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Rating Analysis - State of CW Dramas

Hey everyone.
One more week, one more article looking at ratings. Today I will be tackling what is arguably the group of shows with the most passionate shows on this website, the CW network.
The 9 dramas that the CW currently airs are averaging about a 0.80 in its most recent airings. Like usual, I will be diving these shows in tiers according to its ratings, syndication and number of episodes. Unlike CBS, I thought the breakdown here was very clear. Here’s a look at it (note: relative order within each tier is random):

Tier 1:
- The Vampire Diaries
Number of Episodes at the End of the Season: 110-112
Syndication: Yes [I actually could not find information about any deal but I am assuming the show is syndicated somewhere or if not, that it will be soon. If anyone has a link about this I would love to know more concrete information]
Ratings Average: 1.30 (165%)
The Vampire Diaries has been the CW’s highest rated show for years and even though it certainly has more company at the top now than it used to, it still a colossal monster for CW standards. When a show is in such a situation, scoring 165% (!!) of its comparable average (only 3 broadcast shows currently have better relative ratings) and being already syndicated, there really isn’t anything to dwell on. Perhaps the most interesting point about this show is whether or not the CW should move it to 9pm since it hasn’t yet been able to successfully launch a show out of it yet. I’ve seen this idea around a lot and I strongly disagree with it. At the very least, TVD has always guaranteed that all shows placed post it were sampled, which is more than the 8pm slot could guarantee. I think all shows placed there suffered either from quality or from compatibility issues with both TVD and the CW brand as a whole. Moving TVD to 9pm wouldn’t have changed, most likely, the fact that these shows would have failed. It would just mean that they would have failed even more in raw numbers and there is a strong chance that they could hurt TVD in the process. It’s a very high risk, long shot low return type of move. And that’s a move you should never do IMO. Regardless, The Vampire Diaries is absolutely certain to be renewed!

- Arrow
Number of Episodes at the End of the Season: 44-46
Syndication: No
Ratings Average: 1.10 (140%)
Arrow started the season softer than most people expected but has quickly and quietly brought itself back to the top tier of the CW. Not that it was ever in any sort of danger whatsoever, but the 140% of average leaves no doubt at all about its future. Not that it needed reasons to be anymore safer than it is, but the fact that it allegedly brings loads of males 18-34 (aka the most valuable viewers) to a network normally dominated by females certainly doesn’t hurt either. This is as boring as it gets, because there is no chance that Arrow is not renewed for a third season and I can’t even imagine the rationale for a possible move, so there really is nothing for me to add here!

- The Originals
Number of Episodes at the End of the Season: 22-24
Syndication: No
Ratings Average: 1.00(125%)
The Vampire Diaries spin-off is unarguably the CW’s biggest success story of the year and I think it’s probably a top 3 success story of the year among all networks. While many thought (myself included) that the CW would and should launch the show after its parent show on Thursday, the CW bolded up and decided to have it leading Tuesdays on its own. It was one of the biggest moves and gambles of the season and two months after, I am ready to call it a huge success. Its 125% average is on par with Arrow and Supernatural and is only behind its parent show, TVD. That’s a major accomplishment for a network whose biggest success story in a pre-Arrow era was… Hart of Dixie? I think The Originals is here to stay and I wouldn’t actually be surprised to see it outliving The Vampire Diaries when cost considerations start to weight in for the mothership. But that’s speaking ahead of time. For now, it’s a mortal lock for renewal and the only question is whether it is kept on Tuesdays next year or whether it is moved to anchor struggling Mondays with a new show.

- Supernatural
Number of Episodes at the End of the Season: 194-196
Syndication: Yes
Ratings Average: 1.00 (125%)
Supernatural is the oldest CW show and I think it’s a show with one of the most interesting trajectories ever ratings wise. After being thrown to Fridays to die, it was successfully moved to a midweek slot again and then moved yet again, only to seemingly increase its success even further. I don’t even watch the show, but I have to say that I would be very proud of it if I did, as that is something you simply don’t see or expect to happen, ever. Currently, its 125% ratings average absolutely guarantee that Season 10 is a go. Costs could be a consideration but I don’t really think they matter right now, for three reasons. The first is that the ratings differential is still too significant for the CW to let such a valuable player go (they could matter for a show doing something close to 90-100% of the average. A show doing 125% is just too valuable). The second is that the show has a very small cast, which certainly helps to keep its costs in check as this is usually the highest source of costs’ increase throughout the years. Finally, and most importantly, the show is very well syndicated for a CW show. Information about this is not very easy to find, but from what I could gather, the show scores about $700,000 per episodes from TNT (which, for a CW show, is a lot) and there are also reports that the show scores another sum close to $700,000 per episode from the huge Netflix deal that the CW put in place last year. I am not sure I believe the accuracy of the numbers relative to the Netflix deal, but even if they are about one third of this, it’s still pretty significant, considering they are on top of the TNT deal. Bottom line: the show has its costs covered and I really think that this one will come down to when the two leads want to stop doing the show. For now, that doesn’t appear to be happening. The show is a lock to be renewed (even if it is probably moved yet again).

