[10/10/09 - 03:11 PM]
The 10 Things You Need to Know About the New Season: #10 - Shows Get Canceled for Three Reasons
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

Please note: As a courtesy, please do not reproduce these comments to newsgroups, forums or other online places. Links only please.

Welcome once again to "The 10 Things You Need to Know About the New Season," our annual feature about, well... the 10 things you need to know about the new season. The goal of this venture is to address not only common questions people have about television but to also demystify (or potentially reaffirm) stigmas out there about certain networks, time periods, genres and so forth. So with that in mind let us put on our journalistic caps and give you the cold hard truth about what's potentially ahead for some of your favorite new and returning shows...

10. Shows generally get canceled for three reasons.

All conspiracy theories aside, there are really only three reasons why shows get canceled:

1. Losing too much of its lead-in audience. In short, if you follow a show that's getting twice your audience - a long life is probably not in your future. Conversely if you're building from your lead-in, the odds quickly switch to your favor. Because at the end of the day, why waste a time period on a show that's hemorrhaging the audience you've already built?

2. Bringing down the network's time period average. Networks don't expect all of their shows to be in the top 20. What they do expect is realistic growth from its current state. In essence, if you're replacing a show - it's more or less on you to outperform it. This is of course within reason. Nobody expects a show to replace "American Idol" or "Dancing With the Stars," but if you're airing where "The Rich List" used to - you ought to do better than a show that was canceled after one episode.

3. Costing too much. Basically if two shows perform on par with each other, the show that's cheaper to produce will probably win out. This is especially the case with reality vs. scripted programming. After all, if you're paying $3 million per episode for drama "X" and $1 million per episode for reality show "Y" and both reach around the same audience - which would you stick with?

All three are guidelines that apply to shows regardless of network or overall audience. In other words, it doesn't matter if you're on the CW or CBS, average 20 million viewers or two million, a show's life comes down to those three items.

Another thing to keep in mind is that adults 18-49 (or adults 18-34 in the case of the CW) is the primary demographic the broadcast networks focus on, not total viewership or households. So if a show is first in households but third in adults 18-49, don't think the former aspect makes it immune from cancellation. Don't believe us? ABC and FOX only report fast national adults 18-49 numbers to their affiliates each morning.

So now that we've gotten the reasons out of the way, what are those pesky standards the networks are holding their new shows up to? We've gone ahead and broken down the prospects of all the shows premiering on the major broadcast networks this fall. For each new series, we'll walk you through the previous season's highs and lows to give you the range of numbers networks will be looking for. More importantly, you'll know which of the reasons listed above said show might be canceled.

[NOTE: The following are first-run averages from last season in the specified day and time period. Current seasons, through Friday, October 9, are in bold.]

FlashForward (ABC)
thursdays in 2008-2009timeviewers18-49
Grey's Anatomy9:00 PM15.45.6
Private Practice10:00 PM10.03.9
FlashForward8:00 PM10.83.6
Life on Mars10:00 PM8.62.9
Ugly Betty8:00 PM7.72.4
In the Motherhoodvarious5.21.6
Samantha Who?various5.21.6

Outlook: "FlashForward" is already up sharply from the show it replaced, "Ugly Betty." Probably helping matters: upticks from the new seasons of "Grey's Anatomy" (15.5 million, 6.0 rating in 18-49) and "Private Practice" (10.6 million, 4.1 rating in 18-49).

Shark Tank/V (ABC)
tuesdays in 2008-2009timeviewers18-49
Dancing With the Stars 7 Results9:00 PM16.93.9
Dancing With the Stars 8 Results9:00 PM15.13.4
Primetime: What Would You Do?10:00 PM6.52.3
The Forgotten10:00 PM8.22.2
Cupid10:00 PM5.81.8
Eli Stone10:00 PM6.21.8
Opportunity Knocks8:00 PM5.91.7
Shark Tank8:00 PM5.11.5
According to Jimvarious4.31.4

Outlook: "Opportunity Knocks" was axed after three weeks; "Shark Tank" is airing in the same time period and doing worse; you can do the math from here. As for "The Forgotten," the newcomer is coming in ahead of last season's dramas, a feat all the more impressive when you consider "Dancing With the Stars 9 Results" (13.4 million, 2.9 rating in 18-49) is down from its most recent editions.

Hank/The Middle/Modern Family/Cougar Town/Eastwick (ABC)
wednesdays in 2008-2009timeviewers18-49
Lost9:00 PM9.94.4
Cougar Town9:30 PM9.43.7
Modern Family9:00 PM10.43.7
Private Practice9:00 PM7.62.6
Eastwick10:00 PM6.82.4
The Middle8:30 PM7.72.3
Dirty Sexy Money10:00 PM5.82.0
Life on Mars10:00 PM5.32.0
Scrubs8:00 PM5.02.0
Better Off Ted8:30 PM4.61.9
Hank8:00 PM7.51.9
Pushing Daisies8:00 PM5.41.8
The Unusuals10:00 PM5.41.8

Outlook: "Modern Family" and "Cougar Town" are off to rock solid starts, already eclipsing "Private Practice's" numbers in the hour last year. "Eastwick" and "The Middle" are also showing plenty of positive while "Hank" is definitely facing an uphill battle. All in all, you have to impressed with the Alphabet's batting average on the night.

