Cancellation Watch: The Following Rises, Cult Debut Barely Registers, and What’s Up with Once Upon A Time?

By | February 20, 2013

FOX’s The Following improved its numbers this week after starting on what looked like the same sort of death spiral that got Alcatraz cancelled last year (which aired in the same Monday 9 PM EST timeslot).  The Following rose to a 2.9 rating in the 18-49 demographic and 8.4 million total viewers.  That’s up 21% from the 2.4 rating that the show sunk to last week, and perhaps it indicates a turnaround in the show’s numbers which dropped in consecutive weeks since its second episode (similar to the trend that the J.J. Abrams produced Alcatraz followed last year).  As long as The Following stays at a 2.5 rating or higher, it should be safe.  If it sinks closer to a 2.0 score (which seems unlikely at this point), then it’s starting to approach bubble territory.  Last year, Alcatraz had dropped below that 2.0 threshold by its fifth episode, so it should be a good sign for The Following that it has reversed its slide by that same point.  Keep a close eye on this one, but I believe it is quite safe for now.

Over on The CW, new series Cult debuted to disastrously low ratings last night as it only managed to pull a 0.3 rating with less than one million total viewers (based on the preliminaries).  Those are bad numbers even for a CW show (lower than Nikita!) and unfortunately this one follows the trend of poor debuts by genre mid-season entries so far in 2013.  But I’m not counting Cult as sure to be cancelled just yet.  The one thing it has going in it’s favor right now is the fact that it airs on the fifth place network.  Despite the show’s exceptionally poor bow, The CW may still give it a chance to build an audience (it’s not like they have a ton of other shows waiting in the wings).  And hopefully they will try to adjust its scheduling and maybe move it to timeslot where it has a better chance of getting noticed (Tuesdays have been a disaster for the network this season), because based on the first episode this is a pretty good show.  I’m not completely writing this one off yet, but the odds are against it already. 

Over on ABC, Once Upon A Time saw a small increase in its numbers this past Sunday as it pulled a 2.4 rating in the 18-49 demo and 7.61 million total viewers.  That’s up from the series low of a 2.2 rating it had the prior week, but not by much.  This show has suffered from some pretty major competition since returning from hiatus in January which included the NFL Playoffs, the Golden Globe Awards, and the Grammy’s.  But this past Sunday, it was up against most of its usual timeslot competitors (though The Amazing Race did have its season premiere in the same hour), so I would have expected it to improve more.  It’s still one of the higher rated Sunday shows, though, and we will see how its numbers track in the coming weeks.  But it’s actually approaching a critical juncture as it wraps up its second season.  Typically when one of the broadcast networks renews a show for a third season, they are pretty much rubber-stamping it for a fourth.  Because three seasons gets a show to sixty six episodes while four takes it to the magic number of eighty eight which is what the syndication market prefers (and that’s typically when a series really starts to turn a profit).  So if a network doesn’t think a show has the steam to carry it for two more seasons after its second, they may go ahead and cut it loose instead of shelling out the money for another twenty two episodes then cancelling it and ending up with a product that’s less appealing to the syndication market.  I’m not raising any red flags on Once Upon A Time just yet, but I have to say that its numbers have sunk low enough that there may be some cause for concern.  Fans of this show should definitely keep a close eye on the ratings in the coming weeks.

And over on AMC, The Walking Dead had another strong performance on Sunday night.  It dropped from its mid-season return numbers, but still pulled an amazing 5.6 rating in the 18-49 demo and over eleven million total viewers.  This one continues to deliver a runaway hit and has already been renewed for a fourth season.

Keep an eye on the Cancellation Watch Twitter Site for the early returns from the rest of this week’s shows and you can see the Cancellation Alert status of all the shows currently airing plus the final results from prior seasons at my Cancellation Watch page.  And for questions on how the ratings work and my Cancellation Alert statuses, you can see the Cancellation Watch FAQ.

Ratings Source: TV by the Numbers

Nielsen TV Ratings: ©2013 The Nielsen Company. All Rights Reserved.

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