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Nielsen VS IMDb: Do The Best Shows Always Get Canceled?

(Check out my TV ratings website, www.seriesmonitor.com)

It's the most controversial week of the year for television fans. It's the week in which the 5 US television networks decide on the fate of their series - whether they will return for another season or not.

The outcomes cause controversy, infighting, debates, rants and raves, originating from the many millions of fans around the world. There's no shortage of coverage from the hundreds of websites, blogs, and social media outlets either.

If the outcome isn't positive, it's a common occurrence for fans to blame the network executives, thinking they're idiots, nutcases or worse, for focusing on keeping their advertisers and shareholders happy as opposed to the fans. Who can blame them though? Television is an expensive business, not a charity. Networks need to keep the lights on in a world in which the way their product is consumed is rapidly changing thanks to innovations such as the internet and DVRs, and of course piracy. Their business models are well and truly outdated, but that isn't the point of this article.

So I thought I'd take the network executives, Nielsen TV ratings, timeslots, gaps between episodes, competition on other networks, syndication, production studios, number of seasons, episodes, and costs, out of the equation entirely and look at something different - what the fans and critics alike think of all the renewed and canceled series as opposed to network executives. I used the Internet Movie Database, which is better known as IMDb, to gather the star ratings of each renewed and canceled series, with the list of those series originating from TVByTheNumbers, to see whether the networks always "cancel the best shows." The results may surprise you.

All up, there were 90 different series on the list, excluding NBC's Parenthood, whose fate remains undetermined at the time of writing this article. From the 90 series, 36 were canceled, and 54 were renewed. In percentage terms, 60% of the series on the list were renewed, 40% were canceled.

Let's break that down into networks. ABC canceled 11 series and renewed 12, a renewal rate of 52%. CBS canceled 6 series and renewed 16, a renewal rate of 73%. NBC canceled 10 series and renewed 8, a renewal rate of 44%. FOX canceled 6 series and renewed 10, a renewal rate of 63%. Lastly, CW canceled 3 series and renewed 8, a renewal rate of 73%. So, if the bulk of your favorite series reside on either CBS or CW, chances are you're a bit happier than the fans whose favorite series reside on other networks, especially NBC, which has the lowest renewal percentage of them all.

Now, let's look at the IMDb ratings and break them down into similar numbers, and work out whether the networks really do cancel the best series.

The 90 series have a combined average IMDb star rating of 7.45, from a combined average of 40,822 individual star ratings per series. That means there's a pretty good pool of ratings for each series, though the number of ratings (or votes) per show varies wildly, from just 202 votes for the canceled Star-Crossed, through to 355,420 for the renewed The Big Bang Theory. Obviously, a series that's been running for several seasons will have many thousands more votes than one that's had one season or less.

The 36 canceled series averaged a combined 6.86 IMDb rating from an average of 9,969 votes. The title of lowest rated canceled series, with a 5.1 rating from 556 votes went to ABC's Lucky 7. That was followed closely by CBS's Bad Teacher with a 5.2 rating. In total, 7 series had IMDb ratings of less than 6.0, with each of the 5 networks having at least one, and NBC and CBS each having two. Unsurprisingly, all 8 were canceled.

Drumroll please! The 54 renewed series averaged a combined 7.98 IMDb rating from an average of 54,625 votes. The title of lowest rated renewed series went to CBS's The Millers, with a 6.1 IMDb rating from 2,648 votes. Another CBS series, Mike & Molly, was the second lowest rated renewed series, with a 6.5 rating. There were 4 renewed series with ratings below 7, with yet another CBS series, NCIS:LA, and FOX's Glee managing a 6.8 and 6.9 rating respectively.

So that should be the end of it. The average IMDb canceled series ratings are 1.12 lower than that of the average renewed series. But there's far more interesting data to be gleaned just yet.

