As we head into the second half of the current season (you can see the full mid-season schedule with premiere dates at this link), it is worth taking a few minutes to reflect on how the sci fi / fantasy shows have fared in the ratings thus far and which ones can be counted as winners or losers (full list below). There are not too many among the current crop that count as winners, but the flip side is that I have even less pegged as losers. And while there are a fair number of marginal and under performers, that’s more of a reflection on television in general (especially the broadcast networks) than the genre.
As far as the winners, The Walking Dead is of course at the top of the list as it is currently the highest rated non-sports program on the cable and broadcast networks and it is averaging even higher numbers than its already record-breaking fourth season. That one is a ratings juggernaut that refuses to slow down. ABC’s Once Upon A Time counts as a ratings winner for Fall as it posted the highest numbers it has seen since its second season with its Frozen cross-over. Those fell notably toward the end of Fall, though, and the two and a half month hiatus won’t help it either, so its status may change by the end of the season, but I don’t see a threat of cancellation in its future. FOX’s Gotham scored well for that network early on, though it slipped as Fall progressed. Still, it is that struggling net’s highest rated, non-animated scripted series, so it has to count as a win. And The Flash has pulled the best numbers that The CW has seen in years as it raced to the Number 1 rated show on the fifth place network. Expect more DC spin-offs (and cross-overs with Arrow) in the near future.
As for the solid performers, these shows pulled good enough numbers to assure that they have no immediate concerns about cancellation even if they may not be setting any records. On FX, The American Horror Story has slipped from its early season highs and from last year’s numbers, but it’s still doing quite well for a basic cable entry and will reset with its fifth season (renewal already secured), so it has no worries. And while NBC’s Grimm has pulled the lowest numbers it has seen in its four year run, it is still doing well enough for a Friday place-holder and will likely get a fifth season to pad out its syndication run. The CW’s Arrow has held close to last year’s ratings average and its third season status means that it is near enough to the episode count that the syndication market prefers (where the real profits are at) and has a high likelihood of renewal. TNT’s The Librarians is a bit hard to call because it started very strong then dropped off in the ratings (though it edged back up this past Sunday). But its total viewership has been very good (it has ranked in the cable Top 25 each week thus far), and that should be good enough to get it a renewal. The CW’s Supernatural continues to deliver decent numbers for the fifth place network and will almost certainly continue on into an eleventh season. And for Syfy, Z Nation might even be considered a ratings winner because it has the highest average that any ongoing series as seen on that channel in a few years apart from last season’s Being Human (which ironically was cancelled), and it is a cheap entry for them coming from The Asylum.
There are two shows that I consider marginal performers, though neither of them are in much danger at the moment. FOX’s Sleepy Hollow is definitely down from where it was during its first season, but that could very much be a symptom of the struggling network it airs on. Relatively, it is middle of the pack among that net’s scripted shows, so no worries for it at the moment. And The Originals on The CW has dropped off from its first season as well, but that’s largely because of its timeslot change to Mondays where its network has struggled of late. The fact that it is bringing more viewers to that night than the net has seen in years means that it should be a good bet for a third season renewal if it holds at current levels.
There are several under performers on the list, some of which are in danger and some of which are currently holding on. ABC’s Agents of SHIELD has definitely taken a ratings hit this season in the overnights, but it has been seeing large gains on delayed viewing and that may help keep it alive. Case in point, that same network’s freshman entry Forever may seem like a loser based on its overnight ratings, but it has also enjoyed strong lifts from DVR viewing and that helped it get a full season pickup. Maybe the networks really are looking past the overnights this year. CBS’ Person of Interest is at all-time lows with its overnight ratings, but it is still a Top 25 performer in total viewers and the network will likely keep it around for at least another year to plug up one of the 10 PM EST timeslots on the schedule. The CW’s Vampire Diaries is down to its lowest ratings across six years, but I’m thinking the network will bring it back for one more season to wrap up its storylines. That network’s The 100 is also struggling and is borderline on the ratings loser category, but it saw a slight lift toward the end of Fall so maybe there is some hope for it. Syfy’s Ascension may not look to bad compared to the ratings for that network’s other scripted programming, but its 0.5 average in the 18-49 demographic based on the overnights was pretty tepid for a highly touted “event” series.
