Friday, February 14, 2014

CW 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 9.

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

The CWTrueA18-49Skewy2yCounted Eps
The Big Four
1The Vampire Diaries1.181.0658%-15%5
4The Originals0.960.9857%5

The CW's decision to mess with its Wednesday success and send Supernatural to Tuesday has worked out pretty splendidly. Will they apply the same principle to mess with Tuesday success, creating a separate night around each one of their top tier shows?

It's not as clear right now. One of their top new shows (if not the #1 new show) should end up on Monday night. They don't need to surrender Monday night anymore, and it will be disappointing if they do, but anchor newbies like Arrow and The Originals are not that easy to come by. Because it had so many familiar faces, The Originals was set up very well even by spin-off standards. So what happens with the Tuesday duo will probably come down to their confidence in that newbie on Monday. Do they actually have something that can not only lead off a night but lead into another new show, or even a low-end returnee like Reign? Or does it need the help of a reliable veteran like Supernatural?

The CWTrueA18-49Skewy2yCounted Eps
The Race for Returnee #5
6The Tomorrow People0.490.5446%5

It's funny how thoroughly this race had flipped around by November. If you read my October post, I was basically treating The Tomorrow People as the show that would of course keep its timeslot all season and Reign as the wild card. (Just replace "Reign" with "The Tomorrow People" in that post and it ended up being a pretty decent analysis!) There was no doubt from the scheduling decisions even prior to yesterday's renewal that Reign has the lead in this race. TTP is headed for what will be a tough situation on Monday alongside Star-Crossed, while Reign got early-renewed yesterday and keeps its slot for all of season one.

Should it have been such an obvious decision? The TTP contingent will note that the difference between the two is less than a tenth, while Reign has the much bigger lead-in. And Reign does not really have that much of an adults 18-34 advantage. But the True formula treats these timeslots as of identical difficulty, or even gives Reign the slightly tougher timeslot. (Though much of that is because of Reign's last ep against the Olympics.) TTP has more competition, especially since the beginning of the year with Idol on Wednesdays and no Grey's on Thursdays. But Reign makes that up due to lead-in compatibility, a tweak to the formula from last summer. While Arrow and The Tomorrow People are attached at the hip skew-wise, Reign and The Vampire Diaries have over a ten percentage point difference. This means that Reign's "effective lead-in" is actually about 0.3 points lower than TTP's, even though Reign's actual raw lead-in is slightly larger. You're free to call BS on that whole adjustment, but the formula says that the raw numbers difference is pretty representative of the real difference.

A less technical way of putting it: I'm in Reign's camp here because it's done a lot better than I expected. The Tomorrow People has what should have been its very best possible timeslot, and that shows in the skew similarity with Arrow. That it can only produce this volume of viewership despite great compatibility is a real disappointment. To go inverse of Frank Sinatra: if it can't make it there, it probably can't make it anywhere. Meanwhile, Reign indeed isn't that compatible with TVD, as many expected, but it still has more volume. So Reign wins. And TTP needs to overachieve in what should be a less compatible situation on Monday to join Reign in season two. Long shot.

They could renew another one of The Tomorrow People or upcoming Star-Crossed or The 100, but they don't need to. The important point is that only one will get on the fall Monday-Thursday schedule as the fifth returnee along with the usual three newbies. Reign is the leader in the clubhouse, and if it wins it could reasonably keep its post-TVD slot; since TVD is not that much bigger than the other potential launch pads, I'd opt for stability. But for all the Reign defending I've done, this is not that high a bar to clear. Most likely (or least unlikely) to knock it off is upcoming The 100 because it's got a good timeslot.

The CWTrueA18-49Skewy2yCounted Eps
The Low-Priority Candidates
7America's Next Top Model0.490.4246%-16%5
8Hart of Dixie0.420.4348%-28%4
9The Carrie Diaries0.400.3448%-32%5

As I said in October, I'm not in the "Hart of Dixie is a lock simply because of syndication" camp. The fact that "bubble show" Reign was renewed early while "lock" Hart of Dixie was not should drive home the iffiness of looking at things this way. Alas, it will not.

That being said, as I also said in October, Hart of Dixie likely gets renewed even without that much help from syndie. The network renewed seven scripted shows last year (though two of them kinda combined as one renewal). Hart of Dixie will likely end up ahead of The Tomorrow People, putting it at #6. It's also the only real candidate for the CW's beloved "announced final season" tendency. If The 100 succeeds and they hold at six renewals because of Whose Line Is It Anyway? or something, we might be able to have a talk, but all that best-case stuff happening seems unlikely.

