ABC Family announced yesterday that their freshman series Stitchers would be coming back for a second season, despite that fact that it is currently averaging only a 0.3 rating in the 18-49 demographic based on the overnights and that it regularly loses a fair amount of the audience of its lead-in Pretty Little Liars. I have had this show at a Moderate Cancellation Alert level (second to lowest threat level) pretty much since it bowed in June, but I did not move it to a higher threat level despite its declining numbers. That’s because this show has joined that class of “ratings noise” entries airing on the cable channels with mediocre to low ratings but that defy renewal/cancellation predictions. I previously looked at the ever-expanding number of scripted shows on the television channels and the streaming services that have created a bubble that must surely burst at some point. And shows like Stitchers are proliferating in this environment with some managing to survive while others disappear after a short run. A&E’s The Returned averaged averaged similar numbers to Stitchers, but it was cancelled after one season. USA’s Dig was in the same range and it appears that network will let it remain as a “limited run” series as no second season announcement has been forthcoming since it wrapped up in May. Syfy’s new series 12 Monkeys averaged only a 0.2 rating, but it got the greenlight for a second year (giving hope to that network’s other low-rated freshmen entries Dark Matter and Killjoys). But then Helix was in that same range during its second season and it got the ax. WGN’s Salem barely registered in its second year with a 0.1 ratings average based on the overnights, but it just got word that it was coming back for a second season.
Some of these shows have been seeing decent gains in delayed viewing (though interestingly, Stitchers is not one of them), so that could be a factor in their renewals. But the DVR numbers don’t draw advertisers to these shows because viewers typically fast forward through commercials. International financing and partnerships may play a more important role for these shows because those help the networks cover the costs of productions. It’s not always easy to determine how strong a factor those are, though, and whether they will help get a renewal for a show (they didn’t appear to be enough of a factor for The Returned or Dig). So it looks like we will continue to see these cable shows with mediocre to downright bad ratings hovering around, and it’s anybody’s guess on how likely they are to stick around for longer than a year or two. Fans of Stitchers can rejoice that they get another season of the show, but fans of The Returned were probably left hanging. And in the current bubble environment, we will probably be seeing much more of the latter over the next year or two (more on that at this link).