Tuesday, February 11, 2014

CBS True Power Rankings, February 2014

As the Olympics hiatus hits, it's time for this season's second full edition of the True Power Rankings! I line up every entertainment program in broadcast primetime by network/category using my timeslot metric True, offering some thoughts on the ratings strength of the shows. As on the Weekly True Power Rankings, these True and A18-49 numbers are averages of the last third of the season's episodes to date rounded up, which weeds out inflated early episodes that don't really matter anymore. This year, I'm also including the year-to-year trend for the season to date and the "skew" (or percent of the total audience within the 18-49 demo). The number of episodes in the average is listed under "Counted Eps." These numbers are all through February 2.

Other February True Power Rankings: ABC | CBS | NBC | Fox | CW

CBS ComediesTrueA18-49Skewy2yCounted Eps
The Definites
1The Big Bang Theory5.135.2437%-0%5
2How I Met Your Mother2.983.1248%-5%5
32 Broke Girls2.302.6841%-27%5

The Big Bang Theory continued its improbable raw numbers growth for the first month of the season or so, but now it looks like it might finally be over; the early 2014 episodes have failed to crack the 6.0 mark that TBBT achieved a few times in early 2013. Still, growing in A18-49+ is a certainty, so it will become the second-biggest comedy season in the A18-49+ era. (And with its recent surge, How I Met Your Mother now seems favored to knock off Lost and become the second-biggest final season.)

No longer rewriting the A18-49+ record books: 2 Broke Girls, which has had a raw numbers recovery since its return to 8:30 but seems no stronger in True than when it was at 9/8c. The "it's not a worthy anchor" narrative persists with this show, and rightfully so, but it's probably not gonna have much choice once HIMYM is over. Unless Friends with Better Lives explodes (which I'm not counting on), this will be CBS' second-strongest returning comedy going into 2014-15.

CBS ComediesTrueA18-49Skewy2yCounted Eps
The Questionables
4Mike and Molly2.102.3333%-23%4
5Two and a Half Men2.092.1631%-43%5
6The Millers2.052.7431%5
8The Crazy Ones1.792.0632%5

Here's the real headliner: The Crazy Ones is the weakest comedy currently on CBS' air. If I'd done this post even two weeks ago, that might have been a controversial statement, but I think most would buy into it now that the Monday lineup has had a couple strong weeks (against no Voice/football) and the Thursday one has struggled (especially against the Olympics last week). But if you followed the Weekly Power Rankings, the shows have stacked up about this way in True since about the middle of the fall. It pains me to say it, as TCO is the only of the newbies that I'm still watching, but it's been fairly clear in these rankings for months.

But if we're gonna talk The Crazy Ones, we have to talk about Thursday's other big bleeder, The Millers. It has the raw numbers, but it does not pass the "eye test," barely managing half of its TBBT lead-in. It's not unreasonable to ask if CBS could possibly do much worse than this show with a Big Bang lead-out, and if the other newbies wouldn't do at least this well. The True formula says they wouldn't, and that The Millers has enough true strength for a renewal; applying it strictly, Mom would do about a tenth worse and TCO would do up to three tenths worse (meaning sub-50% retention).

Does True make enough of a lead-in adjustment for this extreme case? The lead-in portion of the formula deducts a tenth of a point for every five tenths that its lead-in goes "above average"; this means the formula says that Big Bang adds about seven tenths to The Millers' demo score vs. an "average" lead-in. I think it's about right; its one episode after a repeat Big Bang on Halloween did not post a lower True score than normal (if anything it was a bit higher than normal). But your mileage may vary.

One thing to note in The Crazy Ones' favor is that it's bleeding out of a show that is itself bleeding. In other words, The Millers almost certainly has a lower rating at 9:00 than at 8:31 or 8:45. So you can argue that TCO should get a little more lead-in "credit" than it gets in the formula. (This would not be worth more than like a tenth of a point in the show's True score, but it's still something. It would make its "retention" look a lot better.)

Where do these things leave us? Could CBS actually pull the trigger on a cancellation of The Millers? I wouldn't totally rule it out; CBS has a pretty rich history of making "retention cancellations." This one would have the biggest raw A18-49+ of them all (or roughly tied with Rob from a couple years ago), but it also has by far the biggest lead-in. If it actually graded out lower than Mom and The Crazy Ones in True, I'd be really beating the drum for this. But I don't think the formula is that far off. The Crazy Ones seems like the weaker show, and I say it'd be first to go from a pure numbers standpoint. It still has some of the squishier factors going for it; CBS loves Robin Williams, and they really want a foothold in single-camera comedy. And the show is still close enough to the pack that those things aren't totally irrelevant. But if it were my network, I'd lean toward cancelling it.