Tier 2:
- Hart of Dixie
Number of Episodes at the End of the Season: 66-68 [1 Season Away from 88 episodes]
Syndication: No
Ratings Average: 0.40 (50%)
Hart of Dixie is currently a very poor performer for the CW. 50% usually spells cancellation. However, this show is a season away from the magic 88 episodes needed for syndication which means we can’t be that quick calling for its cancellation. As such, the show is a likely renewal. Two reasons for this: 1) The show is not performing THAT badly just yet ratings wise. While 50% is terrible, we’re still not talking 30% level 2) As much as the CW appears to be improving this year, they still need spackle shows to fill part of their schedule, particularly on Fridays, and they will certainly be more interested in doing so for a show from which they can get syndication money than for a newbie performing just a little bit better when spring rolls around. Now, there are some considerations that should be made here. If, for some reason, the two bubble shows hold/improve and the midseason shows are successful, I don’t think it’s inconceivable that Hart of Dixie could be cancelled .Unlike the situation of shows like POI (100%) or even Revenge (80%), 50% is already a pretty low level. I am a big believer in syndication but I cannot imagine the CW would cancel shows performing at 90% to save a show performing at 50% (some numbers for reference: Nikita was performing at 65% last year, Fringe was performing at 65% when it got the 4th season renewal, Chuck was performing at 95% when it got its 4th season renewal). Even boosted by syndication, the show could find itself in a situation in which there is no room on the schedule for it to come back. However, I have a very hard time imagining that all other shows would suddenly be able to perform at such positive levels – it’s just too unlikely. For that reason, I am still very confident in saying that Hart of Dixie is a very likely renewal (and for Fridays by the way).

Tier 3
Tier 3 is made of two shows whose situation is not only interdependent, but also dependent on how the midseason shows do later on. As such, I will make a short introduction of each and then address their fates together.

- The Tomorrow People
Number of Episodes at the End of the Season: 22-24
Syndication: No
Ratings Average: 0.60 (75%)
At 75%, the Tomorrow People is the pure definition of a bubble show. Its retention from Arrow is disappointing and so are its relative ratings, at 75% of the CW’s average. What could the show have in its favour? Well, for starters, while disappointing, 75% is still a normal bubble level that really could go either way – it’s not that bad of a level. On top of it, the CW usually brags about this night doing mighty well with M18-34 and if that is the case for this show, then I suspect it gives it another advantage, as this is typically the preferred group of advertisers (due to its scarcity). Is that enough? There is no way to know at this point. Like I said, a pure bubble show.

- Reign
Number of Episodes at the End of the Season: 22-24
Syndication: No
Ratings Average: 0.7 (90%)
Reign is also another clear bubble show. While it’s 90% level appear way better than The Tomorrow People, the difference really isn’t significant – it’s just one tenth – and it’s only because the CW ratings are so tiny that these minor differences in absolute values look like major differences in relative values. Unlike The Tomorrow People though, the show seems to be somehow fighting its way back to a higher end bubble status and that could be a good thing if a real trend is effectively here. Right now though, I am certainly not ready to declare that the CW will prefer this show to TTP based on the fact that this one is performing 0.1 higher – it’s just statistically irrelevant (not to mention possibly not true in C3 numbers, aka the ones that really matter). It must be considered a bubble show as well.

