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Rating Analysis - State of FOX and NBC Dramas

Hey everyone.

Today I finish looking at the drama situation from all 5 broadcast networks. Because FOX only has 2 dramas with undecided situations currently airing, I’ve decided to do both FOX and NBC dramas on the same post.FOX currently airs 4 dramas airing which are averaging a 1.90 in most recent airings. However, because both Glee and Sleepy Hollow have already been renewed, there are only two shows worth it for me to look at. Here's the tiers in which each of them fall into, taking into account its relative ratings, syndication and number of episodes (note: relative order within each tier is random):

Tier 2:
- Bones
Number of Episodes at the End of the Season: 188-190
Syndication: Yes
Production Company: FOX
Ratings Average: 1.90 (100%, 110% of all scripted offerings)
After years threatening to do it, FOX finally went ahead and moved Bones to Fridays. I think it is up for discussion whether or not it was the right move for FOX (it certainly wasn't for Bones, but remember that FOX's goal is to maximize its overall ratings, not those of a particular program). My personal opinion is that it did make sense, especially assuming that the second week on Friday is the level at which the show will settle. I think Bones will be just fine. Its ratings level is perfectly acceptable, it’s probably the best performer FOX has ever gotten on Fridays and I am fairly certain it brings them a lot of syndication money. The last mention I could find was of a TNT syndication deal of 2008 that gives FOX $450,000 per episode but I am fairly confident that other deals were put in place afterwards or that this one was revised upwards as Bones aged - the benefit is certainly higher than this value indicates. The only reason I am keeping the show in Tier 2 is that the costs for the show sure have been increasing throughout the years and there is a small chance they are now too large for a deal too be workable with its stars. However, I am not confident on that happening at all - there seems to be no indicator of such thing. Therefore, I am still going by the book here and saying that great ratings (100%!), especially in a slot where they have little else to air, plus good syndication money make the show a very likely bet for renewal.

Tier 3:
- Almost Human
Number of Episodes at the End of the Season: 13-20(?)
Syndication: No
Production Company: Not Fox
Ratings Average: 2.00 (105%, 120% of all scripted offerings)
Almost Human is a very new show and very new shows have to significantly overperform or underperform for me to do more than put them squarely on the bubble. In its 2 episodes aired in its timeslot, Almost Human did neither, so to the bubble it goes. Let's look at facts. No matter how badly you want to spin the 1.90 it pulled last week, that's still 100% of FOX's drama average, 110% of its overall scripted average and probably even more of its overall average (scripted+unscripted). That's a renewal anyway you look at it, no matter how much you dislike the absolute number. What's the problem then? Well, the problem is that it's only the second episode on the regular timeslot, which means the show can continue to drop, faster than the overall network, meaning its relative rating could drop a lot. If that happens, then the show can and will be cancelled. What could the show have in its favour? It will be airing for one month without the voice to compete against and that's a great chance to build momentum and catch an audience. At the same time, it could also benefit a bit from the pairing with the final run of Sleepy Hollow and the initial run of the Following. Another point in its favour is The X-Factor continued decline. Despite rumours that the show will be back, there is still a decent chance it will be cancellled and this could  free up space that bubble shows like Almost Human could certainly use. What could work against it? Basically, the fat that we still don't know where it will settle. It's all about a trend here and I really think the January ratings will be very important here. At the end of the day, this really needs more information for me to go on, so I have to stick with a bubble show until further evidence comes in.

Let's now talk about NBC. NBC currently has 7 dramas airing, averaging about a 1.70 in most recent airings. There is one show in which I thought the placement in tiers was difficult - all the others were very straightforward. Here's a look (as always, the order within each tier is random):

Tier 1:
- The Blacklist
Number of Episodes at the End of the Season: 22-24
Syndication: No
Production Company: Not NBC
Ratings Average: 3.00 (175%)
The Blacklist is, without a question, one of the biggest hits of the season. While I am certain its ratings would be far lower were it not to follow the voice (for instance, last week, The Voice did a 4.3 in the last minute of airing, which I am sure inflated the blacklist), it is still remarkable how well it is doing. The show had a very minimal decline from the premiere and it appears to have stabilized at a level that is outstanding for a drama on any broadcast, especially at NBC. There is absolutely no question that the show will be back. In most circles, there is also little doubt that the show is doing too well not to be moved. And I personally agree. The Blacklist has probably gotten as much Voice-induced sampling as it will ever get and it should now depart to another land, leaving the spot for a new promising show to take advantage of it. Where to? Basically everything is a fair game. I see little upside of a Tuesday move but there are good arguments to be made both for Wednesday and Thursday. I am convinced that NBC should and will go for one of these. Which one is better is kind of a personal preference and it depends a bit on which other pieces they have to work with. I will get back to this later in the season. Regardless of where it is moved, the fact stands that The Blacklist is a certain renewal for NBC!

