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Rating Analysis - State of NBC and CBS Comedies

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Hey everyone.

First I would like to apologize for this article taking a week longer than it was supposed to, but these past weeks have been crazy at work and I really lacked the time to write this properly. Despite the delay though, tomorrow I will give you the normal weekly article! It will be a different article, dealing with statistics and tops from this and that, so make sure to check it out if that kind of stuff interests you! Anyway, without further delay, let's take a look at the last shows we're missing, which are NBC and CBS comedies.

NBC comedies are averaging a paltry 1.00 in most recent airings. Now, as you may have realized, I am an extreme believer in relative ratings within the same category being the relevant ones as opposed to absolute ones. I still stand by that but, in the case of NBC comedies, I think things must be put into context and I think simply looking at the ratings of these 2 hours of programming is not enough. NBC comedies are performing 41% lower than NBC dramas in most recent airings! That's a lot of under-performance there and I think that must be taken into account somehow. The somehow I am using for the time being is to use NBC's overall scripted average instead of solely the one from these 4 comedies, which is 1.60 right now. Taking this into account, let's divide the shows into the usual tiers (note relative order within each tier is random):

Tier 3:
- Parks and Recreation
Number of Episodes at the End of the Season: 112-114
Syndication: Yes
Production Company: NBC
Ratings Average: 1.00 (65%)
There are so many factors affecting this one! What are the pros? A) The show is produced by NBC and has a syndication deal with WGN network. Although I could not find mention of values for the deal, any additional episode that airs will have at least some additional incoming source other than ratings. B) Although I haven't been paying much attention to it this year, Parks (and Community) used to have some of the best 18-34s ratings among NBC, which could help its ad revenue. C) The show will move to 8h30 come January, following Community, and historically it has done a much better job in that arrangement than in the current one, so there is hope its ratings pick up. D) If there is a surrender hour again next year, I think Parks is perfectly positioned to take a spot in it. What are the cons? A) The ratings are lousy. 65% is bad regardless of how we look at it. The ad revenue is probably very low, even taking into account the 18-34 B) NBC has a clear image/PR problem with their comedies. Wiping the state clean might give them a higher long term gain than whatever syndication revenue Parks brings.  C) Realistically, I don't see any other spot (except maybe as midseason replacement) in which they would put Parks other than Thursdays at 8h or 8h30. That's very limiting per se and the only way it gets to return to Thursdays at 8 is if it's again a surrender hour. But if they do attack Thursdays at 9 with something like The Blacklist next year, it stands to reason that they would like to give it further support from 8pm than what a surrender hour could provide. Reality such as The Biggest Looser or the variety show everyone is talking about would probably be better options there to support the 9pm anchor than a pair of rating loser comedies.
Where does all these leave Parks? Honestly, I have no idea. If the ratings shoot up enough at 8h30 then I think NBC finds some way of bringing it back if costs are controlled. But even though I see ratings improving from what they were this fall, I don't see them improving enough to make it a clear decision. It sucks for me as a predictor but I think it will be a tough call at the end regardless. For the time being, Parks and Recreation is a clear bubble show

Tier 5:
- Sean Saves the World
Number of Episodes at the End of the Season: 19
Syndication: No
Production Company: NBC
Ratings Average: 1.00 (65%)
I am not even going to pretend there is any doubt in this prediction. 65% may be a level that puts a veteran show like Parks as a bubble one but it is not a level at which newbie shows get renewed unless there are some extreme circumstances involved, which is not the case here. It is certain to be cancelled.

- The Michael J. Fox Show
Number of Episodes at the End of the Season: 22
Syndication: No
Production Company: NBC
Ratings Average: 0.90 (55%)
This is Sean Saves the World all over again. Newbie shows are not renewed at this low ratings level, no matter which super star is involved in the show. It is certain to be cancelled.

Let's now talk about CBS comedies. Even though I didn't do it on purpose, it's kind of fitting that I've left these for last, seeing as how CBS comedies are the ones in which I feel the least able to predict whatever is going to happen. I really hope that Spring ratings make this all more clear than it currently is; for now, I apologize for the lack of actual predictions, but I won't be making them just for the sake of doing so if I don't have facts to support them. CBS comedies are averaging a very impressive 2.70 in most recent airings (even though if you remove TBBT, this falls down to 2.40). Let's see in which tiers each one of them places (as always, order within tiers is random):

Tier 1:
- The Big Bang Theory
Number of Episodes at the End of the Season: 157-159
Syndication: Yes
Production Company: Not CBS
Ratings Average: 5.10 (190%)
As much as I like to present things from all perspectives in this article, there is no perspective from which The Big Bang Theory is in any sort of danger of not being renewed. The show is a monster in ratings and is a monster in syndication. It is certain to be renewed!

