Thursday, February 13, 2014

Fox 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

Fox ComediesTrueA18-49Skewy2yCounted Eps
The Animated Anchors
1Family Guy2.692.7063%-14%4
2The Simpsons2.343.0057%-7%4

If there was a big winner in terms of Super Bowl promotional volume, it was definitely Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, the upcoming Seth MacFarlane non-fiction production. It'll push Family Guy out of the 9:00 slot on a regular basis for the first time since 2005. The Sunday 9/8c hour is going to be pretty crazy this spring, with relatively important newbies on ABC, NBC and Fox as well as the cable logjam. Will there be any winners here?

Fox ComediesTrueA18-49Skewy2yCounted Eps
The Second Tier
3American Dad!2.032.1862%-11%4
4New Girl1.761.7265%-19%5
5Bob's Burgers1.752.2059%-8%4
6Brooklyn Nine-Nine1.561.5654%5

I've been saying this for over a year: American Dad! has emerged as the clear strongest show out of Fox's second tier animation (at the time, this also included The Cleveland Show), and Fox could very well end up really missing it. The economics and logistics of animated shows are too tangled for us outsiders to comprehend fully, and that's probably what is sending it off to TBS next season. But I'd still want it on my schedule. Shrug.

A note on Brooklyn Nine-Nine: it's disappointed in its move to 9:30, I guess. But was it much of a timeslot upgrade, or really any of an upgrade?  As a lead-in, New Girl only has two or three ticks on Dads in raw 18-49, and Brooklyn was actually a closer match with Dads from a skew standpoint than it is with ultra-young New Girl. This move won't suddenly get Nine-Nine killed after 15 episodes of respectable work at 8:30. The network has too much invested in it at this point. But unless Glee does OK on Tuesday and injects a little life back into New Girl, this midseason shuffle will end up looking pretty pointless.

Fox ComediesTrueA18-49Skewy2yCounted Eps
The Tuesday Blues
8The Mindy Project1.321.3064%-15%5

Their adults 18-49 strength is roughly equivalent, but these two shows are clearly in different realms. We can argue about whether Fox should consider bringing Dads back. It's not really the bomb that it could've been, and getting into the multi-camera game for anyone not named CBS has been a real struggle. But it doesn't have that much of a leg to stand on ratings-wise. Low-1's are still low-1's. And from a "what will happen" standpoint, the tea leaves (namely its order getting cut) aren't in its favor.

The Mindy Project is obviously ahead of Dads on the totem pole because it skews so much younger. That makes a real difference in ad dollars, where this show (like New Girl) overachieves its adult 18-49 rating more than almost anything. But does that make enough of a difference to overcome another season of poor 18-49 ratings? I say it likely does make enough difference... to get it renewed as a midseason backup plan. Though I'm not that big a fan of exactly how Fox is scheduling this spring, the general idea of trying to do better at 9:30 while having Mindy still in reserve is sound. Stick with that, but leave less compatible Brooklyn Nine-Nine in the first hour of the night. And if Surviving Jack doesn't work out, it'd be a stretch to bring just two returning comedies into next season alongside all the newbies the network is ordering.

Fox ComediesTrueA18-49Skewy2yCounted Eps
The Friday Fails
10Raising Hope0.920.7041%-57%5

Thrown away on Friday, Enlisted's True average actually outrates the last couple episodes of Rake. Speaking of which, that Rake hour may be coming open soon. Airing Surviving Jack after Idol seems like an idea they should stick with, but I'm not sure Fox will have the restraint to actually reduce the Idol results show to 30 minutes. Could this open the door to Enlisted taking the 9:30 slot? I don't necessarily think it's shown enough on Friday to "merit" it, but I'd rather take a flier on that over just airing repeats of something at 9:30.

Fox DramasTrueA18-49Skewy2yCounted Eps
The Only Definite
1Sleepy Hollow2.172.2444%5

This will be back on Monday at 9/8c in the fall. That seems like a pretty good bet, maybe the only pretty good bet out of the Fox drama department. Let's hope this "limited series" brings more interest back for season two than The Following has.

