Sci Fi Cancellation Watch: The Ratings for the First Week of Fall Do Not Look Good for the Sci Fi Shows, Is It Time to Panic?

By | September 29, 2015

Unless otherwise noted, the ratings numbers below are based on the final overnights and may vary slightly from the preliminaries reported on the Cancelled Sci Fi Twitter Site.

gotham-fox-cancelledThe first week of Fall has come and gone and Mr. Nielsen has little good to report, especially for the sci fi / fantasy shows.  Seven shows returned/premiered over the past week on the broadcast networks and none of them delivered much in the way of ratings fireworks.  But even though the numbers look low, it’s not quite time to panic and worry that these shows are on the verge of cancellation (except for maybe Minority Report).  What we have learned is that the ratings slump from last Spring has carried over into Fall, at least for the genre shows.  The last few years Fall has typically seen a bump up from the Spring numbers (though usually down from the prior Fall), but that’s not looking like the case here.  With only one week in the bag, though, it’s hard to get a good gauge on where all the shows actually stand.  For example, Gotham‘s 1.6 rating for its debut looked pretty pedestrian, especially when you compare that to the 3.3 score it had for its series debut the prior year.  But that 1.6 is actually right in line with FOX’s average for the week if you throw out outlier Empire.  Once Upon A Time also appeared to return low at a 1.8 rating, but that’s right in line with ABC’s average for the night and it still counts as one of the highest rated scripted shows on the broadcast networks on Sundays.  And it is also only slightly behind ABC’s average of a 1.9 rating for the week.  To give a better gauge for this first week, here is a look at first week debuts vs. the network averages for non-sports programming:

Gotham: 1.6
Minority Report: 1.1
Scream Queens: 1.7
The Last Man on Earth: 1.4
FOX Full Week Average (excludes Empire): 1.6

Limitless: 1.9
CBS Full Week Average: 2.0

Heroes Reborn: 2.0
NBC Full Week Average: 2.4

Once Upon A Time: 1.8
ABC Full Week Average: 1.9

It’s true that none of these shows could be counted as strong performers for the week, but almost none of them count as disastrous either, though they don’t have a lot of leeway at the moment.

The closest thing to winners for the week would probably be Limitless and Heroes Reborn.  The former series pulled decent numbers for the Tuesday 10 PM EST hour (better than what Person of Interest was averaging in that timeslot last Spring) and actually improved on its NCIS: New Orleans lead-in.  Of course it’s possible that the movie connection and Bradley Cooper pop in attracted a fair number of curious onlookers for the debut, so we will have to see how it holds up this week.  As for NBC’s Heroes Reborn, I expected it to pull much higher ratings, but that 2.0 score is actually not too bad for the network on that highly competitive night.  And anything from this point on is just padding to the Heroes syndication package which I go into in more detail at this link.  And for those interested, definitely counting as a winner for the week was NBC’s Blindspot which debuted with a 3.1 rating based on the overnights with 10.6 million total viewers.  That one’s looking like it will not incorporate much in the way of sci fi elements, so I won’t be tracking it here (far too many other shows to keep up with), but thought I would go ahead and mention its debut numbers.  Also, ABC’s return of The Muppets pulled decent numbers with a 2.9 rating and nine million total viewers.

The only show I am concerned about at the moment is Minority Reports as its debut numbers definitely didn’t look good.  I am starting it out at a Moderate Cancellation Alert level, though we will see how the numbers track over the next few weeks.  And there will be plenty more ratings action in the coming weeks as more of the Fall shows have their debuts (you can see the full schedule at this link), so be sure to stay tuned to this site as well as the Cancelled Sci Fi Twitter Site.

Ratings results for the sci fi / fantasy shows airing Monday September 21st thru Sunday September 27th (metric definitions below):

(Updated for chart activity in the broadcast network and cable channel Top 25)

Gotham FOX Mon 9/21 8 PM
Rating: 1.6 | % Chng PW: n/a | Tot Viewers (MM): 4.6 | StD Rating: 1.6 | Cancellation Alert: Low

Not a great start for its second season, but not a total disaster in the current ratings slump environment.  More on this show’s debut above and at this link.

Minority Report FOX Mon 9/21 9 PM
Rating: 1.1 | % Chng PW: n/a | Tot Viewers (MM): 3.1 | StD Rating: 1.1 | Cancellation Alert: Moderate

Those are definitely concerning numbers for this show’s debut.  If it doesn’t turn around right away, this could be the Fall season’s first genre casualty.  More on this one at this link.

Scream Queens FOX Tue 9/22 9 PM
Rating: 1.7 | % Chng PW: n/a | Tot Viewers (MM): 4.0 | StD Rating: 1.7 | Cancellation Alert: Low

This show didn’t scare up big numbers with its debut, but it did decent based on FOX’s average for the week.  More on this one above and at this link.

Chart Activity: This one came in at Number 2 on the Weekly Nielsen Twitter Ratings Top 10 for the week which will help its cause especially if FOX is targeting a younger audience with this series.

Limitless CBS Tue 9/22 10 PM
Rating: 1.9 | % Chng PW: n/a | Tot Viewers (MM): 9.9 | StD Rating: 1.9 | Cancellation Alert: Low

If this show can hold near these numbers in this timeslot, then it has a decent chance.  More on this one above and at this link.

