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An Update on Ad Rates and Ratings: Will Your Favorite Low-Rated Veteran Survive?

Some of you may know that as part of The TV Ratings Guide, I have done extensive research about ad rates and their correlation to ratings, and whether or not it affects a show's renewal or cancellation. So far, I've found that it's a solid predictor of whether or not a show that's considered on the bubble gets renewed. However, it doesn't really apply to big hits or big flops, as those shows would be renewed/cancelled regardless.

In fact, looking back Bones is actually at a 1.14 A18-49 demo ratings right now, compared to the "needed" 1.08 demo. I still had it as a likely cancelation due to the lawsuits and doing worse than most of FOX's dramas this season, and even though I stick to my decision I am very happy for the fans!

Anyways, I've already looked into many bubble shows from last season and found that in most cases, a show was renewed when it had over its "expected" number, and cancelled if it was below. One exception was Forever, which just barely hit its cut-off point, but I speculate it was cancelled to make room for Nashville, which was pretty much gaurenteed a 4th season for syndication purposes.

In this article I look into how these bubble shows are performing, and put some into historical context as well. As they say, the best way to predict future behavior is to look at past behavior. So without further ado, here we go:

Grimm

If you haven't read our latest NBC Renew/Cancel Watch, there was a finding that in recent history, NBC has given long-running shows short final season send-offs. So I decided that I would take a closer look, and this is what I found:

Show Chuck Parenthood 30 Rock Parks and Recreation
NBC’s Fall Scripted Show Average Demo Rating
1.99
1.63
1.57
1.42
NBC's Fall Scripted Show Average Ad Rate
$108,844.75
$79,581.20
$95,556.57
$93,519.50
Show's Ad Rate
$94,697
$86,200
$133,000
$78,146
Demo Number Needed
1.73
1.77
2.14
1.19
Demo Number Received
1.80
1.84
1.54
1.16
Renewed/Cancelled
Renewed
Renewed
Renewed
Renewed

As is displayed, Chuck and Parenthood both exceeded their "expected" number if there is a true correlation between ad rates and expected ratings. Parks and Recreation got off the hook by being oh-so-close, albeit it had pretty low standards to begin with. The one interesting case is 30 Rock, which only averaged a 1.54 in a season where it was supposed to be getting over a 2.0, if there is such a correlation. In fact, looking at the SpottedRatings database for 30 Rock and its historically-adjusted numbers, this season right here would be considered a flop. Awards may have saved it, and so could have NBC's profound and somewhat unexplained love of creator and star Tina Fey. Simply put, 30 Rock's penultimate season underperformed in the ratings all things considered, yet STILL got a short final season renewal (with numbers even lower).

NBC
Now, given its steadiness I predict Grimm will finish the season with around a 0.87 A18-49 demo rating (it's at a 0.91 now). In a world where there is a true correlation between ad rates and ratings, Grimm is expected to get a 1.15 demo rating. Will this be enough to save Grimm for a 6th and final
season? Will syndication revenue save it? Now, some have suggested before that the fix would be to have The Mysteries of Laura take over for Grimm given its appeal to older folks, but I just don't see how that is a viable option. Laura definitely overachieved this season, where virtually nothing was expected of it, but it still has a lower ad rate than Grimm, is an outside production, and is far from syndication. Meanwhile Grimm can enjoy some syndication profit, even if it's not translating into boosted first-run ratings, and the network's studio is able to capitalize on that revenue. Grimm may be less appealing to advertisers next season with such low ratings, but I can't see how they would charge more for a spot in Laura if moved to Fridays, given that its ratings probably wouldn't be too far off from Grimm's.

Personally, I think most signs are leaning towards a renewal for Grimm, even if it underperformed in first-run ratings this season. What do you think?