What to make of the situation of these two shows then? As with the CW, I think it comes down to two questions?
  • is it one or the other? I would tend to say that yes, it comes down to one or the other, best case scenario! This best case scenario is contingent on the midseason shows both flopping, which I don’t think is a given. If the CW renews all the shows from Tier 1 and 2, plus the usual 3 newbies, that’s 8 slots on the schedule. While they could renew two more out of The Tomorrow People, Reign, Star Crossed and The 100 group, that would require sticking one of them on a Friday after America’s Next Top Model ends (Hart of Dixie is extremely likely to get that other Friday slot) and I am not willing to assume for now that this option is financially attractive for them yet, especially considering both shows are airing after big lead-ins and that the audience erosion when moved to Fridays would likely be huge. It’s not inconceivable that they do renew both Reign and TTP if both midseason shows fail and they are willing to stick one on Fridays, but I still find it unlikely, so I am sticking with only one of the two, at best, being renewed.
  • which show has the edge? I would love to have an answer for this but I don’t know. As I’ve said above, the raw numbers make it look like Reign has an advantage, but I find the difference statistically insignificant for that to be the factor that will make the CW go one way or the other. I think that, provided that both shows’ ratings level stay the same throughout the season, it will come down to one another point: which lead-in (TVD or Arrow) they are more keen on utilizing for a new show next year (other considerations like sub-demo breakdown could also play a role if they are different enough). There is also a strong possibility that this question will be answered as soon as midseason schedules are rolled out and that the CW decides to move one of them to make way for a midseason entry. Regardless, I think it’s impossible to know for now which one of the two powerhouses (TVD and Arrow) they are most interested in utilizing and at the end of the day, that’s what I think it comes down to. Hopefully, midseason makes this more clear for me to make a call.
Tier 4
- Beauty and the Beast

Number of Episodes at the End of the Season: 44-46
Syndication: No
Ratings Average: 0.30 (40%)
Beauty and the Beast is performing at a terrible ratings level that leaves it with a very little chance of being renewed. Just for a reference, a quick look at the “last” renewed shows of each of the last three seasons: 2010-2011 had Happy Endings and Fringe renewed at 65%, 2011-2012 had Fringe and Rules of Engagement renewed at 70% and 2012-2013 had the Carrie Diaries renewed at 60% and Nikita renewed at 65%. As you can see, the lowest renewed show was performing at 60% and I already think that was a big reach, which is why I have an extremely hard time imagining the CW wanting to renew a show performing at 40% - it would be baffling to me! Why is it not a certain cancellation then, as 95% of the industry websites have been proclaiming? Well, basically because I am unclear on how small is the % of the CW profits that comes from ad-revenues and how big is the % that comes from syndication revenues .If their goal is simply to carry shows to syndication, I don’t think it’s totally impossible that Beauty and the Beast makes history and is renewed for Fridays at 9pm instead of one out of Reign, The Tomorrow People, The 100 and Star Crossed, since it would have at least a 22 episode advantage over them. But I still think this would be a tremendous reach and I am not ready to believe they could have advertisers accepting this. Therefore, because of this unbearable 40% level, I am still calling it a likely cancellation.

- The Carrie Diaries
Number of Episodes at the End of the Season: 26
Syndication: No
Ratings Average: 0.40 (50%)
The Carrie Diaries is another show also performing at a ratings level that is most likely unacceptable to yield a renewal. The 50% here are somehow inflated because of my multiplicative Friday factor (maybe I should revise the models to consider an additive percentual Friday factor instead). The reality is probably something like 45%, which puts it roughly on the same field as Beauty and the Beast. That’s cancellation level almost any way we look at it, as the examples from above illustrate. Then why it is not a certain one? To be very honest, I think part of it is just the fact that I was burned by the show last year and so I am hedging my bets now. The other reason is that it is not totally impossible that the bubble shows sink further and that the midseason shows flop and that the CW decides that they are better off keeping a veteran on spackle Friday duty. In that situation, it is not 100% impossible that The Carrie Diaries, which has the bird in one hand advantage since it’s already performing there, and which has the upper hand in 18-34s, is picked instead of Beauty and the Beast. However, these are an incredible amount of ifs and by no means I am willing to predict all these will happen (especially because Beauty will be effectively one season older than carrie considering the shorter seasons). The show will most likely be cancelled.

So, to sum it up, here is how predictions stand:
Arrow – To be renewed
Beauty and the Beast– To be cancelled
Hart of Dixie – To be renewed
Reign – To be determined
Supernatural – To be renewed
The Carrie Diaries– To be cancelled
The Originals – To be renewed
The Tomorrow People – To be determined
The Vampire Diaries– To be renewed

Thanks for reading!

Tracking Table

Previous Articles:
State of CBS Dramas
State of ABC Dramas
ABC Sundays
Renewals and Cancellations Decisions and TV Numbers 101 [FAQ]