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Rating Analysis - State of ABC Dramas

Hey everyone.
I am back with some more ratings analysis. I still haven’t decided on an exact structure to follow with this, so until I do, I will probably be varying the type of column each week. Today, I am sticking with an analysis of the situation the ABC drama department, looking at renewal and cancellation chances for each show.
So far, their 10 dramas (9 still airing) are averaging about a 2.0 in its most recent airings. Taken into account its ratings, syndication and number of episodes, I feel pretty safe dividing them into 4 tiers as far as their renewal and cancellation chances go. Here’s a look at them (note: relative order within each tier is random):

Tier 1:
- Once Upon a Time

Number of Episodes at the End of the Season: 66 [1 Season Away from 88]
Syndication: No
Production Company: ABC
Ratings Average: 2.20 (110%)
Although the show has fallen from its glory ratings wise (there was a period in which it was systematically in the top 3 broadcast dramas every week), it is still a pretty respectable player for ABC, performing at 110% of its scripted average, at what it is, arguably, ABC’s most troubled night. That’s not something to be taken for granted by any means and the fact is that networks do not cancel shows performing at a higher level than its comparable average in normal situations (certainly not one airing on a day as hard as Sundays). On top of that, and more importantly, the show is one season away from syndication. Both of these mean there is basically no chance that Once Upon a Time does not come back next year!

- Scandal
Number of Episodes at the End of the Season: 51
Syndication: No
Production Company: ABC
Ratings Average: 2.90 (145%)
Scandal currently stands as ABC’s highest rated drama (and #2 show overall). That means that there is no chance ABC could do away with it, even though it is not approaching syndication next season yet. Networks simply do not cancel shows at 145% of its comparable average. One could argue that there is some danger that it suffers later in the season if the buzz winds down as it allegedly happened with OUAT and Revenge. While I do not even accept the notion that this was what happened with the Sunday shows last year (see more on my last week’s post), I say that even if Scandal does fall to something like 120% of its comparable average, it is still more than fine. Hell, it could fall all the way down to 100% and probably still get renewed and I doubt that’s happening anytime soon (it would require it to go to 2.0 or below systematically while all the other dramas miraculously hold or go down). Remember, it’s not the absolute number that matters, but the relative one. Even if Scandal does fall to something like mid 2s in the spring, chances are that ABC’s drama average is on the mid 1s by then, which would still mean Scandal would be at 150%, which, for renewal purposes, it’s all that matters! No chance it does not come back!

Tier 2:
- Grey’s Anatomy

Number of Episodes at the End of the Season: 220
Syndication: Yes
Production Company: ABC
Ratings Average: 2.70(135%)
One of the biggest misconceptions I’ve heard lately about ABC dramas is that Grey’s Anatomy is in its last legs now, that is “barely holding on” and that, because of that, it should be moved. I have two huge problems with this idea: 1) Why would a network move a show that is “barely holding on” as it is, if moving seldom ever can avoid viewers erosion in and by itself? And 2) Where in the world is Grey’s barely holding on? It will likely finish the year as the number 2 ABC drama (and #3 in general) with #1 being its lead-out, which certainly still benefits from its reliable lead-in. I certainly recognize that costs are certainly higher than for a newer show so its profitability may not be all that spectacular (even though Grey’s reportedly does well within 18-34s which would balance this out to some extent), but regardless of that, shows pulling 135% of its comparable average are not barely hanging on, that is a huge misconception right there. Grey’s has also redefined, year after year, the definition of a self-starter show, which needs no lead-in whatsoever to start the night at 9pm, and this year is no different with the show pulling high 2s from the sub 1 levels from Wonderland. Short of contractual issues that blow up or Shonda wanting to end the show, neither of which I have seen any signs, Grey’s Anatomy will certainly be renewed and it is far from “barely hanging on”.

- Marvel’s Agents of Shield
Number of Episodes at the End of the Season: 22-24
Syndication: No
Production Company: ABC
Ratings Average: 2.70 (135%)
The well hyped ABC newbie is now averaging about 2.70 in most recent airings. Is that enough? It is more than enough – it is, after all, 135% of the average and networks don’t cancel shows in that condition in most cases. Is it disappointing? Maybe, but that really does not matter. Is there cause for future concern? Maybe. The show may not have stabilized yet. However, as I have alerted people before, changes of 0.1 and 0.2 are not really changes due to rounding error and due to the margin of error of the statistical sample being used (not to mention possible changes in C3 later on). This means that I disregard the “drop” it’s had in most of its episodes more than most of you seem to. The show also has another very important advantage on its side: as I’ve explained before, the less a person watches TV, the more advertisers like that person and the more they are willing to pay for him/her. Young men typically watch very little TV, which is why programs such as the FOX cartoons are able to charge so much for its ad-revenues and be so profitable. According to all the ABC bragging, Shield is exactly the type of show that does extremely well with this group, which makes me think it is more profitable than its ratings indicate. So while I would feel better about this if the ratings were to stabilize, I still feel pretty safe saying that Shield is going nowhere at this point. It would be one thing if ABC had other mild successes somewhere that we could even consider, but all of their other freshman are big flat flops and I doubt that changes midseason, and they also have way too many troubles with their veterans to even consider axing their sole freshman success of the year that is performing at 135% of its comparable average, even if it is one with a troubling trend (which, as I’ve said, I am not entirely convinced of either). People also like to bring up the issue of the “very high costs” but I have seen no report of such thing so far. The pilot was reportedly more expensive than usual but other than that, I see no reason to believe it is more expensive than something like Once Upon a Time or Nashville. It is a sure thing to come back.