Fox DramasTrueA18-49Skewy2yCounted Eps
The Question Marks
2The Following1.821.9046%-12%1
4Almost Human1.801.9039%3

Let's get the easy ones over with. Back when Glee got renewed for two seasons late in the 2012-13 season, I was thinking Fox was more likely to give it only one more (quite possibly shortened) season. It wasn't that hard to see at the time of the two-season renewal that things could easily get very awkward, and that appears to be where we're at heading into 2014-15. The show's 1.33 average at present may well come up somewhat on Tuesday, because two of the eps counted in this average were 1) Thanksgiving and 2) against The Sound of Music Live! These events may hurt this show more than the rigid formula accounts for. But even looking at it very optimistically, it has bubble ratings. And it can really only get worse at this point. The fact that Fox may have to cancel something like Almost Human to make room for what is effectively an expensive, low-rated mini-series is frankly kind of nauseating.

The other easy one is recently renewed Bones. Fox finally pulled the trigger on the Friday move and had some pretty legitimate success with it after a slow start. But now it's Monday-bound again, in what seems much less about Bones and much more about a desperation move to help out The Following. I don't know where Bones goes next year, but this year reaffirmed what has long been obvious: it can work in any situation. It's a question mark, but in a good way. (I also think it should be a bit higher than the other two dramas, so maybe it should get a little bit more credit for being on Friday.)

That leaves the current Monday pair. Both launched after the NFL with a good deal of fanfare. But in Almost Human's case, the fanfare disappeared fast. Just idly speculating here, but it doesn't seem that far-fetched that Fox pretty much gave up on this show after week four. It dropped multiple ticks for a third straight episode, hitting a 1.7 on December 2. The promotion seemed to fall off and the scheduling created a pair of three-week hiatuses. There was no back-order. In a world where shorter orders are becoming more commonplace, none of these things are a total smoking gun with respect to the show's fate. You could conceivably fanwank it all away and say the show's still getting renewed easily. But where there's this much scheduling/promotional smoke, there's likely a fire: Almost Human is on death's door.

And yet, the show has hung in the upper 1's. I don't buy that this is some huge upset that Fox could have never seen coming. Shows are usually settled by their second month, and Monday night in January is an easier situation than Monday in December; there's at least as much overall viewing, minus football and minus The Voice. The True scores have been remarkably consistent since early December. Perhaps that's a bit of an overachievement once you account for reduced promotion, but there's at least something to it.

The ratings merit appears to be there, so is this another Terra Nova situation where the costs were simply so overwhelming that the show had to be a bonafide hit? Though there weren't the widespread reports of that kind of situation coming in, it's possible, but I'd be surprised if the situation were as extreme. And here's the thing: from a pure ratings standpoint, an Almost Human cancellation would actually be even more of a reach than Terra Nova. Terra Nova had a 105 A18-49+, while Almost Human (projecting a 1.6 for the last three episodes) figures to settle at almost exactly the league average (100). But the difference is that Fox was a drastically stronger network in 2011-12 than in 2013-14. Their network average for originals was 119; The X Factor was looking like a long term player, American Idol was still a megahit only beginning to come out of its prime, and Glee and New Girl were still legitimate hits on Tuesday. In 2013-14, the network's originals will struggle to break the league average (100) even with football inflations. The X Factor is dead and Tuesday night is a dumpster fire. Terra Nova, while a slightly bigger player, was still a decidedly below average Fox show; Almost Human is roughly an average Fox show. Average usually means easy peasy renewal.

Meanwhile, despite a second pricey NFL injection (multiple lengthy Super Bowl promos), The Following has found no separation. In the two weeks since the Bowl, the shows tied once on February 3, then The Following had a single tick advantage on February 10. Still need more data on this show, but if The Following finds itself in the mid-1's by the second half of the season, renewing it (a serial that's basically all downside projecting forward) and cancelling Almost Human will look pretty egregious.

Fox DramasTrueA18-49Skewy2yCounted Eps
The Dunzo

Just to reiterate: please don't continue airing this show on Thursday after the Olympics, Fox!

Fox UnscriptedTrueA18-49Skewy2yCounted Eps
1American Idol Wed3.533.8538%-24%2
2American Idol Thu3.493.1536%-30%2
3MasterChef Junior1.511.3544%2
4The X Factor Wed1.461.4339%-38%4
5The X Factor Thu1.401.2837%-42%4

The X Factor is gone. It creates a big scheduling hole, but this had to happen. It was only remotely justifiable if you could be absolutely certain the show would at least totally stop the bleeding. There was absolutely no way to be absolutely certain about that.