The Vampire Diaries

While for now we have The Vampire Diaries as likely renewed, ratings are declining and there has been speculation that the show is coming to an end in the very near future. So here's a little update:

In order to live up to its relatively high ad rate, it would need a 0.90 W18-34 demo rating in order to live up to it (once again, in a world where there is a true correlation between ad rates and ratings). On its Friday airings, it has typically hovered around a 0.5 in this demo. Less is definitely expected of it now, but unless deals were renegotiated advertisers that bought a spot during upfronts must not be pleased. Conversely, advertisers that did not buy a spot during upfronts were likely treated to a
discounted price once it was moved to Fridays, where lower ratings are expected, but it got moved to Fridays for a reason: low ratings. With Legends of Tomorrow and The 100 coming to the air, they could have moved a variety of shows, including Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Jane the Virgin, and iZombie; however, they moved The Vampire Diaries instead to the Friday spot where shows such as Nikita and Hart of Dixie ended their runs. The question is if it'll get a final season send-off, or if this is indeed the final season send-off given expenses and the fact that they moved it to Fridays midseason instead of waiting until next year. They sure have many viable options to replace it, both on the scripted and unscripted side, all of which would be cheaper to produce, and I'm guessing that Vampire's ad rate would fall back down to earth if renewed. There has also been talk that some of the characters may cross over to The Originals if The CW decides it doesn't want another season. Unlike Grimm there's not much comparison data to other shows, given that Hart of Dixie's 4th season was most likely to improve syndication prospects while Nikia's 6-episode 4th season was reportedly per Netflix's request that the shows they stream have a proper ending.


Castle and Nashville

Castle is in its 8th season, and even though it was never a big hit, it's not near the ratings performer it used to be. In fact, it's averaging a 1.08 A18-49 demo rating so far this season, down 35% from last season, despite its life-long lead-in Dancing with the Stars being more or less steady. Fans have complained about the creative direction that this show has taken, and there have been contractual issues going on. Now that Bones has been renewed, I'm going to overlook the contactual negotiations for now, as since Bones worked it out, maybe Castle can too. Thing is, does Castle really have a spot on the schedule? Sundays at 10 should be ruled out after its terrible performance there recently. At this point it might come down to how the midseason dramas--The Family, Of Kings of Prophets, and The Catch, rate. Truth is, Castle's ad rating would mean that it would warrant a 1.55 A18-49 demo rating in order to live up to expectations, and it's about half a ratings point under that at this point. So, what's ABC's recent history with long-running-yet-low-rated dramas and final seasons.

Nashville is in a somewhat similar situation as Castle. Although it's a much younger show, Nashville also is facing ratings problems, currently averaging a 1.03 A18-49 demo rating and is down a whopping 27% year-to-year, and like Castle, has a solid lead-in. Fans still hold out hope that the series will see a bump when its star returns, but right now it's average rating is worse than all of ABC's fall shows except for Blood & Oil and Wicked City, and we know how those went. There are a couple extraneous factors that could go in their favor, like lower production costs and tour sales, but low rating are low ratings and it's time to look at the historical comparisons.

Show
Private Practice
Revenge
ABC’s Fall Scripted Show Average Demo Rating
2.02
1.80
ABC's Fall Scripted Show Average Ad Rate
$148,440.53
$125,048.33
Show's Ad Rate
$135,299
$102,098
Demo Number Needed
1.84
1.61
Demo Number Received
1.33
1.11
Renewed/Cancelled
Canceled
Canceled

As is seen, ABC did not show much mercy to either of these two dramas, both of which are the most prominent examples of shows ended by ABC in the past few years (keep on chuggin', Grey's Anatomy). I'm not so sure ABC is going to show Castle or Nashville any mercy either, considering that they too are low-rated shows that are not living up to expectations. Castle has been around longer than any of these shows, so it's possible ABC shows some mercy for a sendoff season, but that doesn't look as promising as it would on NBC. 

Another thing to look at is if ABC will need to pity renew anything after their relatively poor showing of dramas to begin with this season. We could see something get saved if all three of their midseason dramas--The Family, The Catch, and Of Kings and Prophets--flop and get canceled, but unless that's the case, I'm not sure ABC will have much pity. What do you think?