The Bear awakens: Welcome to a new season and a new Renew/Cancel Index


The 2016-17 TV season starts Sept. 19, and the Bear is hungry. He’s also been doing some renovation.

The Renew/Cancel Index will still be here, but it will look and act a little different this season. We’ll get to the new methodology in a moment, but first, the “look” part: No more smileys.

Emoji-based rankings will still exist, but the Bear has grown tired of looking at the crying faces and the overly happy ones. It’s 2016 and the emoji game needs to step up. Fortunately, we have this:


Shows will be visually ranked by one (certain cancellation) to five (certain renewal) bears, because everyone knows the more bears you have, the more fun it is. The Dead Show Walking designation initiated last season, for shows whose orders are cut but are playing out the string, remains as well.

Now, onto the methodology: In the past, the index has been tied to the average same-day adults 18-49 rating of all scripted shows on a network. It worked well, but it had a few flaws as well, including no real baseline for Friday shows and the chance to be skewed by a couple of heavily over- or underperforming shows.

So, borrowing from sports analytics, the new Renew/Cancel Index can also be thought of as Ratings Above Replacement. Here’s how it works.

The baseline

The Bear analyzed ratings for the handful of shows that were quickly canceled last season, those of the shows thrown on to replace them and those of the DSWs that were allowed to run out the clock. Collectively, they averaged a 0.7 rating, which seems to be about the threshold at which the Big 4 networks are willing to keep a low-rated show on for a while, rather than spend money and time trying to market another original series in its place.

That replacement-level 0.7 will now be the index against which shows are measured; their adults 18-49 rating will be the sum of a show’s 18-49 rating minus 0.7. For example, “Grey’s Anatomy” and its 2.22 rating last season would have had Renew/Cancel Index of 1.52; “Family Guy” and its 1.48 has an index of 0.78.

The higher above zero a show is, generally speaking, the safer it is. An index of 0.3 or less spelled doom for 23 of 29 such shows last season.

Friday shows

In the past, the index came with a caveat that Friday shows tend to get renewed with lower ratings than those on other nights of the week. That’s true, but it was never previously quantified.

Friday scripted shows on ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC had ratings about 30 percent lower than the average of all scripted series. Going forward, then, they’ll get a multiplier to determine their index number — (Rating-0.7)*1.3 — so they’re on a level playing field with other nights.

Adjustments for The CW

What about The CW? A 0.7 is above the network’s same-day 18-49 average for last season, and its Friday shows didn’t pull significantly lower ratings than some others. Further, the network has renewed virtually all of its scripted shows in each of the past two seasons.

Replacement level for The CW is currently set a 0.2, a tenth below its lowest-performing shows (“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and “Reign”) last season. The index will also take into account a presumption of renewal for any show at or above replacement level. With that presumption, a Friday adjustment is also not necessary at the moment.

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