To hit the other shows really quick: I haven't even mentioned Mom, which has surged in the last couple weeks along with the rest of the Monday crowd. The True formula doesn't really buy this surge, but I think it's enough to put it at least a little bit ahead of The Crazy Ones, for whatever that's worth. This may end up being the show whose fate hinges on whether or not CBS holds at four comedy hours, especially if 2.5 Men survives.

While I'm relatively confident that Mike and Molly will be back, it's not far enough ahead of this crowd to put in the next tier. As I said, the recent rise of the Monday block has been somewhat overblown because of favorable competition and How I Met Your Mother's surge. January has always been a somewhat inflationary time for the Monday shows historically. So the April airings after How I Met Your Mother is gone will be most educational.

Then there's the wild card that is Two and a Half Men. My thought before the season was that it had to be squarely "above the bubble" for CBS to invest in another season. In raw numbers terms, it's definitely not accomplished that. But if you adjust for its relatively weak lead-in (The Crazy Ones), you can really make an argument that it's stronger than any of the three newbies, and would be posting better numbers than any of them if it occupied their respective timeslots. But the margin is fairly thin, and I have no idea right now if it's enough.

CBS ComediesTrueA18-49Skewy2yCounted Eps
The Dunzo
9We Are Men1.691.8040%1

CBS DramasTrueA18-49Skewy2yCounted Eps
The Elite/Semi-Elite
2Criminal Minds2.502.4429%-15%5
3NCIS: Los Angeles2.112.4221%-13%5
5Person of Interest1.982.0421%-31%5

I thought about splitting these up into two tiers, but I wasn't really sure where to put NCIS: LAwhose rolling average will probably go up about a tenth when last week's 2.8 is figured in. Point is, none of these shows are going to have any trouble getting renewed; the two weakest shows have just scored nice syndication deals.

In terms of scheduling, I would leave Elementary alone, whether or not CBS kills its second comedy hour on Thursday. There has always been this aura of disappointment around this show, but I think it has quietly done a good job in a tough situation this season, and that has been reflected in True; it has a lower raw average than CSI and POI but edges them in True because Two and a Half Men is both weaker and less compatible.

The only schedule change I'd make with these five next season is move one of the last two Tuesday dramas over to the suddenly problematic Monday 10/9c hour. Tuesday seems like a more fertile ground for new drama at this point.

CBS DramasTrueA18-49Skewy2yCounted Eps
The "Refuse to Die" Division
7The Mentalist1.831.7321%-17%4
8Hawaii Five-01.741.4819%-35%5
9Blue Bloods1.651.3815%-3%5
10The Good Wife1.571.5320%-15%4

Coming into the season, this seemed pretty simple. The Mentalist was the Marked for Death drama, doomed to mimic CSI: Miami and go two seasons and out in that dreaded Sunday 10/9c slot. Hawaii Five-0 was probably going to get multiple seasons on Friday, but it wouldn't do well enough to really help out a fading Blue Bloods. So The Mentalist was definitely done, and Blue Bloods could well be out if one of the new dramas showed some teeth.

It was immediately evident that it wouldn't go quite this way. Hawaii Five-0 has undoubtedly exceeded expectations on Friday, and it's helped Blue Bloods to really exceed expectations. I pegged these shows for the low-1's, and now they seem settled in the mid- or (even high-) 1's. And the new dramas appear to be dead. These things combined mean Blue Bloods is getting renewed.

But the rest of the story appeared to be on-script for most of the fall. The Mentalist often found low-1's on Sunday, with many of those points down over 20% year-to-year. There was no reason to believe it was going another way. But a funny thing happened on the way to the scrap heap. The Mentalist resolved that Red John storyline, made over the show, and... suddenly got much stronger? (I don't watch, so tell me if I'm not describing this correctly.) Its last five episodes have all broken into the top half of the 1's, sometimes building by at least a couple ticks on The Good Wife. This doesn't seem like anything special, but when accounting for the weaker lead-in and the Sunday competition, it looks pretty comparable with the other 10/9c dramas. Didn't see that coming.

Now, will this be enough to actually shift that pre-season momentum? That's a tough ask, because CBS has to cancel one of these shows to produce a normal volume of newbies, and there are no other good choices. The Mentalist also has to sustain this level, which isn't a given. The last two episodes came on two pretty favorable Sundays (football leading into primetime, increasing viewership, but no football competition in primetime). The show hit season highs in the same spot last year. But if it does keep this up and gets axed over The Good Wife, I think it'd have a fairly legit beef.

I threw CSI into this tier. It has much better raw numbers than the others, but also a much easier timeslot. Like Mike and Molly, I think it gets renewed, but it's close enough - and in this show's case, old enough - that it might become a dark horse cancellation candidate if The Mentalist comeback picks up some more steam. Cancelling it outright would open up one of the better new drama slots without having to make extra moves. (Admittedly this would've been a more compelling case if written directly after the series low 1.6 on January 22, but it bounced back last week.)

