Fall Sci Fi TV Power Rankings: First Look at How the Returning Shows Stand Entering the New Season

By | September 2, 2014


Believe it or not, the Fall season kicks off next week with Syfy’s returning Haven and new genre entry Z Nation, and then by the end of the month things will really kick into high gear with returning and new shows having their debuts (You can see the full schedule at this link).  So that means it’s time for the first set of 2013-14 Power Rankings which will act as my initial look at how well these shows will perform this year and whether they can expect to continue into yet another season.  Note that I am not including any of the new shows here because I need to see their ratings performance across at least a couple of episodes to make a determination of how they should rank.  But I will be dealing with those freshman entries in an upcoming post.  Also, I do not include the import shows like Doctor Who, Lost Girl, Continuum, etc., because the success of those shows is often driven more by their ratings in their home countries.  So this list includes the science fiction and fantasy shows airing in Prime Time whose success is based primarily on the ratings results in the States.  And note that I am not including Lifetime’s Witches of East End because I am assuming they have shifted it to a Summer series (though that hasn’t worked out too great ratings-wise) and we have not heard a renewal announcement yet, either.

This year, I have added a new measurement to the rankings: the Target ratings number.  This is the score–based on the ratings in the 18-49 demographics for the overnights–that I believe the show needs to average to get renewed.  It is completely a subjective number that I have assigned, but it is based on the numbers that I have typically seen a show renewed at based on its network and/or timeslot.  It will typically be a lower number for the basic cable channels as well as The CW, while I usually have a higher score for the Big Four (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC) broadcast networks.  If the show’s average drops below the target or remains above, that does not mean it definitely will get cancelled or renewed, but it increases the chances one way or the other.  And I do reserve the right to adjust that target during the season if I notice a clear trend in ratings averages for one or more networks.  For example, all of the broadcast networks suffered a notable drop in their ratings the second half of last season resulting in shows getting renewed at ratings levels that would previously and seen them cancelled.    I will try not to make too many adjustments, but there is a point when you have to rethink the numbers as last season definitely proved.

The rankings below are mostly the same as where these shows ended the 2013-14 season with only a few shifts and incidental moves.  And the final set of Power Rankings from last year were more about looking back whereas these rankings are focusing on the season ahead.  The good news is that no shows are entering the season as Likely to Get Cancelled.  I have a few On the Bubble, but they are only there marginally based on their ratings declines to end last season.  If they jump back up upon their return, then they will quickly move away from Bubble status.  The number in parenthesis shows the ranking the show had at the end of last season.

Cancellation Alert statuses from least likely to be cancelled to most likely: Low, Moderate, Medium, Elevated, High

Sure to Get Renewed:

the-walking-dead-season-51 (1) The Walking Dead (AMC, Returning for a 5th Season) – Will this show set ratings records yet again this season or will it finally start to come back down to Earth? Of course the fact is that it could still slip a couple of points and still rank as the highest rated shows across the broadcast nets and cable. TWD even beat high profile sporting events pretty regularly based on the ratings in the 18-49 demo several times last season. Expect it to remain at the top of this list for several more seasons.
Prior Season Rating Avg: 6.8 | Curr Season Target: 2.0 | Cancellation Alert: Low
Pros: Strong Ratings, Ratings Increase Year over Year, Strong Social Network Presence

2 (2) Game of Thrones (HBO, Returning for a 5th Season) – While it’s not quite at The Walking Dead levels, this series set new highs in its fourth season (surpassing The Sopranos as HBO’s most watched series ever) and also regularly beat out most programming on the broadcast networks. It also looks to be poised for an extended stay in the upper rungs of this list.
Prior Season Rating Avg: 3.7 | Curr Season Target: 2.0 | Cancellation Alert: Low
Pros: Strong Ratings, Ratings Increase Year over Year, Strong Social Network Presence

3 (3) American Horror Story (FX, Returning for a 4th Season) – This series has not reached TWD or GoT levels, but its numbers have grown each year.  Even if it drops off in the ratings, its anthology format gives it the possibility to rebound each year.  I expect this one to remain a mainstay on these charts for a few more years.
Prior Season Rating Avg: 2.2 | Curr Season Target: 1.0 | Cancellation Alert: Low
Pros: Strong Ratings, Ratings Increase Year over Year, Strong Social Network Presence

4 (4) Teen Wolf (MTV, Returning for a 5th Season) – I have this one here because I am assuming the first part of its fifth season will start airing in January like it did last year with the second half of its third.  And MTV should definitely plan on getting it on the early 2015 schedule because it had its best ratings performance during the Winter months followed by a drop-off in the Summer.  In any case, it continues to perform well for its network and likely has a few more seasons ahead of it.
Prior Season Rating Avg: 0.9 | Curr Season Target: 0.6 | Cancellation Alert: Low
Pros: Ratings Increase Year over Year, Relative Ratings, Strong Social Network Presence
Cons: Ratings Drop in Summer 2014