- Grimm
Number of Episodes at the End of the Season: 66-68 [1 Season Away from 88]
Syndication: Yes
Production Company: NBC
Ratings Average: 1.90 (110%)
Grimm is one of those third year shows which is in the perfect situation for renewal. It has ratings that are more than enough for renewal anyway we look at it (110%!!) and it is one season away from syndication. It is also a show that, due to its procedural nature, should be able to score a decent enough syndication deal, which only adds to this later argument. For some reason, some people have been looking at its ratings this year as if hey were disappointing, which I find very odd: out of the 43 returning shows that have aired episodes this far, Grimm is the 14th healthiest year to year, and that's comparing Friday airings with when the show was airing on Mondays at the end of the summer! It's doing perfectly fine, I don't understand where those comments are coming from! I can't see any scenario in which the show is not renewed because it really has the best of two worlds in outstanding ratings and great syndication value and proximity in terms of number of episodes! It is a lock for renewal!

- Chicago Fire
Number of Episodes at the End of the Season: 46-48
Syndication: No
Production Company: NBC
Ratings Average: 2.10 (125%)
After a surprisingly very successful first season, NBC rewarded Chicago Fire with a post-the voice move and a spin-off of its own. The success of the move post-the-voice is up to debate. I do think that big lead-ins don't offer a significant long term advantage to established shows and that also includes sophmores (see also Suburgatory), which is why Chicago Fire is performing at a level only slightly better than that what was doing last year and not blowing up through the roof as some people were expecting. I think it was still a solid move because it ensures that there is no sophmore slump here and it widens a bit more its sampling, but I also don't see any advantage of letting the pair roll long term if they have something better to put here - their midseason idea seems to agree with me. Regardless, in terms of survival, the show is another absolutely sure thing to come back. NBC is clearly invested in the show and, at 125% ratings level, rightfully so! The show is bound to decrease a bit midseason when the voice is no longer its leadin but I would be surprised if the drops are very severe - it should still settle at a perfectly acceptable ratings level! Besides, it's a Dick Wolf show doing well, which means tere are tones of syndication potential to take advantage of! It's a lock for renewal!

Tier 2:
- Law and Order: SVU
Number of Episodes at the End of the Season: 340-342
Production Company: NBC
Ratings Average: 1.50 (90%)
SVU is the oldest drama currently airing on broadcast TV and it is certainly amazing how it is still pulling respectable ratings in the order of the 90%. The real story about this show's renewal, however, is not about its ratings, but about its syndication deals. Indeed, while the ratings are still respectable (90%), the show is a syndication machine which I am sure makes the show extremely profitable. There is surprisingly lack of information about this on the Internet. I found information about a deal with USA for $1,300,000 per episode, but this is from 2001 and I am sure there have been upgrades to the deal recently, considering how well its syndication reruns do. I think that as long as the show keeps performing at a respectable ratings level, which it is doing, the syndication revenues will continue to be enough to save it. I am keeping it at Tier 2 only because there is a chance that, at some point, the costs will have increased so much that not even huge syndication revenues can help the show, but I am not inclined to believe it it the case yet and I still think the show is absolutely likely to be renewed!

Tier 3:
- Dracula
Number of Episodes at the End of the Season: 10
Syndication: No
Production Company: NBC (Cheap International Co-Production)
Ratings Average: 1.10 (65%)
I said it before that there was one show whose placement I felt really unsure about and that was Dracula. In any other industry website, you will find Dracula listed as a cancellation. While I can certainly understand why, I've decided to stick with the safer bubble placement. Let's look at the facts: the show is performing at 65% of NBC's drama average, even with my 25% Friday Factor taken into account. That's bad and that's a certain cancellation for a freshman show in almost all occasions. However, the show is also an international co-production, which makes it allegedly very cheap for NBC. How cheap? Well, that's where it gets tricky because we have no way of knowing. Personally, I keep coming back to one other case which prevents me from putting it on the cancellation prediction side: Hannibal! Hannibal was also a cheap international co-production and, last year, the show was renewed at a not so different 70% rating average (considering only the in-season airings). People will argue that critical acclaim is vastly different; while true, that has no bearing on a show's profitability, hence on its renewal/ cancellation prospects. Another similarity is that both shows have little opportunity costs (i.e. lost profit from the second best alternative NBC could air in their place), as Hannibal was aired partially as summer show and Dracula is stuck in the Friday at 10pm slot essentially replacing repeats (last year, they had Dateline here but repeats at 8, so Dracula effectively replaces repeats). I am still not very confident on this situation, if only because it also involves a Friday factor and also because there is still a 5% difference between both that could get even bigger. I believe the Hannibal renewal came down to the wire and so, it could easily go the other way around for the similar, yet a tiny bit worse Dracula. But it is also not entirely impossible that it goes the same way Hannibal did and NBC keeps using it as filler for Fridays at 10pm if the costs really are very low. If forced to chose, I would go with cancellation. But because of the Hannibal precedent, I will still say it is on the bubble!

