was not responsible for scheduling Sunday, keeping the comparisons cleaner). The results were somewhat surprising:
12/13 Fall: 8/21 (38%) Spring: 3/12 (25%) Overall: 11/33 (33%)
11/12 Fall: 12/25 (48%) Spring: 5/19 (26%) Overall: 17/44 (39%)
10/11 Fall: 5/21 (24%) Spring: 5/15 (33%) Overall: 10/36 (28%)
09/10 Fall: 10/21 (48%) Spring: 3/9 (33%) Overall: 13/30 (43%)
08/09 Fall: 4/14 (29%) Spring: 6/13 (46%) Overall: 10/27 (37%)
Five Year Freshman Survival Rate
Fall: 39/102 (38%) Spring: 22/68 (32%) Overall: 61/170 (36%)
While three of the years turned out as expected, I was stunned by 10/11’s and especially 08/09’s results. The problem is that the above just measured short term survival, not success. While I’m sure the Better Off Ted cast and crew appreciated not having to find new jobs that Summer, it was by no means a long-term success for ABC – and that’s nothing compared to Southland, whose second season episodes never even aired on NBC.
If instead we change the criteria to, say, airing for three seasons (on their original network), stripping out second chance spackle options, the results look like this:
12/13 Too Early to Know (Arrow has been renewed)
11/12 Fall: 10/25 (40%) Spring: 1/19 (5%) Overall: 11/44 (25%)
10/11 Fall: 5/21 (24%) Spring: 3/15 (20%) Overall: 8/36 (22%)
09/10 Fall: 9/21 (43%) Spring: 1/9 (11%) Overall: 10/30 (33%)
08/09 Fall: 3/14 (21%) Spring: 3/13 (23%) Overall: 6/27 (22%)
Four Year “Three+ Seasons” Success Rate
Fall: 27/81 (33%) Spring: 8/56 (14%) Overall: 35/137 (26%)
Now, only 08/09’s strong Spring crop of Castle, Parks & Rec, and Lie to Me really stick out of the crowd. Note that only an average of just 2 Spring premieres a year make it to three+ seasons.
And if we go all the way, and just judge by whether a show hit standard syndication (88 episodes) or not on its original network:
12/13 Too Early to Know
11/12 Too Early to ‘Know’ (Unforgettable getting 40 more episodes beyond this season on CBS seems impossible, Suburgatory getting 31 more episodes beyond this season on ABC seems unlikely, and Hart of Dixie getting a full 22 episodes next year is up in the air. If you assume only Hart of Dixie makes it:
11/12 Fall: 8/25 (32%), Spring: 1/19 (5%) Overall: 9/44 (20%) )
10/12 Fall: 4/21 (19%) Spring: 1/15 (7%) Overall: 5/36 (14%)
09/10 Fall: 8/21 (38%) Spring: 1/9 (11%) Overall: 9/30 (30%)
08/09 Fall: 3/14 (21%) Spring: 2/13 (15%) Overall: 5/27 (19%)
Three Year “88+ Episodes” Syndication Rate
Fall: 15/56 (27%) Spring: 4/37 (11%) Overall: 19/93 (20%)
Note that by the time you reach syndication, Spring’s rate is less than Fall for every year in the sample. Also note that if 88+ episodes is where the real money is, it is only happening 20% of the time.
If you assume that out of my freshman bubble comedies, one gets renewed and one gets canceled, than at this point I am forecasting for 13/14, Fall: 8/26 (31%) Spring 1/6 (16%) Overall: 9/32 (28%). Those rates are at the low end, though not historically so.
Note: only scripted shows that have aired at least one episode this season are in the table below.
|Back In The Game||ABC||Canceled|
|How I Met Your Mother||CBS||Final Season|
|We Are Men||CBS||Canceled|
|Nikita||CW||Final Season Finished|
|American Dad||Fox||Moving to TBS|
|The Michael J. Fox Show||NBC||Canceled|
|Sean Saves The World||NBC||Canceled|
|Welcome To The Family||NBC||Canceled|
|Killer Women||ABC||Cancellation Predicted|
|The Neighbors||ABC||Cancellation Predicted|
|Once Upon a Time in Wonderland||ABC||Cancellation Predicted|
|Super Fun Night||ABC||Cancellation Predicted|
|Trophy Wife||ABC||Cancellation Predicted|
|The Crazy Ones||CBS||Cancellation Predicted|
|The Good Wife||CBS||Cancellation Predicted|
|The Mentalist||CBS||Cancellation Predicted|
|Beauty & The Beast||CW||Cancellation Predicted|
|The Carrie Diaries||CW||Cancellation Predicted|
|The Tomorrow People||CW||Cancellation Predicted|
|Almost Human||Fox||Cancellation Predicted|
|The Mindy Project||Fox||Cancellation Predicted|
|Raising Hope||Fox||Cancellation Predicted|
|Mom||CBS||On The Bubble|
|Two and a Half Men||CBS||On The Bubble|
|Brooklyn Nine-Nine||Fox||On The Bubble|
|Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.||ABC||Renewal Predicted|
|The Goldbergs||ABC||Renewal Predicted|
|Grey’s Anatomy||ABC||Renewal Predicted|
|Last Man Standing||ABC||Renewal Predicted|
|The Middle||ABC||Renewal Predicted|
|Modern Family||ABC||Renewal Predicted|
|Once Upon a Time||ABC||Renewal Predicted|
|The Big Bang Theory||CBS||Renewal Predicted|
|Blue Bloods||CBS||Renewal Predicted|
|Criminal Minds||CBS||Renewal Predicted|
|Hawaii Five-0||CBS||Renewal Predicted|
|Mike & Molly||CBS||Renewal Predicted|
|The Millers||CBS||Renewal Predicted|
|NCIS: LA||CBS||Renewal Predicted|
|Person of Interest||CBS||Renewal Predicted|
|2 Broke Girls||CBS||Renewal Predicted|
|Hart of Dixie||CW||Renewal Predicted|
|Family Guy||Fox||Renewal Predicted|
|The Following||Fox||Renewal Predicted|
|New Girl||Fox||Renewal Predicted|
|Chicago Fire||NBC||Renewal Predicted|
|Chicago PD||NBC||Renewal Predicted|
|Law & Order: SVU||NBC||Renewal Predicted|
|Parks & Recreation||NBC||Renewal Predicted|
|The Vampire Diaries||CW||Renewed|