Tuesday, August 19, 2014

2013-14 Predictions Recap: Best Case/Worst Case

With another season about to start, it's time to take a look back at some of the many predictions made around here last year. Today, the highlights and lowlights from the Best Case/Worst Case preview posts, in which I predict the Live+SD 18-49 averages for broadcast series.

I tried to weed out episodes that came after drastic timeslot moves, as well as episodes after the end of the regular season. In a couple instances (Bob's Burgers and American Dad!) I actually projected what the average would've been in the original timeslot (applying how much its numbers dropped after the same point last year). But I ended up being too lazy to do that for everything.
Best Picks:

Show Best Worst Likeliest Actual %Diff
Community 1.54 0.92 1.09 1.09 +0%
60 Minutes 2.21 1.84 1.96 1.96 +0%
Undercover Boss 1.59 1.29 1.51 1.51 -0%
Unforgettable Spring 1.33 0.60 0.92 0.92 -0%
Brooklyn Nine-Nine 2.05 1.10 1.50 1.50 +0%
Once Upon a Time 2.52 1.90 2.18 2.19 +0%
The Voice Mon Fall 4.35 3.48 3.96 3.97 +0%
American Dad! 2.10 1.40 1.90 1.89 -1%
NCIS: Los Angeles 2.73 2.27 2.45 2.43 -1%
The Vampire Diaries 1.22 0.94 1.03 1.02 -1%
Dads 1.90 1.15 1.40 1.39 -1%
Surviving Jack 1.65 0.75 1.14 1.13 -1%
American Idol Thu 3.50 2.25 2.60 2.57 -1%
Sunday Night Football 8.56 7.60 8.00 7.90 -1%
The Voice Tue Fall 4.15 3.26 3.73 3.68 -1%
Revolution 1.80 1.00 1.35 1.37 +1%
We Are Men 2.30 1.80 1.93 1.90 -2%
Black Box 1.90 1.08 1.30 1.28 -2%
The Big Bang Theory 5.50 4.35 4.97 5.07 +2%
Mixology 2.15 1.30 1.45 1.42 -2%

Let's start with the highlights. Above are the 20 averages (15% of the total predictions) that went within 2% of the Likeliest pick. Another 19 were within 5% (30% total), and just over half (66 of 130, or 51%) were less than 10% off.

Compared to last year:11 (9%) were within 2%, 32 (25%) were within 5% and 51 (40%) were off by less than 10%. So by the 2%, 5% and 10% standards, I had somewhat more close picks this year. Also, I had five picks nailed to the hundredth, up from two last year.

Among the specific highlights: for the second straight year, I nailed the Community pick to the hundredth! With Community now gone (at least from broadcast TV), perhaps similar-skewing Brooklyn Nine-Nine (the only perfect newbie prediction) can take up the mantle. New shows are always the toughest, so shows like Brooklyn, Dads and Surviving Jack are particular series worth being proud of. It was also nice to basically nail Revolution's rating in a very drastic timeslot move. And I was once again very close on the two biggest shows on broadcast TV, missing football and Big Bang by just a tenth apiece. (Both were on this list last year as well.)

Worst Picks to the Negative:

Show Best Worst Likeliest Actual %Diff
The Michael J. Fox Show 2.88 1.30 2.25 1.17 -48%
Glee 2.65 1.70 2.08 1.21 -42%
Once Upon a Time in Wonderland 2.04 1.17 1.65 0.98 -40%
Raising Hope 1.35 0.85 1.08 0.65 -40%
Killer Women 1.65 0.87 1.18 0.72 -39%
Sean Saves the World 2.41 1.10 1.60 1.02 -37%
Rake 2.60 1.15 1.70 1.11 -35%
Hostages 2.70 1.50 1.72 1.19 -31%
Intelligence 2.40 1.15 1.90 1.33 -30%
The Crazy Ones 3.45 1.80 2.95 2.08 -29%
Star-Crossed 0.88 0.25 0.45 0.32 -28%
Welcome to the Family 1.75 1.00 1.30 0.93 -28%
Mom 3.20 2.10 2.90 2.09 -28%