Accidentally on Purpose (CBS)
mondays in 2008-2009timeviewers18-49
Two and a Half Men9:00 PM14.95.1
CSI: Miami10:00 PM14.14.0
How I Met Your Mother8:30 PM9.64.0
Rules of Engagement9:30 PM11.03.9
The Big Bang Theory8:00 PM10.13.8
Worst Week9:30 PM9.83.2
Accidentally on Purpose8:30 PM8.03.0

Outlook: Considering that "How I Met Your Mother" routinely built off of "The Big Bang Theory's" lead in last season, the fact that "Accidentally on Purpose" is falling from "Mother's" (8.7 million, 3.5 rating in 18-49) lead off numbers so far this season is a cause for concern.

Three Rivers (CBS)
sundays in 2008-2009timeviewers18-49
The Amazing Race 138:00 PM10.53.1
The Amazing Race 148:00 PM10.43.1
60 Minutes7:00 PM14.12.9
Cold Case9:00 PM11.92.7
The Unit10:00 PM9.42.4
Three Rivers9:00 PM9.02.0
Million Dollar Password8:00 PM9.91.9

Outlook: While it's only been one week, the writing is already on the wall for "Three Rivers." Not helping matters: "The Amazing Race 15" (10.1 million, 3.0 rating in 18-49) is on par with last year while "Cold Case" (9.7 million, 2.1 rating in 18-49) is growing from "Rivers" at 10:00/9:00c.

NCIS: Los Angeles/The Good Wife (CBS)
tuesdays in 2008-2009timeviewers18-49
NCIS: Los Angeles9:00 PM17.44.1
The Mentalist9:00 PM16.93.7
NCIS8:00 PM17.73.6
The Good Wife10:00 PM13.63.1
Without a Trace10:00 PM12.32.8

Outlook: Nothing really needs to be said: a huge start for "NCIS: LA" while its parent series "NCIS" (20.6 million, 4.5 rating in 18-49) is showing massive gains as well. Said numbers have likewise rubbed off on "The Good Wife." The only concern: "Wife's" 76% retention of "NCIS: LA" among adults 18-49 is identical to "Without a Trace's" of "The Mentalist" last season.

Brothers (FOX)
fridays in 2008-2009timeviewers18-49
Dollhouse9:00 PM3.71.5
Don't Forget the Lyrics!9:00 PM5.21.5
Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?8:00 PM5.91.4
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles8:00 PM3.61.3
Prison Break8:00 PM3.21.1
Brothers8:00 PM2.50.9

Outlook: FOX's Friday problems have continued as "Brothers," "'Til Death" (2.3 million, 0.8 rating in 18-49) and "Dollhouse" (2.3 million, 1.0 in 18-49) are all doing worse than all of last year's entries.

The Cleveland Show (FOX)
sundays in 2008-2009timeviewers18-49
The Cleveland Show8:30 PM9.24.6
Family Guy9:00 PM7.84.0
The Simpsons8:00 PM7.13.3
American Dad9:30 PM5.92.9
King of the Hill8:30 PM5.82.8
Sit Down, Shut Upvarious3.31.4
Hole in the Wall7:00 PM2.71.1

Outlook: The second undisputed hit of the new season as "Cleveland" is not only showing strong numbers overall, it's building from its "The Simpsons" lead-in (8.9 million, 4.3 rating in 18-49).

Glee (FOX)
wednesdays in 2008-2009timeviewers18-49
American Idolvarious25.08.9
Lie to Mevarious10.13.4
Bones8:00 PM10.13.2
Glee9:00 PM7.13.2
Secret Millionaire8:00 PM6.92.4
'Til Death9:00 PM4.71.9
Do Not Disturb9:30 PM4.11.7

Outlook: Keeping in mind it's operating without "American Idol" and with a modest lead-in in "So You Think You Can Dance" (6.2 million, 2.6 rating in 18-49), the fact that it's on par with "Bones" at the same time last year is quite the feat.

The Jay Leno Show (NBC)
10:00 PM in 2008-2009timeviewers18-49
Law & Order: SVU (Tue.)10:00 PM9.93.5
ER (Thu.)10:00 PM9.03.4
The Jay Leno ShowTuesday7.72.6
The Jay Leno ShowMonday8.52.5
Medium (Mon.)10:00 PM7.52.4
Southland (Thu.)10:00 PM7.42.4
Law & Order (Wed.)10:00 PM8.02.3
The Jay Leno ShowWednesday7.92.3
My Own Worst Enemy (Mon.)10:00 PM4.62.1
Lipstick Jungle (Wed.)10:00 PM5.12.0
The Jay Leno ShowThursday5.91.9
Momma's Boys (Mon.)10:00 PM4.91.8
The Jay Leno ShowFriday6.01.6
Dateline NBC (Fri.)10:00 PM5.41.5
Life (Fri.)10:00 PM5.51.5
Lipstick Jungle (Fri.)10:00 PM3.41.2

Outlook: There's a lot of ways to look at the above - "Jay's" numbers are skewed by its premiere week sampling, shows like "SVU" and "ER" fared significantly better, etc. - but at the very least it's a glaring example of NBC's troubles in the time period.