The other two bubble shows that NBC has are shows which, in my opinion, have their situation dependent from one another. As such, I will make a short introduction of each and then address their fates together:

- Parenthood
Number of Episodes at the End of the Season: 90-92
Syndication:No deal yet, but it has enough episodes to do so, so one deal is bound to come sooner or later
Production Company: NBC
Ratings Average: 1.20 (70%)
In a move that I've strongly advocated for last season, NBC moved Parenthood to Thursday this year and the show saw its ratings take a huge tumble. I could go in detail about why was it the right move for NBC, but that would take way too much space here and I think would go besides the point - the main idea is that, as FOX with Bones, the goal of a network is to maximize the overall ratings, not a show's specific ratings. I will probably do it on the future in a separate post. Regardless of how we look at the move though, the show is now performing at 70% of NBC's ratings level and, having already enough episodes for syndication, that's pure bubble territory.

- Revolution
Number of Episodes at the End of the Season: 42-44
Production Company: Not NBC
Ratings Average: 1.40 (80%)
As fellow bubble show Parenthood, Revolution has also been moved to an unarguably harder timeslot than it was last year, therefore presenting significant ratings erosion as a result. I will note, for what it's worth, that the 1.4 level at which the show has established itself, isn't that much different from the 1.8-1.9 level it was late last spring, which only goes to show the point I was making with Chicago Fire and The Blacklist, which is that after a while, the lead-in effect is relatively small and not as large as most people think. Regardless, the show is also performing at a level, 80%, which puts it squarely on the bubble. Most likely, its future will therefore depend on how the NBC bubble shapes up (more on that in a bit). There is, however, one another alternative for the show though, which wouldn't make it contingent on the whole "bubble" situation, which would be a move to Friday. I am not entirely sure how financially feasible this would be though, so I have to hold judgment on that for the time being and simply leave it as yet another possibility. For now, the 80% ratings level has to make it a bubble show!

What to make of the situation of these two shows then? Basically, I think it comes down to two questions:
  • is there space to keep both on the schedule? This is a complicated question because it's NBC we're talking about here and there are a lot of variables here!. Sticking with the Monday-Thursday schedule only, they have 12 hours to fill there. The Voice (x3), The Blacklist, SVU, Chicago Fire, 2 New Dramas, 1 Comedy Hour are all sure things and these amount to 9 hours. There are 3 other hours to fill. What could go on these hours? Plenty of options: a midseason drama (Chicago PD most likely) could succeed, Parenthood could be renewed, Revolution could be renewed, The Biggest Looser could take a fall spot again, NBC could go with 2 hours of comedy instead of 1 or NBC could go with 3 new dramas Monday-Thursday instead of 2 Which of these will happen, that's the million dollar question. I have a hard time imagining that they go just with 1 hour of comedy. I thin they will insist on having 2 hours, even if one of them consists of final seasons of Community and Parks and Recreation. Regarding The Biggest Looser, unless The Sing Off does a wonderful job as voice filler this year, I  think they will need TBL back in January and February to cover for the voice absence as they did last year (this year, they had the Olympics, so they didn't need that). So, assuming that these two hypothesis that I have do come true, that would leave Parenthood, Chicago PD, Revolution and a 3rd new drama battling it out for the 2 remaining hours. Could Parenthood and Revolution both get a renewal? Yes, but I am not ready to predict that yet - I will at least wait for Chicgo PD's numbers! However, I don't think it's likely that NBC can do away with both - too much new property on the fall schedule! Therefore, I am sticking with a "one or the other" prediction for the time being, even though I can revise this later in the season! (Again, this excludes the idea that Revolution could move to Fridays. If that happens, then this doesn't hold).
  • which show would be saved in case there is room only for one? I truly think this is a pure tossup here, as there are different factors going one way or the other! A) Revolution has a small advantage in Live+SD 18-49 numbers. I don't, however, expect this tiny difference to be the deciding factor (it is so small that it could literally be nule in C3 for instance). Still, it's worth noting that it's been there systematically B) Neither show does remotely well in 18-34, but from what I've seen, I think Parenthood usually does a tiny better. C) Parethood is owned by NBC but Revolution isn't. D) Parenthood will get into its 6h season, which means it's probably time for contract renegotiation, meaning costs will likely shoot up (see Private Practice, Brothers and Sisters, etc.). I expect a 6th season of Parenthood to be more expensive than a 3rd season of Revolution E) Parenthood could conceivably score a decent syndication deal that makes it more profitable than Revolution. As you can see, I really do think there are different factor pushing one way or the other. Both have to remain bubble shows for the time being!
So, to sum it up, here is how predictions stand:
Almost Human – To be determined
Bones– To be renewed
Chicago Fire – To be renewed
Dracula – To be determined
Grimm– To be renewed
Law and Order: SVU – To be renewed
Parenthood– To be determined
Revolution – To be determined
The Blacklist – To be renewed

Thanks for reading!

Tracking Table

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