Cancellation Watch: A Look at How Well the Scorecard Did Predicting This Season’s Renewals / Cancellations (Updated)

By | May 27, 2016

(Updated 5/27/16)

LegendsofTomorrowposterThis season I introduced the broadcast network scorecard to present a mathematical gauge of a show’s chances of getting cancelled or renewed. It ranks all of the broadcast net sci fi / fantasy shows’ ratings performance vs. their network’s 2016 season to date average for non-sports, non-special, non-repeat programming during the week (based on the overnights for the 18-49 demographic). Basically it normalizes the numbers so that you can see where all the shows stand on one grid. As it turns out, the ratings-pocalypse hit this season leaving several of the nets scrambling and making rash decisions that they might not in a normal year, but for the most part the scorecard did a good job of indicating which ones would get renewed or cancelled.

Reviewing the most recent numbers, you will see that all the shows in the top third of the list have been renewed except The X-Files, and that one is pretty much assumed and just awaiting an official announcement once they have worked out the scheduling with the principals. Two of the top nine shows–Gotham and Once Upon A Time–saw notable drops from the prior season, but that’s what we have seen across all shows and these two managed to stay above their networks’ averages. Supergirl might not have survived if it didn’t have The CW as an escape valve, and its numbers look a little skewed because its early success countered the drops it saw later in the season.

At the Number 10 slot is an interesting entry with the cancelled CBS series Angel from Hell. The numbers suggest that one should have been renewed, but something else must have been going on with it. Most of the broadcast networks refused to make official cancellation announcements this year until just before the Upfronts (when they presented their 2016-17 schedules to the sponsors), but CBS axed that show shortly into its run even though its numbers were not too bad. It had already experienced some behind the scenes shake-ups and it got shifted to a mid-season start at the last minute, so that show likely had other mitigating factors driving the cancellation decision.

The middle of the list has a lot of The CW’s under-performing shows, but they had the fortune of airing on the “happy net” which renewed almost everything this season. Plus, Vampire Diaries and The Originals are prepping for their syndication runs, so it makes financial sense to keep them on the air. Interestingly, late season entry Containment is higher than several of other CW shows, but it got axed. That’s mostly because it got squeezed out due to that network’s over-crowded schedule. Agents of SHIELD looks pretty iffy in this section, but a fourth season gets it to the episode count the syndication market is looking for, and that’s where it will really turn a profit. I would have thought that NBC would greenlight another season of Heroes Reborn because the numbers weren’t too bad and it is just padding to the Heroes syndication package so they are guaranteed to make their money back. But apparently they decided to chase higher ratings elsewhere and kept that one at limited-run-and-done.  Limitless was somewhat iffy based on the overnights at the Number 14 slot, but CBS boss Les Moonves claimed those numbers are “meaningless” and its was the the network’s eighth ranked show based on the the Live+7 delayed viewing.  But that sci fi-averse network still decided not to bring it back, and after allegedly shopping it around it has now been officially cancelled.  Note to the wise: the words of a network executive mean about as much as those of the average politician.

Starting at Number 19, we find several shows that the scorecard suggested as cancellations but which got renewed. Most of these are ratings-pocalypse survivors, though, and would have got the ax in a less turbulent year.  At Number 19, The Last Man on Earth is an inexpensive sitcom and FOX apparently wanted to maintain a good relationship with the show’s producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller (they are delivering Son of Zorn for the coming season).  At Number 20, Scream Queens is a bit of a head-scratcher, but it apparently skewed well to the 18-34 crowd and generated some buzz on the socials nets.  Plus, I believe any seasons of that show will eventually get tacked onto the American Horror Story syndication package (same producers and studio), so FOX is guaranteed to make their money back if that is the case.  At Number 22, Grimm probably would have met the ax any other year, but apparently NBC is treading water and using it to plug up an hour of Fridays for part of next year.  It’s sixth season will only have thirteen episodes, though, and it could very well be its last.  Plus, it has already started its syndication run, so this is just padding to that.  As for Sleepy Hollow at Number 24, it’s still well short of a syndication friendly count of episodes and not even the fans wanted that show to come back.  But the network claims that one plays well internationally and it is already profitable for them, so they decided to keep it around for another season, in part because they have space to fill on the schedule with American Idol not coming back.