5 (9) Arrow (CW, Returning for a 3rd Season) – This is the one broadcast network series almost guaranteed to get a renewal this season.  For one, it’s a third season season series meaning that a fourth year will get it to the episode count that the syndication market prefers to see.  Also, it airs on the fifth place network which has been known to renew shows even with lagging ratings.  Plus, with The Flash joining The CW’s lineup, Arrow is anchoring a DC multi-series lineup on television that could bring more spin-offs.  Even a ratings collapse (unlikely) may not doom Arrow based on The CW’s renewal of Beauty and the Beast last season.  So you can bank on it still being on the schedule for the 2015-16 season.
Prior Season Rating: 0.9 | Curr Season Target: 0.9 | Cancellation Alert: Low
Pros: Relative Ratings, Fifth Place Network Series, Third Season Series
Cons: Ratings Decline Year over Year, Ratings Decline in Season

Likely to Get Renewed:

person-of-interest-cancelled6 (5) Person of Interest (CBS, Returning for a 4th Season) – The ratings in the 18-49 demographic for this show dropped last season, but it total viewers numbers remained high which is a factor at older-skewing CBS.  It will be in its fourth season now, so anything beyond that is just padding for the syndication run.  If it doesn’t drop too far and if CBS doesn’t consider it too expensive, it should be good to go for a fifth season.
Prior Season Rating Avg: 2.0 | Curr Season Target: 1.8 | Cancellation Alert: Low
Pros: High Total Viewership, Top 25 Based on Viewership
Cons: Ratings Decline Year over Year

7 (8) Supernatural (CW, Returning for a 10th Season) – I guess this one will keep going as long as the show’s creative team can continue to find new (or recycle old) stories for the Winchester brothers, and any decision to end the show will likely be a planned one.  This has been The CW’s most consistent show the last few years, and an eleventh season simply pads out the syndication package that much more and also gets it the record as the longest running sci fi / fantasy show in the U.S. (current record holders are Stargate: SG-1 and Smallville, both at ten seasons).
Prior Season Rating Avg: 1.0 | Curr Season Target: 0.9 | Cancellation Alert: Low
Pros: Relative Ratings, Fifth Place Network Series, Consistent Performer
Cons: Ratings Decline in Season

8 (6) Once Upon A Time (ABC, Returning for a 4th Season) – This show experienced some significant ratings fluctuations last season, but that was consistent with what the broadcast networks saw in general.  Still it may be at the point of stretching its fairy tale / folklore source material a bit too far.  Here’s my theory: they incorporate some of the characters from last year’s failed spin-off Once Upon A Time in Wonderland, then give OUAT a shortened fifth season that allows them to tie the two together for a 100+ episode syndication run.  In any case, I expect it to be back for another year.
Prior Season Rating Avg: 2.2 | Curr Season Target: 1.8 | Cancellation Alert: Low
Pros: Top 25 Based on Ratings, Relative Ratings, Ratings Improvement Late in Season
Cons: Ratings Decline Early in Season, Ratings Decline Year over Year


9 (7) Grimm (NBC, Returning for a 4th Season) – This show dropped a few ticks in the ratings last year, but its third season show status helped it earn a fourth season.  If it does not drop too much more this year, then it should be safe simply because it plugs up a difficult timeslot on the schedule on low viewership Fridays.
Prior Season Rating: 1.4 | Curr Season Target: 1.2 | Cancellation Alert: Low
Pros: Relative Ratings
Cons: Ratings Decline Year over Year, Ratings Decline in Season

10 (10) Haven (Syfy, Returning for a 5th Season) – It’s numbers were never great during its fourth season, but Syfy renewed it anyway and gave it twice its usual order of episodes (26 instead of 13). Its fifth season will air in two parts which will keep the show running into 2015. But that may be it or it may get a shortened sixth season to wrap up its storylines.
Prior Season Rating Avg: 0.4 | Curr Season Target: 0.4 | Cancellation Alert: Low
Pros: Low Production Costs, Strong Social Network Presence
Cons: Mediocre Ratings, Ratings Decline Year over Year

11 (11) Vampire Diaries (CW, Returning for a 6th Season) – Once The CW’s flagship series, this one limped out of  last season as the network’s ratings slump hit it hard. But even if that slump continues, it will almost certainly get one more season to wrap up all its storylines because that is the way that The CW usually rolls.
Prior Season Rating Avg: 1.0 | Curr Season Target: 0.9 | Cancellation Alert: Low
Pros: Relative Ratings, Fifth Place Network Series, Strong Social Network Presence
Cons: Ratings Decline Year over Year, Ratings Decline in Season

12 (15) From Dusk Till Dawn (El Rey, Returning for a 2nd Season) – It didn’t made a dent in the cable ratings during its first season, but it was on a new network that was more concerned about establishing its brand than waving Nielsen numbers around. This season they may expect better ratings, but I am guessing that El Rey will show some patience and prop it up for a third season run.
Prior Season Rating Avg: 0.2 | Curr Season Target: n/a | Cancellation Alert: Low
Pros: Low Ratings Expectations, New Network

