Masked Scheduler's Ratings Smackdown

Here's a two-part question from the Masked Mailbox. KM writes:
"With the announcement that this will be the final season for 'The Middle,' how do you know when to pull the plug on a grilled cheese sandwich kind of show like this? The ratings will pretty much be the same each season, and it won't win any awards or generate much buzz, but you can also continue to crank out episodes for syndication. Thank you very much.
"P.S. Who are you pulling for in the fatal four-way at Summerslam?”
Every network should be so lucky as to have a reliable show like "The Middle." These shows fly under the radar for several seasons and serve a valuable function for a network, especially when it comes to putting together comedy blocks. "The Middle" joins shows like "Wings," "Coach" and "Gimme a Break" that work as both a satellite and leadoff show and can move all over the schedule. I guess "Supernatural" serves that role for the CW.
"The Middle" is the quintessential ABC comedy. Family, middle/working class and located somewhere (duh) in the middle of America. It succeeded because it treated the kids (as do the best ABC comedies) with respect and relied more on their personalities than their looks. It was another example of when a network sticks to its knitting, it radically increases its chances of succeeding.
Unlike many situations in the biz, a show like "The Middle" leaves the air under amicable terms for all the parties. Although I don't think there is a lot of evidence that announcing a show's departure so far in advance leads to a ratings bump, it does allow the show to wrap things up, and even consider if there is a spinoff here.
The question of when to "pull the plug," like everything in the TV business, has many answers. Each show has a unique story. The most common answer is financial. At this stage of "The Middle," the costs of making more episodes simply exceed the revenue for both the network (which on paper is paying the full cost of production at this point) and the studio (which has amassed enough episodes for its syndication goals). When the studio and the network are siblings, this decision can be easier.
In the case of "The Middle," ABC has been developing several family comedies which are probably ready to take over the leadoff position, so putting the show out to pasture will not adversely impact the network's ratings and opens up a slot for another at-bat. Although scheduling may not matter as it did in the past, it still has value. It does play a role in increasing the chances of a comedy succeeding when hammocked between two established comedies.
There are also creative reasons for a show to move on after nine seasons. The "kids" have grown up and their stories and the family's stories have been told. There is often a turnover in showrunners as well --although not in this case.
A show like "The Middle" is appreciated by all who work in the broadcast game. These are the unsung heroes and heroines of your schedule. ABC treated it with respect, and it gave back to the network, so big up to them.
Regarding Summerslam, I think Brock Lesnar keeps the title assuming his UFC return against Jon Jones happens after WrestleMania. Paul Heyman threatening that Brock leaves if he loses at SS pretty much convinced me he retains. Between now and Mania the other three dudes (Roman Reigns, Samoa Joe and Braun Strowman) battle it out to see who Lesnar does the honors for at the big show in April. Sorry TV dudes, but I have to service all the fans.
Questions? Email me at or Tweet me @maskedscheduler
Have a great weekend.

Broadcast primetime live + same-day ratings for Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017

Note: NBC’s live NFL coverage could result in greater adjustments than usual for the network in the final ratings.

The numbers for Thursday:

Time Show Adults 18-49 Rating/Share Viewers (millions)
8 p.m. NFL Preseason Football (NBC) (8-11 p.m.) 2.3/11 7.79
The Big Bang Theory (CBS) – R 1.0/4 6.20
Beat Shazam (FOX) 0.8/3 2.67
Boy Band (ABC) 0.5/2 2.38
Penn & Teller: Fool Us (The CW) 0.4/2 1.64
8:30 p.m. Kevin Can Wait (CBS) – R 0.9/4 4.68
9 p.m. Big Brother (CBS) 1.9/8 6.27
Battle of the Network Stars (ABC) 0.6/3 2.49
Love Connection (FOX) 0.6/3 2.24
Whose Line Is It Anyway? (The CW) 0.4/2 1.33
9:30 p.m. Whose Line Is It Anyway? (The CW) – R 0.4/2 1.24
10 p.m. The Gong Show (ABC) 0.6/3 2.31
Zoo (CBS) 0.5/2 2.69


The first game of the NFL preseason schedule carried NBC to a ratings win Thursday night, but the other networks held up well opposite the return of football.

NBC’s coverage of the Cowboys-Cardinals game drew a 2.3 rating in adults 18-49, pending updates. Its 5.4 household rating in the metered markets is the best for a weeknight preseason game in six years.

“Big Brother” (1.9) was the top-rated non-football show of the evening, matching last week’s rating. “Beat Shazam” (0.8) and “Love Connection” (0.6) were steady for FOX, as were all of ABC’s shows and “Penn & Teller: Fool Us” on The CW. “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” (0.4) was above its summer average of 0.3.

CBS’ “Zoo” (0.5) is down a tenth of a point from last week’s fast nationals and even with its final rating.

Network averages:

Adults 18-49 rating/share 2.3/11 1.1/5 0.7/3 0.6/3 0.4/2
Total Viewers (millions) 7.79 4.80 2.46 2.39 1.46


: Estimated percentage of the universe of TV households (or other specified group) tuned to a program in the average minute. Ratings are expressed as a percent.
Fast Affiliate Ratings: These first national ratings are available at approximately 11 a.m. ET the day after telecast. The figures may include stations that did not air the entire network feed, as well as local news breaks or cutaways for local coverage or other programming. Fast Affiliate ratings are not as useful for live programs and are likely to differ significantly from the final results, because the data reflect normal broadcast feed patterns. 
Share (of Audience): 
The percent of households (or persons) using television who are tuned to a specific program, station or network in a specific area at a specific time. 
Time Shifted Viewing:
 Program ratings for national sources are produced in three streams of data – Live, Live +Same-Day and Live +7 Day. Time-shifted figures account for incremental viewing that takes place with DVRs. Live+SD includes viewing during the same broadcast day as the original telecast, with a cut-off of 3 a.m. local time when meters transmit daily viewing to Nielsen for processing. Live +7 ratings include  viewing that takes place during the 7 days following a telecast.

Source: The Nielsen Company.

Posted by:Rick Porter

Rick Porter has been covering TV since the days when networks sent screeners on VHS, one of which was a teaser for the first season of "American Idol." He's left-handed, makes a very solid grilled cheese and has been editor of TV by the Numbers since October 2015. He lives in Austin.

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