The (Downward) Circle of Life
For years, the flow of a show’s ratings was relatively predictable over the course of a season: a show would have a big premiere, drop a couple tenths to settle at its Fall rating, drop a couple more tenths in early Spring to settle as its Spring rating, and then have a big finale. The problem with the ratings in the modern era, though, is that most shows no longer significantly rise for season premieres and finales, yet continue to drop in Spring. Those Spring drops are effectively permanent – what shows are doing now plus one or two tenths is their ceiling for next season. This relentless downward trend – plus the ongoing demise of various veteran reality warhorses – is the cause of the broadcast networks reliably shrinking around 10% every year.
(Why shows drop in Spring is an interesting question. Is it that once a show drops to DVR/Hulu status, it is unlikely to rise back up to live viewing status (even The Good Wife has already lost its Josh Charles-related bump)? Does cable (and now online) offer stronger options in Spring? Or is the mass market’s attention span not much more than roughly four months long?)
Considering the likely permanence of these Spring drops, which shows’ performances have jumped out at me? (Note: all these averages toss out their first two weeks’ ratings. Those early weeks are simply too affected by premieres (both theirs and the competitions) to be representative.)
The Vampire Diaries (Weeks 3-6 Average: 1.2 to Last 4 Week Average: 0.85, 29% drop), The Originals (0.975 to 0.7, -28%), Supernatural (1.05 to .875, -17%), Arrow (0.975 to 0.775, -21%), Reign (0.65 to 0.475, -27%), The Tomorrow People (0.625 to 0.375, -40%), The 100 (compared to TTP’s Weeks 3-6: 0.625 to 0.55, -12%)
For as much positive attention as the The CW received in Fall, reality has caught up with them with a vengeance in Spring, with many of their shows down almost 30%. Supernatural continues to be the undersung gem of the schedule, and The 100, while benefitting from fresh legs, is holding up (and levelling off) nicely compared to how The Tomorrow People did there in Fall. The Originals only being down as much as The Vampire Diaries despite the former now being opposite The Voice is impressive, while The Tomorrow People has predictably cratered under The Voice.
NCIS (2.95 to 2.425, -18%), NCIS: Los Angeles (2.575 to 2.3, -11%), Criminal Minds (2.6 to 2.35, -6%), CSI (1.925 to 1.875, -3%), Elementary (1.775 to 1.6, -9%), The Good Wife (1.4 to 1.5, +7%), The Mentalist (1.3 to 1.45, +11.5%)
An underreported Spring story is the recent decline of NCIS (which is not SHIELD related – NCIS was steady at ~3 until The Olympics), taking NCIS:Los Angeles down with it. It isn’t network wide, as Criminal Minds and CSI are basically flat. While Elementary isn’t down much, the average again shows that the modern business realities have caught up to even CBS @10. Meanwhile, no longer airing against the NFL, The Mentalist has a real axe to grind, up more than The Good Wife this Spring without any shock deaths.
The Blacklist (3.05 to 2.775, -9%), Parenthood (1.25 to 1.25, flat), Chicago Fire (2.175 to 1.825, -16%), Law & Order: SVU (1.575 to 1.725, +10%), Revolution (1.425 to 1.275, -11%)
Even while The Voice cools down, The Blacklist remains strong – with Scandal out of the picture, it was broadcast’s #1 drama by half a demo point this week. While SVU has bounced up and down this year, it’s not surprising that Dick Wolf would balk at too much of a paycut for a show that overall isn’t sinking. And while Parenthood and Revolution are both low, only Parenthood is stable (and doesn’t need two full seasons for syndication).
New Girl (1.9 to 1.3, -32%), The Mindy Project (1.4 to 1.0, -29%), Bones (2.125 to 1.5, -29%), The Following (1.725 to 1.4, -19%), Bob’s Burgers (1.7 to 0.825, -51%)
Literally, what is there positive to say aboutFox? Even the post-Super Bowl slot hasn’t saved New Girl from the declines every other show is seeing, and while the Cosmos-related schedule moves have hurt all the animated shows, Bob’s Burgers has absolutely cratered in recent weeks @7:30. Hopefully 24 still has something left in the tank.