- Castle
Number of Episodes at the End of the Season: 127-129
Syndication: Yes
Production Company: ABC
Ratings Average: 2.10 (105%)
With the possibility of 129 episodes produced at the end of the season, Castle is a veteran ABC-owned already in syndication. Its ratings are on the 2.1 average (105% of the average) and it also happens to be the most stable of all the drama hours with a standard deviation of only 15%. The show is even slightly up in raw numbers from last year (4%), which is very impressive in this day and age. Its ratings alone would mean it is in no danger whatsoever of any cancelation but the fact that it is so stable and that it has syndication revenues to back it up make it a no brainer at all that it will come back next year.

- Revenge
Number of Episodes at the End of the Season: 66 [1 Season Away from 88]
Syndication: No
Production Company: ABC
Ratings Average: 1.50 (75%)
Revenge is probably the most controversial of my classifications. I think some of you would argue that Revenge belongs in the third tier and it is in a battle with Nashville for renewal. While I think that it is even debatable if said battle exists (more on that when discussing Nashville), I have no doubt in my mind that, if it exists, Revenge will be saved and not Nashville – not even close. Why? Because of syndication. People claim that a serialized show like Revenge will not perform well in syndication and I might agree, but I don’t think it matters that much when evaluating this. If a hybrid show with very mediocre ratings since the beginning like The Good Wife, could get a $2.000.000 per episode deal for syndication, then I do not see how Revenge could not get at least a quarter of that! I have made some rough goes at evaluating the profitability of a potential Season 4 of Revenge and a potential Season 3 of Nashville and I got to a differential of about $60 million favoring Revenge! These numbers have a lot of assumptions here and are by no means very accurate but I still think we can use them to get a general view of the situation and I still think the differential I big enough to be reliable even if some of the assumptions are way off (I can try to explain them in the comments if anyone is very interested). Point is: a 75% ratings show would normally be a bubble show, but that certainly doesn’t apply to a show in its third season, because the profitability case is just too compelling! Revenge would need to fall even lower than the 75% and to score a CW-esque syndication deal for that to happen and, at the moment, I do not see any of them happening. It will be renewed comfortably!

Tier 3
- Nashville

Number of Episodes at the End of the Season: 42-45
Syndication: No
Production Company: ABC
Ratings Average: 1.50 (75%)
Nashville, in my opinion, is the sole bubbler of ABC drama slate. It has no type of syndication advantage and 75% is exactly the type of numbers we find for a bubble show. There are some other indicators that we could use for the show , such as the fact that its cost per rating (amount of $ paid for advertisers per rating point) being lower than most of other ABC dramas (suggesting an unfavorable skew) or the fact that the show got fiscal subsidies from Nashville for filming there which should help to reduce its costs, but overall these give some mixed signs that could go either way. In situations like this, I find it more useful to abstract from the show and think about whether or not the network has the means to do away with it. If we assume that ABC keeps the number of drama hours unchanged next season (meaning, it keeps 8 hours of comedy on schedule) and if we assume that all midseason dramas fail, ABC would be looking at debuting 4 new dramas next fall if it cancelled Nashville. Is that feasible? It certainly is, considering they’ve done so in all but one of the last 4 years. Will they see any upside from debuting a DOA drama like Betrayal or Lucky 7 instead of keeping Nashville? My guess would be no, but they did ax Body of Proof last year for these dramas, so take that with a grain of salt. I definitely think it’s gone if one of the midseason dramas make it, but I find that unlikely. In the end, I think this one will come down to the wire and depend on the development season that they have. If they feel strongly about it, then I think the show is a goner; if not, it should come back. My guess would be a renewal if at gunpoint, but for now, I am sticking with bubble show.

Tier 5
- Once Upon a Time in Wonderland

Number of Episodes at the End of the Season: 13-18
Syndication: No
Production Company: ABC
Ratings Average: 1.00 (50%)
Wonderland had a bad premiere and had even more terrible weeks afterwards. It does have a hard timeslot but that will not be enough to save it with ratings at almost half of its comparable average. I have seen many people arguing for a Sunday tryout at 9pm, but unless they do that while taking Revenge out of Sundays, I see no upside for that at all. I seriously doubt the show could pull anything better than the mid1s that Revenge is pulling on the slot, even with OUAT as its lead-in. Remember: OUAT is not the show it used to be either ratings wise and it is not like OUAT fans don’t know the show is out there either. Although it was poorly sampled, the week 2 higher than average drop suggest a rejection of what was seen that is unlikely to change even if exposed to the mothership lead-in. I am definitely strongly against an arrangement that involves OUAT-Wonderland-Revenge, because that would harm Revenge too much and not really make a meaningful difference with Wonderland IMO, so I think in this case they should stay put and let this one play out its order and get out. I think that’s what they will do anyway. Regardless, the show will be cancelled.

- Betrayal
Number of Episodes at the End of the Season: 13
Syndication: No
Production Company: ABC
Ratings Average: 0.90 (45%)
I do not even know what to say here because this is, I believe, a universally accepted cancellation. No newbie show pulling ratings at 45% will be renewed and that’s all there is to say about it, really. It will be cancelled!

So, to sum it up, here is how predictions stand:
Agents of Shield – To be renewed
Betrayal – To be cancelled
Castle – To be renewed
Grey’s Anatomy – To be renewed
Lucky 7 – Cancelled
Nashville – To be determined
Once Upon a Time – To be renewed
Once Upon a Time in Wonderland – To be cancelled
Revenge – To be renewed
Scandal – To be renewed

Thanks for reading!