When it comes to bubble status, like the Renew/Cancel Index we’re focusing on the likelihood that a show will be renewed for next season.  Certain shows are toss-ups where based on the ratings, the renewal decisions could go either way and not be surprising.

After a holiday week littered with repeats and specials, there were not any changes to show designations. I know some want to see NBC’s Law & Order: LA move off the bubble after going above a 2.0 rating with adults 18-49 in the current week.  But with the previous three weeks all being below a 2.0 rating, one week isn’t changing the designation.  The same thing goes for Lie to Me on Fox, though of the trio of “likely to be canceled” shows on Fox, I like Lie to Me’s chances to survive the best.

Here’s the recap of shows that have already been canceled, are certain to be canceled by the end of the season (i.e., won’t be renewed for the 2011-2012 season) and shows likely to be canceled by the end of the season (i.e., won’t be renewed for the 2011-12 season).

Show Network Status
The Whole Truth ABC Already Canceled
My Generation ABC Already Canceled
Detroit 1-8-7 ABC Likely to be Canceled
No Ordinary Family ABC Likely to be Canceled
Medium CBS Already Canceled
The Defenders CBS Likely to be Canceled
Life Unexpected CW Certain to be Canceled
The Event NBC Likely to be Canceled
Outlaw NBC Already Canceled
Undercovers NBC Already Canceled
Chase NBC Certain to be Canceled
Fringe FOX Likely to be Canceled
The Good Guys FOX Certain to be Canceled
Human Target FOX Likely to be Canceled
Lie to Me FOX Likely to be Canceled
Lone Star FOX Already Canceled
Running Wilde FOX Certain to be Canceled

As for “the bubble” show contenders, there were also no changes this week.  As usual, the top complaints I hear about the bubble list are some variation of “You’re nuts, CBS would never cancel The Good Wife!” and “You’re nuts, CBS would never cancel Blue Bloods or CSI: NY, they’re getting over 10 million viewers ON A FRIDAY!

I think this is a good spot to talk about terms and what they mean.  Figures of speech are often used  to perk up prose, but that really isn’t the case with “On the Bubble.”  Variety uses figures of speech to pretty up prose constantly and some people react to it as if Variety is being completely literal.

But “On the Bubble” has a pretty literal meaning: the ratings data alone doesn’t point conclusively to renewal or cancellation.  You can translate that as “it’s a toss up!”  When we say Blue Bloods is on the bubble, we’re not saying we think it will be canceled, or that it is likely to be canceled.  We’re just saying the chances of renewal are as good as the chances of cancellation.

That’s pretty straightforward, but alas doesn’t deal with the one question that never goes away (and I’m guessing never will): do total viewers matter?

Our conclusion, based on data and conversations with people in the business is that outside of press releases, they really don’t matter much.  We understand that a lot of people don’t like  that the way the industry works is that primetime advertising is primarily sold based on adults 18-49 viewing or subsets of it.   Think of it as unjust, but that doesn’t change the way it is.  If the way things work changes, we’ll change our prediction methodology.  Until then, that’s why Glee generates more in advertising revenue for a new episode for Fox than CBS makes in advertising revenue with a new episode of NCIS, despite NCIS literally having millions more viewers. update: additional details on NCIS vs. Glee.

That Blue Bloods is a top 25 show in total viewers most weeks even though it airs on the Friday is a nice feather in the cap, but unfortunately it has the weight of a feather, and feathers don’t weigh very much.  On the other hand, when a show is on the bubble, every feather in the cap is a plus for a show.

If the numbers for CSI: NY and Blue Bloods hold up for the remainder of the year I think the decision process for renewals is going to be a difficult one for CBS.   The question of how much longer we see scripted content on Fridays lingers.  But Bill raises the important question of: at what cost?

If I had to guess, I’d guess CBS will stick with scripted Fridays for the 2011-12 season, and that bodes well for Blue Bloods and fans of scripted shows.  It’s a harder call for CSI: NY because it’s an older show that probably is a bit more expensive, plus CSI: Miami is also on the bubble.

How could CBS possibly consider canceling a show that averages more than 10 million viewers?  Because they’re not getting paid for a lot of those viewers!   Remember, Numb3rs was canceled even though it averaged more than 10 million viewers on a Friday.  CBS isn’t NBC.  It isn’t struggling to find shows that draw 10 million viewers.

Bubble Show Contenders:

Show Net
Better With You ABC
Blue Bloods CBS
CSI: Miami CBS
$#*! My Dad Says CBS
The Good Wife CBS
Community NBC
Chuck NBC
Law & Order: LA NBC
Parenthood NBC

Note: the Renew/Cancel index is reading the scheduling tea leaves and has designatedAmerican Dad as a toss up that could go either way (AKA on the bubble).  I agree with the index — it’s obvious Fox is looking to try something else based on its mid-season schedule.   For now, I’m not designating American Dad on the bubble yet (or as likely to be canceled) because I want to see  what happens with Bob’s Burgers at 8:30p on Sunday and The Cleveland Show at 9:30p on Sundays once that schedule begins on February 13.

Posted by:TV By The Numbers

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