Modern Family (3.925 to 3.45, -12%), The Middle (2.25 to 1.95, -13%), The Goldbergs (1.725 to 1.525, -11%), Last Man Standing (1.325 to 1.3, -2%), Revenge (1.55 to 1.375, -11%), Once Upon a Time (2.3 to 2.05, -11%), Nashville (1.55 to 1.425, -8%), Grey’s Anatomy (2.7 to 2.55, -6%), Castle (2.025 to 1.75, -14%)
ABC’s Spring drops are strangely uniform; the network’s problem lies in the poor ratio of freshmen hits to DOA shows. It is likely ABC’s slow decline will continue until they get aggressive and shuffle their schedule around; it is unlikely ABC will shuffle their schedule around until the cumulative decline puts them in Fox territory.
This week’s premieres:
Black Box premiered to an underwhelming 1.5 rating. As a regular season show, I’d instantly peg it as a cancellation; as a Summer co-production brought up early due to Kerry Washington’s pregnancy, all I can do is throw my hands up and put it “On The Bubble”.
Bad Teacher premiered to a middle-of-the-road 2.1. That 2.1 is better than what Friends with Better Lives has been rating after 2 Broke Girls; Bad Teacher is also unlikely to stay at that premiere rating. Which show out of the two (if either) CBS prefers will likely go down to the wire. (Note that CBS doesn’t have to renew another comedy, if Mike & Molly and Two and a Half Men both premiere in Fall. With The Big Bang Theory taking a Monday slot during CBS’ Thursday Night Football roster, and Thursday Night Football taking all the Thursday slots through October 23rd, neither veteran show necessarily even has to get a full order to be able to premiere in Fall.)
The CBS TNF Package Revealed
For those that don’t follow the NFL, we found out this week that CBS’s TNF package is seven Thursday games, from September 11th through October 23rd, and a Saturday game on December 20th. All of CBS’ Thursday games are matchups between teams in the same division, which is a double-edged sword: On one hand, divisional games are highly anticipated by the local fans; on the other hand, there may be less interest from the rest of the country (will literally anyone outside of the Central Time Zone care about the Vikings/Packers game?) How huge numbers in some local markets vs. mediocre nationwide numbers works out will be interesting.
Tom’s Multimedia Soapbox
Speaking of the NFL, head over to the Ross Tucker Podcast to hear from the NFL’s head of scheduling on just how difficult it is to put together the schedule for the multi-network monstrosity that is the modern NFL. Then again, as a football-loving computer programmer, I may be uniquely disposed to finding the notion of NFL employees talking about solution spaces hilarious.
Tom Shaw is a computer programmer from Milwaukee, WI. Bereft of Lost theories to argue about, he's spent too much time attempting to figure out the TV industry.
Save yourself from hibernating bears! Direct your criticisms to @tvtomshaw instead!
Note: only scripted shows that have aired at least one episode this season are in the table below.
|Back In The Game||ABC||Canceled|
|Once Upon a Time in Wonderland||ABC||Canceled|
|How I Met Your Mother||CBS||Final Season Finished|
|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|
|The Neighbors||ABC||Cancellation Predicted|
|Super Fun Night||ABC||Cancellation Predicted|
|Trophy Wife||ABC||Cancellation Predicted|
|The Crazy Ones||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|
|Surviving Jack||Fox||Cancellation Predicted|
|Growing Up Fisher||NBC||Cancellation Predicted|
|Black Box||ABC||On The Bubble|
|Bad Teacher||CBS||On The Bubble|
|Friends with Better Lives||CBS||On The Bubble|
|Unforgettable||CBS||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|
|Hart of Dixie||CW||Renewal Predicted|
|The 100||CW||Renewal Predicted|
|Family Guy||Fox||Renewal Predicted|
|About a Boy||NBC||Renewal Predicted|
|Law & Order: SVU||NBC||Renewal Predicted|
|The Big Bang Theory||CBS||Renewed|
|The Good Wife||CBS||Renewed|
|Mike & Molly||CBS||Renewed|
|Person of Interest||CBS||Renewed|
|Two and a Half Men||CBS||Renewed|
|2 Broke Girls||CBS||Renewed|
|The Vampire Diaries||CW||Renewed|
|The Mindy Project||Fox||Renewed|
|Parks and Recreation||NBC||Renewed|