ABC's canceled series averaged a 6.56 rating, while its renewed series averaged a 7.83 rating, a difference of 1.27. CBS was slightly lower than that, with the canceled series averaging a 6.45 rating, and renewed series a 7.58 rating, a difference of 1.13. NBC bettered both, with a canceled series average of 7.03 and renewed series average of 8.10, a difference of 1.07. FOX's margin was the closest of all 5 networks, with a canceled series average rating of 7.63, the highest of all, and renewed average of 7.92, a difference of 0.29, by far the smallest of all. CW was in the middle somewhere, with a canceled average of 6.70 and renewed average of 7.99, a difference of 1.29 the largest of all.

Again, this shows that, on average, the lowest rated IMDb series were the ones that fell victim to the network executives.

But wait, there's more!

Of the 90 series on the list, only one manages to crack the coveted 9.0 IMDb rating. It's the longest running series on the list, and also happens to be animated. Any guesses? If you guessed The Simpsons, you win! Including The Simpsons, from the 90 series on the list, 31 have an IMDb rating of 8.0 or higher. An 8.0 rating is considered better than average, but what if I told you that 16% of those 31 series will not be returning next year?

Yes, you read correctly. 5 of those 31 series aren't coming back. They include Almost Human, Raising Hope, Surviving Jack, Rake, and Community. That's 4 FOX series, and a single NBC series.

Let's put the spotlight on FOX for a moment, because that would have surprised a lot of people. From its 16 series, 8, or 50% have an IMDb rating of 8.0 or higher. No other network comes close to that percentage of series. A further 3 share a 7.9 rating. Unsurprisingly, FOX's 16 series have a combined IMDb average, regardless of their fate, of 7.78, higher than any other network. Community is NBC's highest rated series,

For balance, the combined IMDb rating regardless of fate for CBS is 7.02, for ABC, 7.20, for NBC, 7.57, and for CW, 7.34. For those who doubted a series with an 8.0 rating is above average, that's your evidence. FOX leads the way for series rating 8.0 or higher with 8, followed by CBS with 7, NBC with 6, ABC with 5, and CW with a respectable 4. In percentages, FOX leads the way with 50% of its series having an 8.0 rating or higher, as previously mentioned, CBS's is 32%, ABC's is 22%, NBC, 33%, and CW's 36%.

Finally, let's cancel and renew the 90 series based on their IMDb ratings alone, with the cut being set at the top 54 series. Why 54? Because 54 series were renewed for another season by the 5 networks under the current ratings system, and 36 were canceled.

Interestingly, a series has to have an IMDb rating of 7.3 or higher, which means a total of 55 series would be renewed. Suburgatory, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Two and a Half Men all have a 7.3 IMDb rating, therefore scrape through by the skin of their teeth. Of the 35 series that would be canceled by not having an IMDb rating 7.3 or higher, 10 have been renewed for real while the remaining 25 have been canceled for real. Five of those renewed come from CBS, and include 2 Broke Girls, NCIS:LA, Mike & Molly, The Millers, and Mom. The CW's Beauty & The Beast and The 100 would have been canceled too. The sole ABC series that would be canceled is Last Man Standing, while FOX's Glee and The Mindy Project round out the 10. No NBC series would have been canceled that has been renewed for real.

The figures are much the same on the other side of the cut. From the 55 series that would have been renewed using IMDb rating, 11 have been canceled in real life. NBC leads the way with 5, thanks to the real life cancellation of Community, Growing Up Fisher, Believe, Dracula, and Crisis. FOX's Almost Human, Surviving Jack, Rake, and Raising Hope leave 2, which go to CW's The Tomorrow People, and ABC's Suburgatory. No CBS series that's been canceled in real life would have been renewed by beating the IMDb cut.

That's all for now! If you're wanting to view the spreadsheet with all this IMDb information on it, including seeing which series would have made the IMDb cut, you can click here to view it using Google Drive. Remember you can get full TV ratings and analysis on my website, www.seriesmonitor.com.

Thanks for reading! I'm sure there's going to be plenty of debate in the comments below. If you like the article, remember to share it on your social networks using the links below the title at the top of the page.

Jimmy.

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