How much does it help the fate of Your Favorite Bubble Show? Unless you actually thought it was coming back, none! :-P But seriously, I'm pretty sure at least two of these hours will be filled with more unscripted (with newbie Utopia seemingly eying that real estate). So it's either one hour or no hours.


Spot said...

A bit different comedies power rankings
A18-49 are actual ratings, while W18-34 are my approximations (extrapolated few data points provided by SonOfTheBronx).

1. 2.35 W18-34 - New Girl - sure renewal
2. 2.05 W18-34 - The Mindy Project - likely renewal
3. 1.59 A18-49 - Brooklyn Nine-Nine - likely cancellation
4. 1.38 A18-49 - Dads - de-facto cancelled

New Girl is not a big hit it was during first two seasons (3.0+ average W18-34 ratings), but with 2.4 it still would be a hit. Yes, that average probably will go a bit more down before season ends, but no way bellow level for sure renewal. Which is moot point anyway - show needs 4th season for syndication.

The Mindy Project is refusing to die, it hit 2.0+ W18-34 in 3 of 6 last episodes, with 1.7+ in each. So, current average is at level for sure renewal. But Mindy is now on long hiatus until low-HUT April, and it probably will return with pretty bad ratings. However, that last batch is only 8 episodes, so it should be truly disastrous ratings to push average ratings down to the bubble level, let alone to the cancellation level. Now, question is if Fox would look at those last 8 episodes as a preview of what happens next fall, and consequently cancel it. Or they'll look at season average, give a bit leeway for those 8 (for show itself) terribly scheduled episodes, and renew it. I think latter is more probable, so I think TMP is likely to be renewed.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Maybe I'm too harsh, and it's on the bubble. After all, 1.6 A18-49 average is not awful, and there's only 5 episodes left to air, so it ain't gonna erode even more. And maybe Reilly is really taking those Golden Globes awards seriously. And they have timeslot for it next year: Tuesday 8 PM, especially if they don't like their development slate. Then if ratings turns out to be really bad in the fall (read: even more awful than Glee's surely will be), they can always burn it on Friday after MasterChef Junior season ends.
But show's hitting ratings lows for 2 weeks in a row, despite better timeslot and SB exposure. And only 5 episodes left also means it can't overtake The Mindy Project anymore (to be surely renewed B99 simply needed to beat TNP, because it was always unlikely Fox would surround New Girl with 3 rookies next season). I think it could go either way, but I'll quote a wise man: "Low-1's are still low-1's.", and estimate renewal chances to less than 50%. Perhaps 25% ?

Dads - it was clear it's dead even without series finale in February. Because, when show is 4th rated out of 4 sitcoms, then it can be saved only one way: when all 4 shows performing well, so network decides to expand comedies for another hour, renews all sitcoms and orders 2 new comedies along it. Clearly, that is not the case here, and 1 or 2 Fox comedies will have to make way for new comedies launched in the fall. BTW, idea tossed around that Dads could be renewed for airing on Sunday is absurd. Dads A18-49 ratings are bad, but it's A18-34 ratings are something like 1.1, and M18-34 are even worse, average is at around 1.0. That's both abysmal, and totally incompatible with Sunday animation shows.

Spot said...

Fox dramas situation looked so simple just a month ago, and now is a hot mess. Almost Human is overperforming and has slight chance to escape death. The Following is underperforming and is not sure renewal anymore. Though The X Factor cancellation for me was a sure thing from long ago, it being officially cancelled doesn't clear situation a bit. Not until Fox announces if it means more dramas in the fall (I highly doubt they'll expand comedies).

Last but not least, Fox is serious about year-round programming, along unscripted shows (Ramsey, SYTYCD, and Utopia if ready) this summer they'll air 3 dramas (24, Gang Related, Wayward Pines) in 2 timelots (24 and WP sharing Monday 9PM). And summer drama hours probably can only increase in next summers. That, plus fact it seems now they order 10 to 15 episodes for most (if not all) rookie dramas means they need huge amount of dramas, relatively speaking, for a network airing less scripted program than The CW (excluding animation). Bones, Glee, Sleepy Hollow are renewed, The Following might be, 4 new series are already ordered. With aforementioned 3 summer dramas, that's 11. That's enough for only until spring 2015, summer 2015 at best. I mean, they must either order some more on top of 4 existing projects, either renew The Following and/or Almost Human. But having those 11 (10 if The Following is cancelled) ordered, they are not in hurry, they have at least until May (upfronts) to decide.

