Cancellation Watch: What We Learned from the Ratings-Pocalypse Season, Preacher Has a Decent Debut, Plus the Ratings Roundup

By | May 24, 2016

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.

ratings-pocalypseThe ratings slipped to all-time lows for the broadcast networks during the 2016-17 season as the Too-Much-TV era has split the audience across the many options currently available for scripted programming .  The current Ratings-Pocalypse would seam to suggest that changes should be on the way as soon as next season, but I’m not so sure at the moment.  Here’s what we have learned so far, particularly for the broadcast networks:

The overnights are still driving the fates of many shows: The overnight ratings based on the live viewing of an episode or watching it on DVR the same day still appear to be the leading indicators of a show’s fate (not so much for the cable channels any more, though).  The network execs love to use buzzwords like “worthless” and “meaningless” when referring to the overnights these days trying to suggest that they are paying close attention to viewing across all platforms.  But as we see from the Cancellation Watch Scorecard as well as the Cancellation Bear and the TV Grim Reaper, the overnights are still the best predictors. meaning that the broadcast net execs are still watching them closely.

The old model focusing on live broadcasts is still very much in place: Despite the ratings collapse, sponsors are still lining up to pay money for advertisements that air during the live broadcasts of a show.  I haven’t seen the final numbers yet, but it is estimated that the broadcast networks would see an increased payout for ads at this year’s Upfronts despite ratings that have fallen by as much as half from just a few years back.  I believe that this is in part because industries are slow to change and in the current turmoil they decided to put a deathgrip on business-as-usual.  But I can’t see this old model (which also relies heavily on the overnight stats) remaining in place for too many more years.

There’s no indication that the social networks are much of a factor yet: You will hear buzzwords like the “stickiness” of a show on the social nets, indicating that it is getting a lot of attention on those platforms.  But I have not seen a lot of evidence to suggest that this had helped keep shows alive on the broadcast networks, despite the fact that this provide a good means of measuring a show’s audience beyond the Nielsen ratings.  Perhaps FOX’s low-rated Scream Queens got some lift from social net activity.  And The CW shows are definitely high on social “stickiness” (though that net is modeled closer to the cable channels).  But what about Agent Carter or Limitless or last year’s Forever, all of which developed notable followings on the social networks?  The cable channels are definitely paying more attention to this activity, and I believe the broadcast nets need to get in on that as well.  But they continue to lag behind in that area.

Cancelled has become a four letter word: While there were plenty of cancellations at the end of the season, the networks held off on announcing those as long as they could.  There were a few official announcements relating to genre shows during the season–Angel from Hell and Heroes Reborn–but most were held until right before the Upfronts, even if it was obvious they would get cancelled like FOX’s Minority Report and Second Chance.  I believe that’s because the networks are trying to keep all options open for as long as possible, which worked out well for Sleepy Hollow, but not so good for Agent Carter.  And that fact is that only nine out of twenty-seven genre shows were cancelled this season (holding out Limitless which is still and limbo and assuming that The X-Files will return), which is the lowest cancellation rate we have seen in some time.  Which leads us to . . .

The networks preferred keep as many familiar face around them as the ratings went on a death spiral:  Sure, the numbers were in the toilet this season, but the broadcast network execs apparently decided to take their happy pills and say “Just Renew It, Baby!”, especially with veteran series.  Aging properties like Once Upon A Time, Grimm, and Vampire Diaries whose ratings were way down still got the renewal nod.  Even shows that were not close enough to the preferred episode count for a syndication run got an extended lease on life such as Sleepy Hollow, The 100, and iZombie.  Apparently the networks decided not to put as much money into new show production and just stick with familiar faces despite dwindling audiences.  That might not actually be a bad strategy at this point, because holding on to shows will increase their chances of a syndication run (where they really start to turn a profit), but it likely will not keep the ship afloat long term.

The fact is that despite the Ratings-Pocalypse, the broadcast networks are neither embracing change nor really positioning themselves for the inevitable shakeup the will come over the next few years.  The cable channels are making the necessary changes as they search out international partnerships and financing and give more emphasis to the bigger viewership picture (which includes delayed and digital viewing) as well as the social networks.  But the broadcast networks still seem to be partying like its nineteen-ninety-nine (literally and figuratively), ignoring the fact that the party–and the old model they cling to–will be far behind the times soon.

Series Premiere: On Sunday, AMC’s new series Preacher had its bow after the Fear The Walking Dead mid-season finale and it pulled a 0.9 rating based on the overnights for the 18-49 demographic with 2.4 million total viewers. That was less than half the 1.9 score that FtWD had during the lead-in hour, but those are still decent numbers for a cable show these days. The bad news for Preacher, though, is that it now takes a one week break (the premiere is repeated this coming Sunday) and when it returns it will go up directly against Game of Thrones, the Number 1 rated scripted show on all of television right now. I would expect to see its numbers drop to the 0.5 or 0.6 range, but I still believe it can survive at those levels. The show has received a decent amount of positive buzz prior to its debut and I’m thinking that AMC will give this one a chance. We will have to see how it tracks in the coming weeks, but for now I believe this show should be in decent shape.

