Friday, September 17, 2010

First Two Weeks, Hellcats

It's the return of the system in which I try to prognosticate new show fates based on just two weeks of data! Rather than bury the lede, I'll talk Hellcats first, and then after that I'll reintroduce some of the finer points of this project.


Sampling: The premiere of Hellcats pulled a 1.2 A18-49 and a 2.1 in "The CW Demo" of W18-34. It seemed like a modest start at the time, but as other returns from the CW's premiere week came in, Hellcats looked better and better, and it ended up tied for the second-highest W18-34 premiere on the net. While it's down from the premieres of Melrose Place and Life Unexpected last season, it's workable.

Retention: Week two of Hellcats had an 8% drop in A18-49 and a 19% drop in the CW demo to a 1.7. 19% is relatively close to normal and will likely ultimately grade out as a "borderline" retention. While a 1.7 doesn't look great, we don't know where all the other shows on the net will be a week from now. I'd say there's a chance it could still end up as high as maybe the fourth-highest rated show on the net.

Prognosis: I'm including both the 18-49 and the W18-34 numbers because I haven't decided how or even if I'm gonna incorporate the CW shows into the system this year, but my gut says Hellcats would/will end up being a "borderline" show. When I predicted Hellcats' ratings on 22 Hours, I also guessed it'd be the CW's bubble show of the year, and I think that's where we're headed based on these results. It's tough to predict on a net with just two new shows, especially since it looks based on the fast nats like Nikita is taking a very similar drop. Sucks to begin the year with one this tough, but since it's still a couple ticks ahead of Nikita in the CW demo I will lean ever so slightly toward a renewal for this one.

This is my first 2010-11 post that tries to prognosticate renewal or cancellation for a new show based on just its first two ratings results. I did this for every new scripted show in the 2009-10 regular season, and you can see those at the "new shows" label below, and in my most recent post in the label ("First T'Weaks") you can get a look at the "system" part of this project, which isn't going to come into play until a couple weeks down the line when there are a lot more shows to work with.  Anyway, this was my description of the idea behind the project, from the very first post about 50 and a half weeks ago, and it still mostly applies to this year's version:
I always like to say there are two ingredients to making a new show a hit: you've got to make people show up, and you've got to make people stay. It's the kind of catchphrase that someone with a lot of authority would come up with to distill the TV ratings world down to their tremendous following. I have neither authority nor following, but I say it anyway, in the hopes that it might appear that I have those things. And it's that catchphrase that is the basis for my assessment of the first two weeks of fall 2009 TV's new shows.

I believe that with just those two data points, you get a decent idea about what's going on in both of those arenas: how many people show up (week 1 sampling) and how many people stay (week 2 retention). You can't become a successful program if you completely bomb in either of those arenas. A huge sampling means nothing if the audience completely abandons it, and usually a big week 2 drop leads to more big drops. If you're dead on arrival it doesn't matter how much of that miniscule audience sticks around. Still, doing very well in one can save a modest performance in the other.
Why use two data points when I could just wait and use the other twenty? Well, I think we'd all like to figure this stuff out as early as possible. And out of the 30 shows I did last year, I say there were only three shows for which you absolutely had to have the data beyond the first two weeks because the result was different (Flashforward, which went from definite renew to definite cancel, Glee, which was a definite renew rather than borderline*, and Melrose Place, which went from borderline to fairly definite cancel). Some shows like The Middle and The Good Wife got renewed pretty early, but I maintain that without those early renewals, we'd still have been discussing their borderline results up till the end. Even most of the shows called "borderline" with the first two weeks were not totally "resolved" ratings-wise by the end. So if anything, this project helped to support what was merely an out-of-my-ass theory this time a year ago; the first two weeks tell quite a lot of the tale. We'll see how it goes this year.

And if you still think it's dumb to try to prognosticate this stuff so early, you can just ignore the prognosis and use the posts as an informative look at their first two weeks out of many to come!

*- Glee was actually a definite renew in the old system, but I'm using the post-tweaks version which doubles the value of the premiere.

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