Spot said...

About those newly ordered dramas:

Gotham is most buzzed out of new dramas, but it's almost surely a midseason show. Because it started casting only few days ago, while others are already shooting, or at least in advanced stage of pre-production. It doesn't have to be a bad thing, Fox can (and I think they will) launch it from NFC Championship game.

Backstrom screams it's yet another wannabe House, and those Fox likes to launch after Idol. So I'm almost sure they plan to launch it in winter 2015 at Thursday 9 PM. But it could also be already in fall.

Gracepoint season is fixed to 10 episodes, but is not a mini-series, limited series or whatever they call it - renewal is possible. However, no possibility of backorder suggests it's going to be on Almost Human schedule, premiering after baseball playoff, and airing from November to February.

Then only September drama premiere should be Hieroglyph. Monday 8 PM, Fox kinda devoted Monday to genre shows, and this fits in nicely. At least thematically.

If they can squueze 3 unscripted hours for Wed/Thu fall schedule out of Dream Date and/or Utopia ... then with Glee at Thu 8 PM they're set for fall. If they can manage only 2 such hours, then they need one more drama for fall: either schedule Backstrom in the fall, either they better act quickly (hurry up Gotham production or order one more show, no matter scripted or unscripted).
If they cancel The Following they need something for midseason Monday 9 PM. They must either order one more new drama, either renew Almost Human. But that decision Fox doesn't have to make soon.

Spot said...

Fox can't launch Gotham out of the NFC Championship. The AFC Championship is next year's primetime game (so the big lead-out decision goes to CBS, who will use it on one of a crime procedural again).

Good point on Gracepoint's 10-ep order implying a Nov-Feb run!

Glee on Thu 8pm rather than 9pm? I was going to say "clever, that's throwing the zombie show against TBBT" and then I realised that TBBT isn't going there until at least November, and maybe not even then (it's at least being "launched" on another night, I don't buy that it stays there).

I'm reading the fall schedule you're imagining as something like:
MON: Hieroglyph, Sleepy Hollow
TUE: newbie/newbie, New Girl/Mindy Project
WED: Dream Date and/or Utopia
THU: Glee, ?!?
FRI: Masterchef Jr, Bones

I'm pretty sure that 9-9 gets renewed simply because it would be humiliating *not* to at this point. Gracepoint gets subbed in in Nov as you said, not quite sure where. The Thursday second hour is the one to fill, as you said; I'd want AH there, as the night has suddenly become awfully manageable for a procedural. However, I'd put AH at 8, taking less NFL damage.

Those tweaks leave something like this pre-baseball:
MON: Hierogyph, Sleepy Hollow
TUE: Brooklyn Nine-Nine/newbie, New Girl/Mindy Project
WED: Dream Date, Utopia
THU: Almost Human, Glee
FRI: Masterchef Jr, Bones

Spot said...

Glee 8 PM to avoid Grey's or Scandal, whichever is there. If there wasn't for that women-demo strong ABC Thursday, I'd put New Girl / Mindy Thu 9PM to counterprogram football. Glee is really not much important, I see it on Friday (or even Saturday) after New Year. Unless somethings gets even worse ratings. I mean, probably they'll put other pieces first, and Glee gets what's left.

I think Gracepoint at Wednesday 8 PM in November. Like, one of those two unscripted shows to be 2 hours initially, then to shrink to 1 hour in November.

Sorry for not being obsessed with Almost Human like you. I see it at best as a spackle option for later in the season, and with poor chances for even that.

Spot said...

"Obsessed"? That's a bit much. He, like I, is not willing to write it off so quickly when it's matching FOX's most hyped drama.

Spot said...

FOX is a complete shambles. If New Girl wasn't so close to syndication, I'd sweep the whole lot out and start all over. It's not like a new comedy holding 80% of whatever NG can manage next fall will be any good. Also, it and BB9 have two unimpressive showings after a Super Bowl lead-out, which tells me that they've peaked. Animation isn't dominating like it used to, and none of the dramas are doing that well, save Bones. Even Sleepy Hollow tailed off at the end. They are in dire straits.

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