- 2 Broke Girls
Number of Episodes at the End of the Season: 70-72 [1 Season Away from 88 Episodes]
Syndication: No, although it already has a deal
Production Company: Not CBS
Ratings Average: 2.60 (95%)
This is yet another story in which regardless of our perception of the ratings in terms of being a disappointment or not (and I would personally agree with those that claim that its ratings this year have been very underwhelming), renewal is by no means in question. Not only is 95% a level still perfectly compatible with a certain renewal (especially when you consider that one of the two shows that does beat it is about to leave the air and the air is a mega hit that competes only with itself in another stratosphere), but the show also has another very powerful gun: syndication. TBS agreed to a deal in which it will be paying $1,700,000 per episode. This is the highest deal for any comedy I could find mention of, even beating the 2010 deal for The Big Bang Theory. With a price as high as this one, I am certain that the production company would be willing to offer the show for free to CBS if needed be to ensure that the show does reach the 88 episodes needed (and probably that it goes beyond that). The combination of these two factors make it a certain renewal anyway we look at it!

- Mike and Molly
Number of Episodes at the End of the Season: 92
Syndication: Yes
Production Company: Not CBS
Ratings Average: 2.20 (80%)
To be very honest, I debated a bit if this show should be placed in Tier 1 or Tier 2. While I don't feel it's as safe as The Big Bang Theory or 2 Broke Girls, I also cannot find any objective reason for a difference, as the show is certain to be back. Why is the show certain to be back? Well, for starters, because the ratings are still acceptable and within renewal boundaries, especially because these 80% are somehow deflated (see explanation for 2 Broke Girls). The second reason is that the show has a nice syndication deal with FX; while the deal is not nearly as attractive as the one 2 Broke Girls got - Mike and Molly gets $750,000 per episode - it's still good enough to guarantee that the production company would be motivated to offer the show at a lower cost, thus effectively increasing CBS's profitability from it. Third, and related to the second one, the show is on that perfect area between "already in syndication" but "before contracts negotiations are up" (typically after season 5 or 6) that makes achieving 100 episodes a very attractive goal. Finally, CBS is known for holding one comedy for sparkle each year (they did it for years with Rules and they did it this year with Mike and Molly) and this show still is the best positioned show for that role again, which means that even if it doesn't get a fall placement, it will get a 5th season order with no problem. The show is certain to be renewed!

Tier 3
We get to Tier 3 and we get to what I was talking about before, which is my inability to predict what will happen with the shows from now on. I firmly believe that, for the time being, the 4 remaining CBS comedies (Mom, The Millers, The Crazy Ones and Two and a Half Men) belong to this tier as their fate is up in the air. I will introduce each very briefly and then address the factors that will decide their fates all together to avoid repetition.