Just want to throw this out there: I do not agree with labeling The Carrie Diaries as "de facto cancelled." We're increasingly living in a world where broadcast has to mimic cable's shorter orders in the name of creative integrity. Networks are wising up to the fact that certain shows are built for first-run/streaming and certain shows are built to pile up the episodes and become traditional syndication monsters. 13 episodes and done in the fall does not mean it's over; just ask Sleepy Hollow. (And Sleepy Hollow's early renewal does not mean that you're dead unless you have an early renewal. Some decisions take more time.) The bear will probably get away with this one, but operating under this assumption means you could get burnt at some point.

Isn't this just semantics anyway? Well, I also want to throw this out there; TCD may have actually overachieved on Friday. Its target audience wasn't supposed to be home. I gave it a 0.27 average during Best Case/Worst Case season and it finished with a 0.31. (Despite my best efforts, most shows still end up on the negative side of the predictions, so the winners are noteworthy.) Though it's behind most of its peers in 18-49 strength, it stacks up better in those 18-34 adults that the network loves... Carrie has averaged 0.33 A18-34 on Friday over the last couple months, while Hart had a 0.34 on a Monday and The Tomorrow People has mostly hung 0.4's in recent episodes with an Arrow lead-in. It's difficult to really dig into the meaning of numbers this small, and it's important to note that the size of the local programming lead-ins are meaningful here (and unknown). But it seems closer to the pack than you might think if you've considered it "de facto cancelled" for the last few months.

Look, this is a long shot. The Tomorrow People and the other two newbies have got to totally bomb out, and then the CW has got to renew more shows than expected. But it just might find itself in the exact same situation as last year, when the CW had five clear scripted renewals, plus Carrie and a so-called "syndication lock." (Nikita last year, Hart this year.) And what if Hart of Dixie becomes a 90210-style debacle with significantly sub-Carrie numbers on Friday? Could it actually pull ahead of that show, maybe getting the larger order of the two?

I'll shut up now, because there's no way I can actually predict this happens. Needs way too much help. But it's not as far off the reservation as the conventional wisdom would dictate. Let's see how we stand in April.

The CWTrueA18-49Skewy2yCounted Eps
The Dunzo
10Beauty and the Beast0.350.3350%-54%4

There were a few... let's go with "surprising" things in the EW bubble article. Here was one of them:

"Beauty and the Beast: Not quite dead yet. Has a shot at a short-order, if only because The CW likes to give their multi-year shows some final seasons."

If the CDub actually gives Beauty and the Beast an announced third and final season, I will be happy to admit I was wrong for putting it in the dunzo division.


Spot said...

Reign renewal didn't surprise me at all. After all, when it returned from hiatus on same 0.8ish W18-34 ratings where it left, I wrote something like "Reign is renewed more than ever." It is mildly surprising they announced it already together with "big 4." I suppose they didn't want to wait their midsesason shows to flop (Star-Crossed is sure bet to bomb, while The 100 might and might not flop), and then people to connect Reign renewal to that. I think their motivation was to point those are two completely separate things, to show us Reign renewal is legit, and not just pity renewed as least of the evils among rest of the pack.

As to why Reign renewal is not surprise: show targets W18-34, and has nice 0.82 in that demo. For example, The Tomorrow People targets A18-49, and is currently at 0.62 in that demo, that's 25% gap. Reign is actually between two tiers - its ratings are almost 20% behind 4th strongest CW show, Arrow. But more than 20% ahead of 6th strongest, TTP, and whopping 35% ahead of 7th Hart of Dixie (0.54 W18-34). That's good enough for no-brainer renewal, but unlike for Originals (and Arrow before) 3rd season doesn't look as a lock.

Speaking of, I'm seriously worried about Hart of Dixie now. It's down about 30% in A18-49 y2y, but with even worse 40% decline in its target demo W18-34. Is it sure to be renewed for 22-episodes order 4th season because of syndication reasons? Obviously not, or otherwise The CW would give it early renewal too. Is it cancelled? No, maybe studio has some syndication deal in sight, and now CW is simply mulling over if it will be 13 or 22 or whatever episodes order. So they first want to see how well it holds on problematic Friday. But it might be they're actually torn between cancellation and a short order. Because that 0.54 is almost identical to de facto cancelled The Carrie Diaries 0.50 W18-34. And TCD was on Friday, so I'd argue it actually performed better than Dixie.

Bottom line, should they consider ratings only, then HoD is deader than disco. But remembering what Pedowitz did in similar situations, I guess it's fate is: somewhere between Nikita's 6 episodes order and Gossip Girl's 11 episodes, and those to air on Friday 8 PM, season and series finale to be in December at latest. But if it gets 13 or more episodes after all ... anything guaranteeing it to air in midseason too, then we'll know syndication gods requested so. Which for now we can't know about it, only insiders can.