Chart Activity: This show made it to the Number 18 spot in the broadcast network Top 25 based on total viewers for its debut.

Heroes Reborn NBC Thu 9/24 8 PM
Rating: 2.0 | % Chng PW: n/a | Tot Viewers (MM): 6.1 | StD Rating: 2.0 | Cancellation Alert: Low

I thought the first episode would draw more viewers, but NBC will likely be happy with that 2.0 score considering this goes up against football on CBS and ratings juggernaut Grey’s Anatomy on ABC.  Plus, this is all just padding for the Heroes syndication run which I go into in more detail at this link.

Dominion Syfy Thu 9/24 10 PM
Rating: 0.3 | % Chng PW: +56.3% | Tot Viewers (MM): 0.8 | StD Rating: 0.3 | Cancellation Alert: Moderate

It jumped back up from the series low it landed at the prior week.  If it can go out strong with its Season 2 finale this week it still has a chance.

Z Nation Syfy Fri 9/25 10 PM
Rating: 0.4 | % Chng PW: +26.7% | Tot Viewers (MM): 1.0 | StD Rating: 0.4 | Cancellation Alert: Low

It improved from the prior week and at these levels this show is almost certainly safe.

Continuum Syfy Fri 9/25 11 PM
Rating: 0.2 | % Chng PW: +6.7% | Tot Viewers (MM): 0.5 | StD Rating: 0.1 | Cancellation Alert: Final Season

It was up slightly from the prior week as this one winds down to its series finale.

Doctor Who BBCA Sat 9/26 9 PM
Rating: 0.4 | % Chng PW: -57.5% | Tot Viewers (MM): 1.1 | StD Rating: 0.6 | Cancellation Alert: Low

It dropped from its Season 9 debut numbers, but it is still at decent enough levels for BBC America.

Guardians of the Galaxy DXD Sat 9/26 9:30 PM
Rating: 0.1 | % Chng PW: n/a | Tot Viewers (MM): 0.5 | StD Rating: 0.1 | Cancellation Alert: Low

Not spectacular numbers for this show’s season premiere, but still decent enough considering that merchandising is as important if not more so than its ratings performance.

Fear the Walking Dead AMC Sun 9/27 9 PM
Rating: 3.4 | % Chng PW: +3.9% | Tot Viewers (MM): 6.7 | StD Rating: 3.9 | Cancellation Alert: Renewed

It improved slightly from last week and I expect a jump up for its season finale next week.

Chart Activity: For the first time this season, Fear the Walking Dead did not make it into the Weekly Nielsen Twitter Ratings Top 10 (it was just barely hanging on the prior week at the Number 10 spot).  But I expect it to jump back in next week for its season finale.  In the Cable Top 25 based on total viewers, it came improved to the Number 2 slot (up from Number 6).

Once Upon A Time ABC Sun 9/27 8 PM
Rating: 1.8 | % Chng PW: n/a | Tot Viewers (MM): 5.9 | StD Rating: 1.8 | Cancellation Alert: Final Season

These numbers are definitely nowhere near the two year highs this show pulled with its Season 4 debut last year.  But it is still one of the highest rated scripted shows on the broadcast nets on Sundays and it is probably okay for now.  More on this one above and at this link.

Chart Activity: In past seasons, this show typically made it into the broadcast network Top 25 based on the ratings.  But it did not make it to that chart for the prior week with its fifth season debut.

The Last Man on Earth FOX Sun 9/27 9:30 PM
Rating: 1.4 | % Chng PW: n/a | Tot Viewers (MM): 3.1 | StD Rating: 1.4 | Cancellation Alert: Low

It didn’t rebound to its early Season 1 numbers, but the current ratings slump environment suggests that might be asking too much of this show.  It is only one tick behind its Family Guy lead in and sitcoms are cheaper to produce than dramas, so it may be okay for the moment.  More on this one at this link.

The Strain FX Sun 9/27 10 PM
Rating: 0.5 | % Chng PW: -14.3% | Tot Viewers (MM): 1.2 | StD Rating: 0.6 | Cancellation Alert: Renewed

It slipped a bit for the prior week, but I expect it to rebound for its season finale next week.

Be sure keep an eye out for the latest numbers and any breaking news throughout the week at the Cancelled Sci Fi Twitter Site. You can see the status of all the currently airing sci fi / fantasy shows at the Cancellation Watch page and also the latest Sci Fi TV Power Rankings post. And for more information on where I get these numbers and how I make my Cancellation Alert assessments, check out the Cancelled Sci Fi FAQ.

Metric Definitions:

Rating: Overnight rating in the 18-49 demographic for same day viewing based on the final numbers unless otherwise noted

% Chng PW: The percentage change +/- for this week’s rating vs. last week’s rating.

Tot Viewers: Estimated total viewers (age 2+) to tune in to the episode for same day viewing.

StD Rating: Season to date average for the rating metric tracked above.

Cancellation Alert: My prediction of the likelihood that a show will get cancelled. From least to most likely the statuses are Low, Moderate, Medium, Elevated, and High.

Ratings Source: TV by the Numbers and ShowBuzzDaily

Nielsen TV Ratings: ©2015 The Nielsen Company. All Rights Reserved.

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