- The Millers
Number of Episodes at the End of the Season:22-24
Syndication: No
Production Company: CBS
Ratings Average: 2.60 (95%)
I feel like I have to be very careful when explaining why this one is on the bubble as I don't want to be labeled as a retentionista (as in, someone who judges a show's likelihood of renewal based on a show does compared with its lead-in) so I apologize for how long this one turned out to be. While I do feel that retention theories are mostly a misconception that do not find empirical support in the way networks make their decisions, I do think there is a case to be made for shows that follow ridiculously high rated lead-ins, especially half hour shows in which the effect is much more severe (because ratings are calculated for 30 minutes instead of 60, meaning the initial impact of the lead-in is not as much smoothed over the hour as in the case of an hour long). There are, however, very few instances in which I think this logic does apply (I would limit these to pretty much the shows following The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family in fact). Now, let me be perfectly clear: in no way I ever expected The Millers to perform in any level close to The Big Bang Theory nor did it needed to to be a certain renewal in my book. However, I do believe that it would be expected for the show to do a bit better than be 15-20% higher in terms of relative ratings than the other newbies who are basically self starting or using much lower lead-ins. This means that I didn't expect the Millers to perform at 195% like The Big Bang Theory, at all, but I would expect it to perform at something like 115-120%. As it stands, I can't help but feel that it is basically the same show (or worse) than The Crazy Ones, Mom or Two and a Half Men but masked by a higher lead-in. Case in point: in the night in which CBS aired it after a repeat from Big Bang, the show scored a 2.1, which puts it right on the same level as the other bubble shows! What's more, the show still had a decent lead-in from the Big Bang Repeat, a 2.6. That 2.6 is higher than most lead-ins Mom and Two and a Half Men have been getting this year and is exactly on the same level as the lead-in The Crazy Ones has been getting (in fact, on the same night, The Crazy Ones scored a 1.9 after that 2.1 lead-in from The Millers). Now, you can ask, why would CBS care about this if the show keeps pulling the ratings? After all, the numbers are what they are, regardless of the reasons. And I would agree, except that I think there is little chance that CBS would use the monster Big Bang lead-in another year in a show that cannot go higher than mid 2s. The show would most likely have to be moved if renewed, which is why looking at how much is ratings are artificially inflated by Big Bang matters. Any show would fall if moved away from Big Bang, that's normal and expected. That is also why it is expected of shows following Big Bang to build more of a buffer than the one The Millers has gotten for itself. As it stands, I firmly believe that the 95% from The Millers are equivalent to the 75% from Mom, TCO and TAHM, which is why The Millers is a bubble show! (For the record, if you have trouble believing that these extreme cases in which retention does matter, I would advise you to consider the fact, for instance, that Super Fun Night didn't get a full series order whereas The Goldbergs and Trophy Wife did with much lower ratings at the time in which it happened - same principle).

- Two and a Half Men
Number of Episodes at the End of the Season:246-248
Syndication: Yes
Production Company: Not CBS
Ratings Average: 2.10 (80%)
While 80% is normally still decent enough for a renewal in most cases (although not all) as long as it is not a freshman show, Two and a Half Men is an odd one due to its age and very high costs. The show is syndicated which certainly helps to mitigate the costs, but the truth is that it's possible that not even that is enough to offset the huge paychecks without large enough rating. Sadly though, it is impossible to find enough publicly available information for me to know for sure the figures we're talking about here. For that reason, the show is a bubble show for the time being!

- Mom
Number of Episodes at the End of the Season:22-24
Syndication: No
Production Company: Not CBS
Ratings Average: 2.00 (75%)
A 75% ratings average for a newbie show is just pure bubble level. It has some pros in its favor but could easily be the case that there is no space on the schedule for it or that CBS feel that it can do better with a new show. Because it could go either way, it is a bubble show.

- The Crazy Ones
Number of Episodes at the End of the Season:22-24
Syndication: No
Production Company: Not CBS
Ratings Average: 2.10 (80%)
This is the Mom thing all over again, as in, freshman show in a ratings level that is just too average for it to be clear in which direction it could go. As such, I a declaring it a bubble show

Now, in regards to these bubble shows:
  • what are the issues that will determine how many of these shows are back? There are two: 1) How many comedy hours CBS keeps next year and 2) How many new comedies do they premiere. At this point, I am not even going to try to address these. There are just too many ways this could go and a lot depends on development season, which is something we are not privy to. My guess, and is just a guess, is that they keep the 4 comedy hours and air 3 new comedies, one replacing a bubble show, 1 replacing How I Met Your Mother and 1 replacing Mike and Molly (to be held again), which, in addition to the 2 new dramas, would total the usual 3.5 hours of new programming that CBS usually does. However, I think there is a fairly decent chance that they cut down the comedy hours and air a new drama on the very good slot that is Thursdays at 9 (I will dwell on this later in the season if it's appropriate). If that happens, I think they keep only 1 bubble comedy and premiere 2 new ones. Unfortunately, no way of knowing for sure at this moment. 
  • what is the pecking order of shows? Because they are in such different situations (old show, new show higher rated by propped up by huge lead-in, new show, new show), it's hard for me to judge. I hope Spring ratings create ratings gap large enough between them for me to make a decent call because, right now, I would have a really hard time guessing what comes back and what doesn't, which is why I think all of them are bubble shows.
So, to sum it up, here is how predictions stand:
2 Broke Girls – To be renewed
Mike and Molly – To be renewed
Mom– To be determined
Parks and Recreation – To be determined
Sean Saves the World – To be cancelled
The Big Bang Theory – To be renewed
The Crazy Ones – To be determined
The Michael J. Fox Show – To be cancelled
The Millers – To be determined
Two and a Half Men – To be determined

And with this, we finally have our prediction table complete! Thanks for reading and remember to check out tomorrow for the new article as well!

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

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