To The Carrie Diaries. Despite airing on Friday, it's only around tenth behind The Tomorrow People, and even less behind Hart of Dixie, while Star-Crossed should be DOA. If The 100 fails too, then Carrie might be back in contention. And if it gets renewal (it probably would be 13-episodes as a midseason spackle), then TCD not would be the most lucky show ever, but also I'll eat some crow for repeatedly claiming it being dead. I mean, last year both Beauty and the Beast and The Carrie Diaries were incredibly lucky: Gossip Girl was announced as a final season, both Emily Owens and 90210 ratings were bad, and Cult's terrible. In such a situation two grade D+ performers (TCD even maybe C- being in tough timeslot) got green light in by no means good CW season (only success was Arrow, Supernatural simply profited from being moved from Friday). BatB screwed second chance, it's 50% down from already not so great Season 1 ratings. No wonder they'll burn off remaining episodes in summer. TCD is 33% down, but taking in account Friday factor, that's not so awful. Not good either, but it's all about outracing others, and both TTB and HoD are going to less favorable timeslots, while Star-Crossed got awful one. All in all, I must agree with Spot it's not yet completely dead.

Spot said...

One more note about Reign renewal: It might put a dent into my pet idea of keeping Originals / Supernatural pairing intact. Most likely, it's now race between The 100 and Reign for the last spot on Monday through Thursday schedule (theoretically Star-Crossed too, but...). Like, 4 big + 3 new dramas = only one spot left on Mon-Thu.

But if Reign wins that race, then there's problem with compatibility. They would like Originals and TVD to lead into Reign and new soapy drama (Supernatural: Tribes, I assume), that would fit better. Then pairings would be something like:
Flash / Supernatural
Originals / Reign
Arrow / new genre drama
Vampire Diaries / new soapy drama

They might leave Reign on Thursday, no biggie - TVD didn't launched any hits, so it might be good idea to try new soap leading out of Originals this time. Or put Flash/SPN on Tuesday if they're afraid of Monday Night Football, but that's basically that.

However, I would like The 100 wins race. Because of my pet idea, of course. And because it would mean good news for CW if The 100 would be rated even better than solid Reign. Anyway, then Reign would go to Friday, and pairings would be like:
Flash / The 100
Originals / Supernatural
Arrow / new genre drama
Vampire Diaries / new soapy drama

If The 100 totally flops, they're gonna simply pity renew least bad rated among The Tomorrow People, The Carrie Diaries, and Star-Crossed, and put it to Friday.

About why I think it will be 3 new dramas, and not only 2:
The CW ordered only 6 pilots this year (2 less than in previous 2 cycles) , and it's logical to expect them picking 4 to series (1 less than in previous 2 seasons). But I think they'll still premiere 3 new dramas in the fall, because health of the netlet is not good, it's just better than it was year or two ago. Look no further from Spot's (correct) analysis showing The Carrie Diaries is still alive. Only a bit, because it needs The Tomorrow People to collapse on Monday, and both Star-Crossed and The 100 to flop - unlikely, but not impossible to happen.
Bench would be thin with only "Whose Line" and 1 rookie on it. But that would be OK for them if The 100 would have solid ratings, and 22 episodes renewal based on that. Otherwise, they might pick 5th new show after all. Or order 13 episodes spackle for least bad rated among The Tomorrow People, The Carrie Diaries and Star-Crossed.

Spot said...

Of all the networks, I think The CW cares least about the traditional syndication package for its shows. If it did, then why did Nikita only get a 6 episode pickup and end with 73 episodes? The network (and sister studios) are more interested in selling their shows in other venues like online with Hulu or Netflix.

With that said, Hart of Dixie is likely to beat out Beauty and the Beast for a Friday slot just by reading the scheduling tea leaves. Dixie is scheduled to finish up its season by May on Friday while Beauty and the Beast will still have a handful of episodes when it goes on hiatus in March. I wouldn't be surprised to see The CW rotate in ANTM, TCD, and HoD in 2014-2015 Fridays.

Spot said...


No Star Crossed question?

Spot said...

My prediction
The Big Bang Theory - Will renew
The Millers - Will renew
Two and a Half Men - Will renew
The Crazy Ones - Will cancel
Mom - Will cancel
Mike and Molly - Will cancel
How I Met Your Mother - Ending
We are Men - Cancelled

TBBT is doing WAY to good in ratings to cancel, along with The Millers. They will both definitely renew. With HIMYM ending and WAM cancelled, CBS will likely be interested in bringing back TaaHM one more time. I don't see a second season for Mom and TCO, but who knows. Mike and Molly will also likely get pulled this year.

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