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Welcome to our Ratings Survival Guide, a handy new feature which takes each new fall series on the broadcast networks and tells you the numbers it will need to survive for a second season. In general, a show's success isn't so much where it lands on the weekly ratings chart but rather how it performs in two key categories:
1. How much of its lead-in audience it retains. If a show averages 10 million viewers that's a good thing. But if the show that airs before it is averaging 30 million viewers, that's not a good thing. Why? Because 20 of those 30 million viewers decided to turn off that particular channel when the next show came on.
2. How it performs year-to-year in its time period. A new show is usually in its time period because the network thinks it can do better than it did in that slot last year. In other words, do worse than the show that was canceled after three weeks last fall then you too probably are not long for this world.
As you'll see, together these measurements paint a clear picture on how a particular show is doing. So without further ado, let's begin.
UNDERCOVERS and LAW & ORDER: LOS ANGELES (NBC)
(Wednesdays at 8:00/7:00c & 10:00/9:00c)
Aside from the "Law & Order" franchise, NBC has struggled mightily on Wednesday nights in recent years - hence the addition of two new series this time around. "Undercovers" snags the lead-off spot at 8:00/7:00c, leaving the obvious comparison to "Mercy" in said slot last season, not to mention the short-lived "Knight Rider" and "The Chopping Block."
"Los Angeles" then takes over the anchor slot at 10:00/9:00c with "SVU" sliding back to 9:00/8:00c. Certainly improving off "Jay Leno" is expected while it's unlikely to replicate "SVU's" significant retention rate in the hour last season (mostly due to its lead-in being "SVU" repeats). If you go back to 2008, "Lipstick Jungle" managed a 77% retention rate at 10:00/9:00c - but a sub 2.0 adults 18-49 rating - before being shuffled off to Fridays after six weeks.
Here's how NBC has fared on Wednesday nights the past two seasons (viewers are in millions, adults 18-49 is the percentage of said viewers in the demographic; all are based on fast national data, using only first-run episodes):
|wednesdays in 2008-2010||time||viewers|
|Law & Order: SVU - Season 11||10:00 PM||9.03|
|Law & Order: SVU - Season 11||9:00 PM||8.51|
|Law & Order: Season 19**||10:00 PM||7.96|
|Lipstick Jungle: Season 2||10:00 PM||5.12|
|Knight Rider||8:00 PM||5.91|
|Life: Season 2||9:00 PM||5.43|
|The Jay Leno Show||10:00 PM||5.60|
|The Chopping Block||8:00 PM||3.27|
** includes only first-run, in-season airings in the specified time period
COMING TOMORROW: ABC's "My Generation," CBS's "Bleep My Dad Says" and NBC's "Outsourced."