CBS DramasTrueA18-49Skewy2yCounted Eps
The Dunzo

Intelligence's recent surge has been kind of interesting, albeit pretty easy to explain off (the comedy block has surged, and at least one of the competing dramas sat out both weeks). The show started so dreadfully that positive momentum is not enough; it's got a long way to go.

CBS UnscriptedTrueA18-49Skewy2yCounted Eps
1Survivor Fall2.342.3432%-13%5
2The Amazing Race Fall1.801.9828%-22%4
3Undercover Boss1.751.5324%-8%4
460 Minutes1.622.1523%-8%6
548 Hours1.060.7822%-16%5

Why does CBS always program The Amazing Race so that week two goes up against the Oscars? Simple answer: it always bounces all the way back afterward. But this season will add to the difficulty, premiering against the last night of Olympics and then hitting Oscar in week two. Maybe they know that this won't make any long-term difference, either. But if it does, I'd consider pushing the start date forward by a couple weeks and just doubling up twice.


Spot said...

I'd consider the numbers for TCO as a sign of singlecam rejection, cancel it, and get the heck out of singlecams. On the other hand, if I'm CBS and I get one and only one can't-miss singlecam prospect, I reluctantly renew TCO to partner it.

Early fall comedy scheduling this year is going to be *fascinating*. So much comes down to development, and I'd even argue drama development matters here - if CBS have a really promising serial on deck, I'd get rid of comedy hour four and give the Thursday 9/8c hour to that serial. The TNF package gives this hypothetical serial a low-repeat pattern (breaking only for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and March Madness), plenty of NFL promotional space, and potentially a premiere lead-in in the 5s if CBS stuck a double TBBT in that week. That's possibly as good a set-up for a serial as CBS will ever have. I'd clear the space here by floating Mom and 2.5 Men to the bear's menu (The Millers is reprieved by being an in-house production).

However, if they have another drama strikeout... Those two get saved (or just one of them if TCO comes back for a multicam hour), and I go something like 2BG/newbie/Mom/newbie on Monday and TBBT/Millers/2.5 Men/newbie on Thursday, giving both Monday newbies a premiere out of TBBT (possibly even an opening night of TBBT/newbie/TBBT/newbie before reverting to the regular anchors from week 2).

Note that I'm giving Mike & Molly the Rules of Engagement role in all of these scenarios. If they give it a 22-pack, all bets are off!

Spot said...

One other thing that counts against The Crazy Ones: it's the odd sitcom out in terms of production companies. It's not impossible to think that The Big Bang Theory's renewal with Warner Brothers may envelope Chuck Lorre's other sitcoms, so that gives 2.5 Men, M&M, and/or Mom an additional non-ratings-related advantage. 2.5 Men is more questionable due to it being an expensive show, but WB may decide to eat a greater amount of the production cost now if the accountants say 22 more episodes sold in a second-run syndie deal with the entire season more than makes up for it. Meanwhile, The Millers is produced in-house by CBS Studios. Given that there's no way that the remaining sitcoms (plus still-to-come Friends with Better Lives and still-unscheduled Bad Teacher) are all renewed unless a curveball like programming some on Wednesdays or Sundays is thrown at us, CBS may say the opposite of na-nu, na-nu to Robin Williams.

At first I was puzzled by how CSI, the oldest of CBS' dramas, is currently tied for second in skew compared to the hour-longs that at least have a chance to come back in 2014-2015. Is it retro-nostalgia for Ted Danson? Does the demo think that George Eads is a stud? Then I remembered that it airs after the youngest-skewing Criminal Minds and it made more sense. I feel like CBS is more likely to cancel The Mentalist than CSI just because the latter can easily replace the former on Sundays to give a new show, but I agree that no one would have thought this was within the realm of possibility when the season started.

While I don't think The Amazing Race is in trouble in terms of renewal (being an Emmy factory for the network is a big help as well as the general malaise of broadcasters on Sunday), does the big drop this year mean that CBS may start looking at other options for it? I've been surprised for years that CBS doesn't have it share a timeslot with Survivor but chalked it up to the episode count of each show's season.

Spot said...

True, with rookie dramas faceplanting, CBS needs only one drama cancellation. I doubt those "refuse to die" dramas make much money in first airing, if any. I think it's not few ticks up or down that matters, but syndication. And CSI and The Good Wife are CBS Studios, while Mentalist is Warner Bros. So there you have it, goodbye Mentalist, welcome to the Sunday, CSI.

They definitely should try and fix Monday 10 PM weak spot with a veteran show. Out of 3 candidates, Elementary is holding fort well in tough Thursday 10 PM, and for Person of Interest it would be second move in two years. So I'd put NCIS: LA there. It's only logical choice, especially if NCIS: NO is picked. If CBS brass insists LA still needs protected timeslot in its 5th season ... then something is wrong, either with the show itself, either with them.