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On (or Close to) the Bubble:

the-originals-cancelled13 (17) The Originals (CW, Returning for a 2nd Season) – This show was hit hard by The CW’s late season slump last year, and now it finds itself shifted to Mondays which have been a disaster for the network the last few years.  I realize they are hoping it will help them win back some of the audience share for that night like it did with Tuesdays last season.  But then it had the assistance of Supernatural then whereas it is going it on its own this year.  That makes me very nervous.  Still, since it airs on the fifth place network, it will be given a bit more leeway if its numbers drop.
Prior Season Rating Avg: 0.9 | Curr Season Target: 0.7 | Cancellation Alert: Moderate
Pros: Relative Ratings, Fifth Place Network Series
Cons: Ratings Decline in Season, Scheduling for Next Season

14 (13) Resurrection (ABC, Returning for a 2nd Season) – It’s kind of hard to gauge this one because its numbers started strong last year then dropped significantly, but actually it remained pretty much even if you look at the relative ratings. Plus it only had eight episodes in its first season, so is that a good enough sampling? This one was a surprise hit early, but I question whether it will have the momentum to sustain it through a second season.
Prior Season Rating Avg: 2.5 | Curr Season Target: 2.0 | Cancellation Alert: Moderate
Pros: Strong Debut Ratings, Top 25 Based on Ratings, Relative Ratings
Cons: Ratings Decline in Season

15 (12) Sleepy Hollow (FOX, Returning for a 2nd Season) – This show started last year strong (becoming a surprise early hit) but dropped notably by the end of its season. If it can regain some of its early ratings success, it should be okay.  But if it returns low, then it could be in for a rough ride.  It’s all about the momentum it has coming into the season.
Prior Season Rating Avg: 2.6 | Curr Season Target: 2.0 | Cancellation Alert: Moderate
Pros: Strong Ratings Early, Top 25 Based on Ratings, Relative Ratings
Cons: Ratings Decline in Season

16 (16) Agents of SHIELD (ABC, Returning for a 2nd Season) – This show started out last season looking like a huge hit, but it fell far by May and found itself on the verge of bubble status.  It likely survived into a second season because it is part of the Avengers franchise which is owned by ABC’s parent company Disney.  But this has to be an expensive series to produce, so they can only allow it to float for so long.  I believe its numbers have to improve this season otherwise it will be the show’s last.
Prior Season Rating Avg: 2.4 | Curr Season Target: 2.2 | Cancellation Alert: Moderate
Pros: Strong Early Ratings, Recognized Franchise, Top 25 Based on Ratings
Cons: Ratings Decline in Season, Ratings Fluctuations, High Production Costs

17 (18) The 100 (CW, Returning for a 2nd Season) – It got the renewal nod last season despite pretty tepid numbers.  I believe it will need to improve its scores this year otherwise The CW will replace it with one of several shows they have waiting in the wings.
Prior Season Rating Avg: 0.6 | Curr Season Target: 0.9 | Cancellation Alert: Moderate
Pros: Decent Debut Ratings, Relative Ratings, Fifth Place Network Series
Cons: Ratings Declines in Season

18 (19) Helix (Syfy, Returning for a 2nd Season) – It got the second season renewal last year, but that was far from a sure thing. The fact that it fits in with Syfy’s move back to more science fiction oriented scripted programming probably helped it, and its ratings average was about the same as what Haven had in the Fall before that one got renewed. But I am thinking that Helix will have to build on its current numbers when it returns if it hopes to live beyond its second year.
Prior Season Rating Avg: 0.4 | Curr Season Target: 0.4 | Cancellation Alert: Medium
Pros: Strong Early Buzz
Cons: Mediocre Ratings, Ratings Decline in Season

Unrankable:

Both of these shows were renewed last year despite a ratings performance that would have led to the cancellation of most other series (in fact, Hannibal pulled lower numbers than Dracula in the same timeslot yet the latter series was cancelled).  So other factors are apparently driving their fates and I will elect to pass on making any predictions on their renewal/cancellation prospects.

Hannibal (NBC, Returning for a 3rd Season) – It appears that NBC has made a long-term deal with this show’s studio and its international production arrangement means that it comes to the network at a lower cost. It sufficiently plugs up the difficult late Friday timeslot and the show has plenty of good buzz from the critics, so maybe it will coast through that seven year run that showrunner Bryan Fuller envisions.
Prior Season Rating Avg: 0.9 | Curr Season Target: n/a | Cancellation Alert: No Guess
Pros: Recognized Franchise, Strong Social Network Presence, Good Buzz from Critics
Cons: Poor Ratings, Ratings Decline in Season

Beauty and the Beast (CW, Returning for a 3rd Season) – Is its international audience really that good? Is it the CBS/WB balance of shows theory that the TV by the Numbers guys have theorized? Or do the execs at The CW just not give a damn and want to thumb their noses at the old-school model of renewing and cancelling television shows (if so, you have to give them props for that at least). All I know is that fans of The Tomorrow People, Star-Crossed, The Secret Circle, Cult, and other cancelled CW shows would like to have words with those network executives.
Prior Season Rating Avg: 0.3 | Curr Season Target: n/a | Cancellation Alert: No Guess
Pros: Recognized Franchise? Good International Audience?
Cons: Abysmal Ratings

Last Season’s Sci Fi / Fantasy Shows on Blu-ray and DVD:

 

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