Ratings results for the sci fi / fantasy shows airing Monday May 16th thru Sunday May 22nd (metric definitions below):

Links are to the show pages on this site where status updates and season to date numbers have been updated through Sunday.

Series Airs Rating % Chng Tot Viewers STD Avg Net Avg Cancel Alert
Gotham FOX, Mon 8 PM 1.3 +8.3% 3.8 1.4 1.5 Renewed
Houdini and Doyle CBS, Mon 9 PM 0.7 +16.7% 2.4 0.7 1.5 Medium
12 Monkeys Syfy, Mon 9 PM 0.1 0.0% 0.4 0.1 n/a Moderate
Damien A&E, Mon 10 PM Season Ended n/a n/a 0.2 n/a Moderate
Person of Interest CBS, Mon 10 PM 0.9 -25.0% 5.3 1.1 1.5 Final Season
Hunters Syfy, Mon 10 PM 0.1 -22.2% 0.3 0.1 n/a Moderate
The Flash CW, Tue 8 PM 1.3 0.0% 3.4 1.4 0.6 Renewed
Agents of SHIELD ABC, Tue 9 PM 1.0 +11.1% 3.0 1.2 1.4 Renewed
Containment CW, Tue 9 PM 0.5 0.0% 1,28 0.5 0.6 Renewed
Stitchers Free, Tue 10 PM 0.2 0.0% 0.4 0.1 n/a Moderate
Person of Interest CBS, Tue 10 PM 1.1 +22.2% 7.0 1.1 1.5 Final Season
Arrow CW, Wed 8 PM 0.7 -12.5% 2.2 0.9 0.6 Renewed
Supernatural CW, Wed 9 PM 0.6 -14.3% 1.7 0.7 0.6 Renewed
Legends of Tomorrow CW, Thu 8 PM 0.7 0.0% 1.9 0.8 0.6 Renewed
The 100 CW, Thu 9 PM 0.5 +25.0% 1.3 0.5 0.6 Renewed
Orphan Black BBCA, Thu 10 PM 0.1 +25.0% 0.3 0.1 n/a Low
Vampire Diaries CW, Fri 8 PM Season Ended n/a n/a 0.5 0.6 Renewed
The Originals CW, Fri 9 PM 0.3 0.0% 0.9 0.4 0.6 Renewed
Grimm NBC, Fri 9 PM 0.9 +12.5% 4.0 0.9 1.5 Renewed
Wynonna Earp Syfy, Fri 10 PM 0.1 -7.7% 0.6 0.1 n/a Moderate
Outlander Starz, Sat 9 PM 0.2 +14.3% 1.1 0.3 n/a Low
Once Upon A Time ABC, Sun 8 PM Season Ended n/a n/a 1.4 1.4 Renewed
Fear the Walking Dead AMC, Sun 9 PM 1.9 -3.1% 4.4 2.2 n/a Renewed
Game of Thrones HBO, Sun 9 PM 4.0 +1.0% 7.9 3.8 n/a Renewed
The Last Man on Earth FOX, Sun 9:30 PM Season Ended n/a n/a 1.2 1.5 Renewed
Preacher AMC, Sun 10 PM 0.9 n/a 2.4 0.0 n/a Low
Penny Dreadful SHOW, Sun 10 PM 0.2 -10.5% 0.5 0.2 n/a Low

Chart Activity: Game of Thrones slipped one notch in Weekly Nielsen Twitter Rating Top 10 to the Number 4 slot for the week. Supernatural dropped out after a two week late-season appearance on the chart.  Game of Thrones remained at Number 1 in the cable Top 25 based on the overnights for the 18-49 demographic but slipped to Number 3 based on total viewers. Fear the Walking Dead slipped to Number 9 and 8 respectively in those charts.  Both shows were only topped by NBA playoff games for the week, though.  The debut of AMC’s Preacher would have been at Number 26 in the cable Top 25 based on the overnights and about the same based on total viewers. If the NBC playoffs had not been going on during the week, it would have charted.  The Tuesday Person of Interest ep improved to Number 20 in the broadcast net Top 25 based on total viewers, but the Monday ep once again fell short.

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

Series Chart Curr Wk Rank Prior Wk Rank
Game of Thrones Nielsen Twitter Ratings Top 10 4 3
Game of Thrones Cable Top 25 (18-49 Demo) 1 1
Game of Thrones Cable Top 25 (Total Viewers) 3 1
Fear the Walking Dead Cable Top 25 (18-49 Demo) 9 6
Fear the Walking Dead Cable Top 25 (Total Viewers) 8 7
Person of Interest (Tues) Broadcast Net Top 25 (Total Viewers) 20 23
Supernatural Nielsen Twitter Ratings Top 10 n/a 6

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:

Series: (R) indicates a repeat airing

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

% Chng: The percentage change +/- for this week’s rating vs. last week’s rating (if a new episode aired last week).

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.

Net Avg:  The season to date average rating for the network for non-sports, non-special, non-repeat programming.  This data is available for the broadcast networks only.

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.

Source: ShowBuzzDaily and TV by the Numbers

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