As usual, most of the worst misses (with a couple big exceptions) were on new shows. One of my biggest predictive failures was the NBC Thursday lineup. Michael J. Fox basically premiered right at what I thought it would average, which already made it a bad pick. But the Fox pick could've been only half as far off if it had held up reasonably. Instead, half the audience was gone by week three, and it dropped sub-1.0 in week eight. It wasn't a good show, but I didn't think it was horrible enough to experience that much post-premiere rejection. Shrug.

I can't really come up with much to say about the rest of the new shows except that they were mostly pretty stupid. Despite a 31% miss, I do think I was still one of the more pessimistic people about Hostages' prospects. It just bombed to a far more extreme degree. I always said I expected Intelligence to do better, and I was right about that, but... perhaps I should've gotten a bit more of a clue about the timeslot difficulty from the plight of Hostages. Throw in The Crazy Ones and Mom and it was definitely not a banner year for the CBS newbie class.

Worst Picks to the Positive:

Show Best Worst Likeliest Actual %Diff
Sleepy Hollow 2.60 1.00 1.20 2.61 +117%
MasterChef Junior 1.60 0.80 1.00 1.40 +40%
Resurrection 2.65 0.90 1.85 2.51 +36%
Crisis 1.50 0.65 0.86 1.13 +31%
Law and Order: SVU 1.63 1.33 1.47 1.79 +22%
Supernatural 0.96 0.70 0.82 1.00 +21%
Reign 1.03 0.40 0.48 0.58 +20%
Blue Bloods 1.45 1.05 1.18 1.40 +19%
The Blacklist 3.03 1.70 2.48 2.89 +17%
Chicago PD 1.90 0.98 1.43 1.65 +16%
Friends with Better Lives 2.50 1.27 1.60 1.83 +14%
The Carrie Diaries 0.38 0.20 0.27 0.31 +14%
The Bachelor 2.75 1.95 2.25 2.56 +14%
Hawaii Five-0 1.55 1.08 1.25 1.42 +14%
Dancing with the Stars Spring 2.29 1.77 2.05 2.33 +14%
The Originals 1.02 0.55 0.78 0.89 +14%
Dancing with the Stars Fall 2.26 1.60 1.90 2.16 +14%
The Goldbergs 2.20 1.00 1.50 1.68 +12%
Enlisted 1.00 0.47 0.60 0.67 +11%
20/20 1.50 1.19 1.33 1.46 +10%
Growing Up Fisher 2.00 1.05 1.47 1.62 +10%

I went ahead and put my actual Sleepy Hollow pick here, though it is clear from the text on that page that I was expecting it to get moved to Friday. So this number probably should've been more like mid-1's, maybe leaning toward upper-1's if I just predicted Monday. This year I'm going to shy away from predicting ratings in multiple timeslots (either due to announced moves or predicted ones), which should help clarify these situations. But even if you give me a 1.5 or 1.6 average, this was a huge miss (though it still nearly snuck inside the Best pick). I blame my misreading of the critical reception over the summer... I always got the impression people thought it was a total trainwreck in the Zero Hour vein, and then right before the premiere everyone suddenly seemed to think it was crazy in a good way. Oh well.

Worst Returning Show Picks:

Show Best Worst Likeliest Actual %Diff
Glee 2.65 1.70 2.08 1.21 -42%
Raising Hope 1.35 0.85 1.08 0.65 -40%
The Neighbors 1.50 1.05 1.26 0.95 -24%
Parenthood 2.09 1.33 1.65 1.27 -23%
The X Factor Thu 2.65 1.82 2.17 1.68 -23%
The Following 2.95 1.75 2.25 1.75 -22%
Law and Order: SVU 1.63 1.33 1.47 1.79 +22%
New Girl 2.76 1.70 2.13 1.67 -21%
The X Factor Wed 2.77 1.90 2.25 1.77 -21%
Supernatural 0.96 0.70 0.82 1.00 +21%
Beauty and the Beast 0.50 0.28 0.38 0.30 -21%
Person of Interest 2.80 2.00 2.45 1.97 -20%