There are three shows that I would count as ratings losers and ABC’s Resurrection rises to the top (or sinks to the bottom) of that list. That show was a surprise hit with it’s late bow last Spring, but it started out this Fall with a moderate at best return and it has since sunk to near disastrous levels. And this one has not been seeing much of a lift from DVR viewing, so its days are certainly numbered. NBC’s Constantine has failed to bring much of an audience to the Friday 10 PM EST hour and production has already been halted on the show. But the network insists that it is not cancelled yet and they are shifting it to the 9 PM EST hour (where it might see slightly better numbers) when it returns from hiatus, so it still has a slight chance. Syfy’s Haven has sunk to its lowest levels yet as it only averaged a 0.2 rating in the 18-49 demo based on the overnights during Fall and got shifted to the Friday 7 PM EST timeslot, outside of Prime Time. The network apparently hasn’t given up on that one, though, as they are bringing in William Shatner in a recurring role during the second half of the fifth season which may give it a boost.
Here is the full rundown of the Fall sci fi / fantasy shows ranked from the ratings winners to the losers (then by their ratings average). The season to date (StD) and prior year ratings average scores are based on the overnights for the 18-49 demo. The Cancellation Alert levels from least to most likely to get cancelled are Low, Moderate, Medium, Elevated, High. Be sure to follow my Cancellation Watch column and the Cancelled Sci Fi Twitter Site through the rest of the season to track the progress of these shows as well as the new and returning shows that will have their bows from January to May.
|Series||Network / Airs (EST)||Mid-Season Assessment||Cancel- lation Alert||StD Rtg Avg||Target||Prior Yr Avg|
|The Walking Dead||AMC / Sun 9 PM||Winner||Renewed||7.5||2.0||6.8|
|Once Upon A Time||ABC / Sun 8 PM||Winner||Low||2.6||1.8||2.2|
|Gotham||FOX / Mon 8 PM||Winner||Low||2.5||2.0||n/a|
|The Flash||CW / Tue 8 PM||Winner||Low||1.5||0.9||n/a|
|American Horror Story||FX / Wed 10 PM||Solid Performer||Renewed||2.0||1.0||2.2|
|Grimm||NBC / Fri 9 PM||Solid Performer||Low||1.3||1.2||1.4|
|Arrow||CW / Wed 8 PM||Solid Performer||Low||1.0||0.9||0.9|
|The Librarians||TNT / Sun 8 PM||Solid Performer||Low||1.0||1.0||n/a|
|Supernatural||CW / Tue 9 PM||Solid Performer||Low||0.9||0.9||1.0|
|Z Nation||Syfy / Fri 10 PM||Solid Performer||Renewed||0.5||0.4||n/a|
|Sleepy Hollow||FOX / Mon 9 PM||Marginal Performer||Low||1.6||2.0||2.6|
|The Originals||CW / Mon 8 PM||Marginal Performer||Low||0.6||0.7||0.9|
|Agents of SHIELD||ABC / Tue 9 PM||Under Performer||Moderate||1.7||2.2||2.4|
|Person of Interest||CBS / Tue 10 PM||Under Performer||Low||1.6||1.8||2.0|
|Forever||ABC / Tue 10 PM||Under Performer||Moderate||1.2||2.0||n/a|
|Vampire Diaries||CW / Thu 8 PM||Under Performer||Low||0.8||0.9||1.0|
|The 100||CW / Wed 9 PM||Under Performer||Medium||0.5||0.9||0.6|
|Ascension||Syfy / Mon 9 PM||Under Performer||Medium||0.5||0.7||n/a|
|Resurrection||ABC / Sun 9 PM||Loser||Elevated||1.5||2.0||2.5|
|Constantine||NBC / Fri 10 PM||Loser||Elevated||1.0||1.2||n/a|
|Haven||Syfy / Thu 10 PM||Loser||Medium||0.2||0.4||0.4|