Trauma (NBC)
mondays in 2008-2009timeviewers18-49
Heroes: Volume 39:00 PM8.33.9
Heroes: Volume 49:00 PM7.03.3
Chuck8:00 PM6.62.4
Medium10:00 PM7.52.4
America's Toughest Jobs9:00 PM5.92.1
My Own Worst Enemy10:00 PM4.62.1
Trauma9:00 PM6.12.1
Superstars of Dance8:00 PM7.62.0
Momma's Boys10:00 PM4.91.8
Deal or No Deal8:00 PM4.31.2

Outlook: Staying on par with short-lived fare like "Enemy" and "Toughest Jobs" is definitely not the key to a long term future. Nevertheless with lead-in "Heroes: Volume 5" (5.7 million, 2.5 rating in 18-49) continuing to hemorrhage viewers, its numbers are more symptomatic of that show's troubles. After all, "Trauma's" retention rate (84%) is up from "Enemy's" of "Volume 3" (54%) and "Medium's" of "Volume 4" (73%).

Community (NBC)
thursdays in 2008-2009timeviewers18-49
SNL Weekend Update Thursday9:30 PM9.54.3
The Office9:00 PM8.34.2
ER10:00 PM9.03.4
30 Rock9:30 PM6.93.3
My Name Is Earl8:00 PM6.12.4
Parks & Recreation8:30 PM5.42.4
Southland10:00 PM7.42.4
Kath & Kim8:30 PM5.12.2

Outlook: The good: its 9:30/8:30c airings (6.4 million, 3.1 rating in 18-49) held 82% of its "Office" lead-in (7.7 million, 3.8 rating in 18-49), up from "30 Rock's" 79% rate from last season. The bad: at 8:00/7:00c (5.1 million, 2.0 rating in 18-49) it's faring worse than the departed "Earl."

Mercy (NBC)
wednesdays in 2008-2009timeviewers18-49
Law & Order10:00 PM8.02.3
Mercy8:00 PM7.72.1
Lipstick Jungle10:00 PM5.12.0
Knight Rider8:00 PM5.91.8
Life9:00 PM5.41.7

Outlook: With the relocated "SVU" (8.2 million, 2.5 rating in 18-49) showing major declines from Tuesday nights last year, the fact that "Mercy" is edging out "Knight Rider" in the 8:00/7:00c hour is definitely a positive.

The Vampire Diaries (The CW)
thursdays in 2008-2009timeviewers18-49
The Vampire Diaries8:00 PM3.91.8
Smallville8:00 PM3.91.6
Supernatural9:00 PM3.21.4

Outlook: Another unquestionable success story, especially when you consider "Supernatural" (2.8 million, 1.2 rating in 18-49) is down from last season.

Melrose Place (The CW)
tuesdays in 2008-2009timeviewers18-49
902108:00 PM3.01.5
902109:00 PM2.01.1
Melrose Place9:00 PM1.71.0
Privileged9:00 PM1.80.9
Reaper9:00 PM2.10.9

Outlook: "90210" (2.2 million, 1.2 rating in 18-49) has perked back up from its 9:00/8:00c numbers earlier this year, while "Melrose" is on par with both "Privileged" and "Reaper." In either case, The CW's target is adults 18-34 so we can't quite split those hairs here.

The Beautiful Life (The CW)
wednesdays in 2008-2009timeviewers18-49
America's Next Top Model 118:00 PM4.02.0
America's Next Top Model 128:00 PM3.91.7
13: Fear Is Real8:00 PM1.70.8
Stylista9:00 PM1.60.8
90210 (Encores)9:00 PM1.20.6
The Beautiful Life9:00 PM1.20.6

Outlook: Even with "America's Next Top Model 13" (3.1 viewers, 1.5 in 18-49) in decline, it's a harsh world when you fare worse than repeats of other shows and short-lived fare like "13: Fear Is Real."

And that's a wrap! We hope you've enjoyed our annual toolbox and we'll see you again at the same time next year!

Note: The above numbers are the first-run average for the indicated time period using fast national data for the adults 18-49 rating (18-49). Final Nielsen numbers were used for the total audience numbers (viewers, in millions) where available. In addition, the aforementioned data is reproduced for journalistic purposes only - not as an archive of copyrighted data.

  [october 2009]  

(series past and present)
(series in development)
(tv movies and mini-series)

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