The rest of the shows on the list from Number 23 on were cancelled as the rankings would suggest.  I plan on keeping the scorecard going next season to see if it continues to do a decent job of predicting the standing of the currently airing shows.  With the ratings in such a state of flux at the moment, though, it’s hard to say how well this system will do with predictions.  But that’s not necessarily a bad thing because it will mean that the networks are looking beyond the Nielsen ratings which we have known for a long time are less than accurate at representing the viewership of the general public.  The Summer does not have enough shows or comparative data to make it of much use during those months.

Here is the Broadcast network scorecard based on the ratings through May 25th (metric definitions below):

Rank (PW) Series Net Std Avg 2016 Net Avg Var Live+7 Avg Rtg Cancel Alert
1 (1) The X-Files (O) FOX 3.17 1.42 1.75 4.90 Low
2 (2) The Flash (O) CW 1.37 0.60 0.77 2.26 Renewed
3 (3) Arrow (O) CW 0.94 0.60 0.34 1.60 Renewed
4 (5) Supergirl CBS 1.68 1.47 0.21 2.52 Renewed
5 (4) Legends of Tomorrow (O) CW 0.80 0.60 0.20 1.48 Renewed
6 (6) Supernatural (O) CW 0.71 0.60 0.11 1.22 Renewed
7 (7) Lucifer FOX 1.47 1.42 0.05 2.55 Renewed
8 (8) Once Upon A Time (O) ABC 1.36 1.31 0.05 2.32 Renewed
9 (9) Gotham FOX 1.40 1.42 -0.02 2.49 Renewed
10 (10) Angel from Hell (O) CBS 1.42 1.47 -0.05 1.90 Cancelled
11 (11) iZombie (O) CW 0.53 0.60 -0.07 0.82 Renewed
12 (12) Containment (O) CW 0.50 0.60 -0.10 n/a Cancelled
13 (14) Limitless (O) CBS 1.35 1.47 -0.12 2.37 Medium
14 (13) The 100 (O) CW 0.48 0.60 -0.12 0.84 Renewed
15 (15) Agents of SHIELD (O) ABC 1.18 1.31 -0.13 2.17 Renewed
16 (16) Vampire Diaries (O) (F) CW 0.46 0.60 -0.13 0.94 Renewed
17 (17) Heroes Reborn (O) NBC 1.21 1.36 -0.15 2.13 Cancelled
18 (18) The Originals (O) (F) CW 0.39 0.60 -0.21 0.76 Renewed
19 (19) The Last Man on Earth (O) FOX 1.16 1.42 -0.26 1.91 Renewed
20 (20) Scream Queens (O) FOX 1.05 1.42 -0.36 1.89 Renewed
21 (21) Person of Interest CBS 1.04 1.47 -0.43 n/a Cancelled
22 (22) Grimm (O) (F) NBC 0.90 1.36 -0.46 1.67 Renewed
23 (23) Agent Carter (O) ABC 0.80 1.31 -0.51 1.43 Cancelled
24 (24) Sleepy Hollow (O) (F) FOX 0.82 1.42 -0.59 1.47 Renewed
25 (26) You Me and the Apocalypse NBC 0.69 1.36 -0.67 n/a Cancelled
26 (25) Galavant (O) ABC 0.64 1.31 -0.67 0.85 Cancelled
27 (27) Minority Report (O) FOX 0.71 1.42 -0.71 1.24 Cancelled
28 (28) Second Chance (O) (F) FOX 0.65 1.42 -0.77 0.87 Cancelled

The cable scorecard is more subjective than the broadcast net version because it is not as easy (or useful) to compile network averages for those channels. So this is ranked based on the Cancellation Alert status of these shows from least to most likely to get cancelled. It has not been as good of a predictor for these shows because more factors are taken into account like international partnerships and financing, social network activity, and delayed viewing.