Comedy situation was unreadable before Thursday Night Football news. Now it's totally unreadable. IF CBS cuts back to 3 comedy blocks, then they might cancel all three of The Crazy Ones, Mom and Two and a Half Men (though I think they'd renew one). But they also could renew all those three if they keep 4 hours, and don't want to premiere comedies on Thursday in November. I doubt they'll renew all 7 comedies, but theoretically is doable: TBBT to Monday, Mom to Thursday, HIMYD and another new comedy on Monday, M&M + 3rd new comedy on the bench.

But Mike & Molly and The Millers are sure renewals. They could afford to cancel Rob, or Rules of Engagement, or whatever at times when 5 of 6 top scripted shows were CBS comedies. Nowadays they can't be too picky.

Spot said...

No, they won't put shows currently on the verge of cancellation to anchor 9 PM hours.

If they stick with 4 hours, I think they would renew 6 comedies, plus around 4 new comedies picked. And for the first 6 weeks of the season (4 or 5 originals) I'm definitely sure Mondays will be: TBBT / HIMYD / 2BG ... and 9:30 PM I'm not sure, but I guess 2nd-rookie, so they sample it ASAP.

November, I am less sure. Much less. But logical moves would be: Mon at 8 PM, depending on first 6 weeks performance, either 2BG / HIMYD, either HIMYD / 2BG, 9 PM Mike&Molly. At 9:30 PM remains 2nd-rookie, or if it fails, then Mom.
Thursday: TBBT / Mom or 3rd-rookie (in case 2nd failed, so Mom is on Monday) / Millers / The Crazy Ones.

They'll give The Millers chance to shine. When it predictable fails, it'll give them excuse to first demote it to 9:30 PM, then to cancel it after 2 seasons. If it somehow doesn't fail, good for them.
If WB offers substantial discount, then at Thu 9:30 PM could be TAAHM instead of TCO.
I think TBBT is back to Thursday in November, simply because alternative would be something like: Millers / TCO or TAAHM / Mike&Molly / Mom. That looks damn awful, and like sure bet to fail. Moving TBBT around schedule is a lesser evil than that. Everything is

Spot said...

No, no, you're right. It's impossible to know how they'll put it together. Because of that damn TNF package all bets are off.
Maybe I didn't emphasize it enough - the ONLY thing I'm sure is: the first 6 weeks of the season, Monday, 8:00 to 9:29 PM - their strongest show TBBT leading into their most buzzy pilot How I Met Your Dad, and at 9 PM their 2nd strongest comedy 2 Broke Girls.

Though as anchors we really should expect 2BG and Mike&Molly, those two are already tried in that role, with so-so sucess. Plus artifically strong The Millers to be put in "hic Rhodus, hic salta" situation. Not because those are good solutions, but as less bad solutions. Unless something else pans out. Like Friends With Better Lives (it won't), or HIMYD (it might).

Spot said...

I agree about CBS's slam-dunk cancellations overperforming expectations, which has opened up the cancellation race, perhaps putting CSI at real risk. Yes, CBS might own it, but rising costs must outweigh syndication and international revenue at some point, plus the other dramas have the bird-in-the-hand advantage of already surviving in horrible timeslots.

The wildcard option is cutting an hour of comedy.

If CBS cancels The Mentalist then there is a legitimate chance of it finding another home. TNT maybe? The CW perhaps? WGN America continuing its spending spree?

Spot said...

What's amazing to me is how big the numbers are, relatively speaking. 2BG is "not anchor worthy" at a number higher than every other comedy save Big Bang, Modern, Simpsons and FG, AND it doesn't have football at its back, like the FOXcoms do. People seem to be waiting for it to explode, and it just hasn't happened. Maybe it'll get the syndie boost that BBT did, and that MF and Middle haven't gotten. As for the rest of them, I'd say that CBS will go back to one night of comedy for two hours. It's just too hard to support three hours with one and a half anchors. They'll be right back to where they were before with Wednesday nights where two second-tier shows tried to hold each other up. The Millers' numbers are fraudulent, and if you switched it with TCO, the numbers would switch as well. It's at this point that I say TCO and Mom are done because they're owned by WB, and I wonder why WB bothers sometimes when the tie keeps going against them.

Speaking of, The Mentalist! The retool seems to have given it a bit of life. I don't think it really matters. 5-0 and Blue Bloods are keeping it locked on Fridays (which is not a given if something else moves there), and they both have syndication deals. Good Wife is just a bit behind, is owned by CBS and has a syndication deal, so it's not going anywhere, either. There's nowhere else to go if they decide to move CSI or Elementary to make room for a new show.

It's weird thinking that CBS is the healthiest network (by a long ways) when nearly everything is down double digits.

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