Like in last year's post, here's a separate "worst" category weeding out the newbies, since newbies are more difficult. I'm usually harder on myself for the returnee misses. As far as mistakes go, Glee was my biggest by a long shot. I really thought the Monteith tribute stuff was going to heavily inflate the numbers for most of the fall, and instead it was purely an isolated one-episode spike, with pretty much the whole rest of the season down 40%+ year-to-year. I can't imagine anybody was all that close to predicting the truly epic disaster the season became in the second half, but this was still very dumb.

Most of the other returnee misses to the negative fall into either the "general Fox malaise" category or the "underachieving after changing timeslots" category (or both in Raising Hope's case). If there's one lesson here, it's that I probably need to be a little more punishing toward shows that change slots. However, a couple of these were a bit exaggerated by other circumstances; Hope didn't have nearly as much original Bones lead-in as I was expecting, and a large portion of Parenthood's miss could be explained by how much Michael J. Fox underachieved.

The two most overachieving returnees were Law and Order: SVU and Supernatural. The SVU spike is a good bit more surprising to me (it's the only series that went more than 0.05 points above the Best prediction) because it had seemed to be fizzling out over the last several years, then suddenly turned it around. At least Supernatural had finished the previous season on a positive note (though I expected it would get damaged by the timeslot change and less compatible lead-in). SVU really came out of nowhere.

Big Picture Stats:

87 of 130 "Likeliest" picks this season were low (66%), which is slightly less than the 70% last year. 38 were too high (29%), and five were nailed to the hundredth.
The median miss size (in other words, halfway down the list of absolute value of %Diff, a measurement of how much I missed by) was 9%. That's down from 13% last year.
The median miss (in other words, halfway down a list of %Diffs from +117% to -48%) was -5%, closer to even than last year's -9%. So I was still too optimistic in general, but I leaned less in that direction than last year.

All of these stats suggest some steady improvement vs. last year's predictions. One thing worth noting is that the average miss size (which counts the big misses much more heavily) was 13%, only a bit improved vs. the 14% last year. The basic takeaway is that I did considerably better in the middle of the pack, but the worst misses were a lot worse this year. I didn't miss any returnees last year as badly as Glee and Raising Hope, and I didn't miss any newbies as badly as MJF and Sleepy Hollow. So hopefully the total brain farts will be reduced next time.

The stat that I was most bothered by last year was how many shows did worse than my worst case scenario: over a third! I tried to allow for a somewhat wider range of possibilities this year, and I cut the worse-than-Worst volume nearly in half (to 18%). That's still a lot higher than I would like, but I'm probably not going to expand the ranges much more. I already hedge my bets enough around here. ;-) If the predictions improve, let's hope this will naturally improve as a result. There were also five shows that did better than the Best Case, but four of those were very close (within 0.05) to the Best. (The aforementioned SVU was the only show that went well above the Best Case.)

For the completists, below are four images with a complete record.


Spot said...

I very much respect you for keeping yourself accountable for your picks. The most impressive pick is Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Seeing as you had no way to predict its midseason timeslot change or New Girls massive flameout as its lead in.

Spot said...

Your worst pick was probably SVU. Only because you knew what its competion and lead in were going to be, but still were way off. Glee had the death of a cast member and an unsure midseason timeslot, so I can forgive that

Spot said...

I think Supernatural had a bigger bump than expected actually due to the Tuesday move and not in spite of it. It's been mentioned previously that even with the night's general malaise in recent seasons, Tuesday's a higher HUT night than Wednesday. So it was able to take advantage of a larger pool of potential viewers against less formidable competition, and leading out of the show that The CW really put most of its promotional energy behind (The Originals). Next season makes it interesting since it'll have a more compatible lead-in (The Flash) but genre-leaning competition (SHIELD).

