The CW had three new shows in the fall, and none of them completely flopped. And yet, the spring premiere of The 100 got off to a more impressive start than any of those fall shows. It opened with a 0.90 demo rating, building by nearly a tenth on its lead-in from Arrow (0.84). For comparison's sake, fall occupant The Tomorrow People opened with a 0.85, slightly down from Arrow's 0.93. It faced usual competing dramas Criminal Minds (2.2) and Law and Order: SVU (1.5), but Modern Family was in repeats. Very positive start.
In week two, The 100 took a typical 18% drop to a 0.74 rating. As on the night of week two of The Tomorrow People, the Arrow lead-in inched up again (though less drastically, to a 0.90). Modern Family (3.6) came back into the mix on this night, but SVU and Criminal Minds both went into repeats.
This might seem like a pretty good renew bet, but I'm gonna Defer. I have many reasons!
1) There have been many brutal week three drops this season, and major changes beyond the first two weeks are even more uncommon with the CW's fickle audience. (My First Two Weeks record on the CW is just horrible stacked up against the big four.) Previous occupant The Tomorrow People is just one example; it held almost exactly even in week two (0.85 -> 0.85) before dropping 21% in week three and another 13% in week four, turning a no-brainer First Two Weeks renewal call into a bubble show (and, later on, a likely cancellation).
2) You could argue this was "worse" than the typical 18% drop, even in ways that the True metric doesn't fully capture. There's Arrow's increase. Then there's the fact that both competing dramas were repeats. How much audience do CW shows share with Criminal Minds and SVU? Probably not a ton, but being the only drama game in town can't hurt. Tonight, it's got the full competitive slate for the first time.
3) With Reign early renewed and continuing to look pretty solid, the renewal bar for this show might be sneaky high. It's still capable of settling at a level where it's competing to knock Reign (or the third new drama) out of one of the coveted eight fall weeknight timeslots, but it's not that far ahead of Reign right now. If it drops behind Reign and the third new drama, is this the kind of show that can be dumped on Friday or held for midseason again in a spackle-type role? It's very possible, but it would be somewhat unconventional, and I tend to think it has to be in a very specific ratings range for that to happen: that is, behind Reign yet still a slam dunk renewal.
4) With 41% of its first two week's audience in the 18-49 demo, it skews surprisingly out-of-demo by CW standards. They want to broaden the network, but being one of the lowest-skewing shows doesn't help.
5) We have access to the unrounded demo ratings. If I needed this show to drop to a rounded 0.5, it would be really tough to defer this and expect that as a reasonable possibility. But I think I could pull the trigger on a cancel here even if it goes below unrounded 0.60 (meaning somewhere from 0.55-0.60). That might be leaning toward bubble territory, plus with an ugly trajectory. Now that's still a 20% drop, so I don't consider it all that likely. But, revisiting #1, I've been burned on a bunch of these crazy week three drops this season.
I understand if you are much more confident than I am, but my gut says to be cautious with this one. It's my first deferral in three months, and I don't anticipate having to bring it out for the rest of the season, so it's not like I'm abusing the power! Update to come next week.
WEEK THREE/PROGNOSIS (UPDATED 4/10/14)
Week three didn't go that well for The 100 either; it was down another 16% to a 0.62 demo rating. But its lead-in Arrow also had an off week, itself down 12% to a 0.79, so maybe there was some bad luck in this result. I said I would say Cancel if it went below a 0.60. It didn't, and a chunk of the drop may have been lead-in related. It's pretty close to toss-up range, but I'll say Renew. Week three suggested it will not be as easy as it appeared on premiere night, but I think the chances are still above 50% right now. Holding above the 0.60 makes it a little less likely that it drops all the way to 0.4 with no original lead-in, and it makes it a little more likely that it can bounce back into the 0.6 range in week five when Arrow returns.
"First Two Weeks" is an ongoing experiment to see how often a new scripted show's fate can be predicted by the very earliest data. Here are the picks and lineups for every show this season.