Friday, May 5, 2017

2017 Upfront Renewology: The CW


Welcome to Upfront Renewology! This is the SHOW-centric half of the upfront preview, digging into the merits of individual shows by network. The next round will be Upfront Questions, the SCHEDULE-centric look ahead to upfront week. The following week, the schedules come out, and with them come the Upfront Answers.

Averages up to date through Wednesday, May 3.

More Upfront Renewology: NBC | Fox | ABC | CBS | CW



NameR%TrueProjTargetAiredSkewMale
The Rule of 70?
The Originals95%0.470.470.33644%32%
iZombie47%0.330.320.33546%46%

Renew/cancel predictors have long tried to explain the CW's decisions on the margins based on narrow historical tendencies. I believe the "rule" of the moment is that the network is obsessed with reaching 70 episodes and then saying goodbye, because that is a sufficient package of episodes for Netflix. Admittedly, there are several recent shows that have closed up shop somewhere in the 70-80 range. By that standard, iZombie (with 45 eps after this season) is going to get another couple 13-episode seasons while The Originals (with 79 eps after this season) is dunzo.

Without question, the CW's streaming deals are extremely important, and may well be the biggest part of decision-making. But I always advise caution in making big assumptions about that part with what little we know. These attempts to predict with patterns have been right until the moment that they're wrong many times already. Just this season, the "rule" changed from four seasons to 70 eps when The 100 got renewed! Something happening before does not mean it will happen in the future. The whole practice seems like overfitting to me, but to each his own.

Completely separate from that whole discussion is this: even if this is finally the actual correct "rule" (it's possible!), it still doesn't apply to everything. The Vampire Diaries and the superhero shows have flied way past the big seven-oh. This is supposed to apply to the shows on the margins.

So is The Originals actually on the margins? It was a low 0.3 last week, but before that was getting high 0.3's and even the occasional 0.4... on Fridays, at 8:00, after DST! The CDub is getting tons of 0.3's on weeknights (even 0.2's now from Jane the Virgin). Meanwhile, Originals has been very close to the raw numbers it was getting at this time last year, when it was leading out of its mothership program.

Perhaps this is a result of big local programming lead-ins, so throw out the y2y comparisons and look at what The Vampire Diaries itself was doing in the timeslot, earlier this season. Even it fell to a 0.3 five times this season, and it could have happened more if not for the announced final season. And those came much earlier in the season, even once in October. Overall viewing was several points higher than what Originals has been dealing with. So in conclusion: The Originals doesn't seem that marginal. It's still stronger than most of what the network is airing at 9:00 on the weeknights. Renewology thinks this is lock city.

I'm not so convinced because this has been a very tricky timeslot historically on the CW. Shows like Hart of Dixie and The Carrie Diaries have appeared to overachieve here, and it didn't help them. Could Originals get the axe? If the CW doesn't care about or put any stock in the ratings it's doing in this slot, sure. We're still talking about pretty small differences in ratings here.

But without it, the CDub would have fewer returning series than last year. Adding iZombie to the current nine makes ten. Last year they renewed 11 of their own, plus added Supergirl for CBS. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't see anything in development that is a lock on Supergirl's level. So I'd want to have at least as much backup, and this is one of the best options.

iZombie is the same show as always; it is unaffected by The Flash lead-in to a rather baffling degree. After Flash repeats, it looks good. After Flash originals, it looks terrible. Frankly, this makes it a very strange choice to keep getting a Flash lead-in. But its R% basically hinges on the situation its last few eps have aired in. The CW has seen all of this before and renewed, so I would think poor Flash retention isn't gonna hold it back now. We'll see if next week's data point can push it back over the symbolic 50 threshold. Once it gets into the summer and airs after bad lead-ins again, I'm sure it would fly back over 50%, but we may catch a tough break here.

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