Here is the Cable Scorecard based on ratings through May 16th (metric definitions below):

Series Net Std Avg Prior Yr Avg Var Cancel Alert
The Walking Dead AMC 6.48 7.37 -0.88 Renewed
Game of Thrones HBO 3.82 7.37 -3.55 Renewed
Fear the Walking Dead AMC 2.30 3.79 -1.49 Renewed
Into the Badlands AMC 1.79 n/a n/a Renewed
American Horror Story FX 1.49 1.91 -0.42 Renewed
The Librarians TNT 0.52 0.92 -0.39 Renewed
Shadowhunters Free 0.41 n/a n/a Renewed
Teen Wolf MTV 0.41 0.49 -0.08 Renewed
The Shannara Chronicles MTV 0.39 n/a n/a Renewed
Colony USA 0.38 n/a n/a Renewed
Doctor Who BBCA 0.37 n/a n/a Renewed
Z Nation (O) Syfy 0.33 0.48 -0.15 Renewed
The Magicians Syfy 0.29 n/a n/a Renewed
The Expanse Syfy 0.21 n/a n/a Renewed
Ash vs Evil Dead STARZ 0.16 n/a n/a Renewed
Star Wars Rebels DXD 0.15 0.15 0.00 Renewed
Guardians of the Galaxy DXD 0.10 n/a n/a Renewed
Outlander STARZ 0.27 0.30 -0.03 Low
Orphan Black BBCA 0.09 0.20 -0.11 Low
Slasher Chill 0.02 n/a n/a Low
Time Traveling Bong CC 0.24 n/a n/a Moderate
Damien A&E 0.18 n/a n/a Moderate
Wynonna Earp Syfy 0.15 n/a n/a Moderate
12 Monkeys Syfy 0.12 0.20 -0.08 Moderate
Hunters Syfy 0.10 n/a n/a Moderate
Beowulf Esq 0.04 n/a n/a Elevated
The Leftovers HBO 0.33 0.77 -0.44 Final Season
Lost Girl Syfy 0.11 0.20 -0.09 Final Season
Bitten Syfy 0.09 0.20 -0.11 Final Season

Metric Definitions:

Broadcast Network Scorecard:

Rank (PW): Current rank based on the variance of a show’s season to date ratings average vs. its network’s season to date ratings average (see metric definitions below).  The number in parenthesis is the prior week’s rank.

Series: (O) indicates the show is owned/produced by the network and/or a sister studio. (F) indicates the show airs on Friday when ratings expectations are lower.

Std Avg:  The show’s season to date ratings average based on the overnights for the 18-49 demographic.

2016 Net Avg:  The network’s season to date ratings average for 2016 only based on the overnights for the 18-49 demographic for non-sports, non-special, non-repeat broadcasts.  Note the the post NFL Championship debut of The X-Files is not included in FOX’s averages because it is non-representative of normal Prime Time performance and it skews the numbers too much

Variance:  The variance between a show’s season to date average and the network’s season to date average as defined above.  The higher the variance, the better a show is performing vs. the network mean.

Live+7 Avg Rtg:  The show’s season to date ratings average based on delayed viewing up to seven days past the live broadcast.  This data is not available for all shows.

Cancel 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.

Cable Scorecard:

Series: (O) indicates the show is owned/produced by the network and/or a sister studio. (F) indicates the show airs on Friday when ratings expectations are lower.

Std Avg:  The show’s season to date ratings average based on the overnights for the 18-49 demographic.

Prior Yr Avg:  The show’s season to date ratings average from its prior season (if applicable) based on the overnights for the 18-49 demographic.

Variance:  The variance between a show’s season to date average and its Prior Year average as defined above.

Cancel 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.


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