I'd also suggest being more pessimistic behind limited series shows after seeing the meltdowns on The Following and Under the Dome. But this season could be instructive: Sleepy Hollow's been absent in originals for more than 6 months while Resurrection and The 100 are immediately returning. I include The 100 since I don't know if episode extensions are a possibility or if The CW has the slot internally earmarked for iZombie or the like. Does time off the sked make a statistically significant difference?

As far as shows that change slots, I'd tweak the idea because not all timeslot moves are negatives. Clearly The Neighbors and Raising Hope were going to be pummeled, but Chicago Fire was a clear upgrade. This season brings a range of moves and possibilities:

1. Upgrade: Scandal to Thursdays @ 9:00 (a more viewed hour and still with a Grey's Anatomy lead-in).
2. Downgrade: Bob's Burgers to Sundays @ 7:30.
3. Debatable: The Goldbergs to Wednesdays @ 8:30 (a lower-rated but more compatible lead-in with The Middle) or Brooklyn Nine-Nine to Sundays @ 8:30 (NFL-rating bumps - (Fox's poor history with live-action/animated mixing + facing Sunday Night Football) = ???).
4. Almost a shot in the dark: The Blacklist moving to Thursdays @ 9:00 midseason (since NBC's been essentially off the map for a couple seasons).

Spot said...

Bob's Burgers is both a downgrade and an upgrade. Yes, it's a worse slot than the cushy post Simpsons/pre Family Guy 8:30 slot, but its also better than the 7:00 leading off slot. Especially since local lead ins on Sunday are mostly news and not stuff like Jeopardy! or Wheel of Fortune

Spot said...

The 100 - second season order is said to be for 16 episodes.

The Blacklist isn't debatable - clear downgrade, by the season end it will be in mid 1s. That is, if they actually move it to Thursday, I expect NBC to reconsider that move

The Goldbergs - I think positive and negative sides of a move to cancel out = same raw ratings = good, as show's A18-49+ would actually go up.

Spot said...

I'm comparing it just against the Fall scheduling, not the Spring.

Spot said...

I say shot in the dark because the end result by May 2015 feels unclear right now. NBC is clearly nurturing The Blacklist as much as possible: staying post-Voice on Mondays, then giving it the post-Super Bowl slot before moving to Thursdays. Clearly NBC wants this show it be its Grey's Anatomy.

NBC moving The Blacklist feels like a fait accompli: if it continues to show true strength in the early Fall, it's the network's best chance at being relevant on Thursday. If it becomes fraudulent, then it should move to stop soaking up the big lead-in and give it to another show.

Spot said...

Great work correctly predicting 7 series. I don't think anyone else has that track record. Very impressive work.

Spot said...

Thanks for clearing that up. When comparing just fall scheduling, The Golbergs is a downgrade because there is no way The Middle could match Shield's fall average, but I could see it easily doing Shield's spring ratings. I say a small upgrade overall with the compatability factor

Spot said...

The Thursday move has been very carefully planned for it. I'd go as far as to say they planned the entire season around giving it the post-SB slot. Given that it's pretty much procedural, this makes some sense as there is some legitimate chance of it getting new audience.

Spot said...

The Blacklist made the most sense to give the post-SB spot, but I wouldn't have been surprised if it had been a pair of new NBC sitcoms (or one newbie + About a Boy). NBC really wants to get its half-hours sampled, and it would have been a big way to do it.

Spot said...

IMO, The Goldbergs is a major upgrade, I don't see how it is debatable because the show clearly demonstrated last year that it had nothing to do with Shield's audience. On the other hand, it clearly showed (although that went undocummented for the most part) that it wildly compatible with New Girl, inching up and downwards depending on whether or not that show was a repeat. Not it gets to have a compatible lead-in, non compatible comedy and also a big compatible hit as lead-out. I call that a major win.

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