TV Ratings Recap: ‘Surviving R. Kelly’ Dominates, Networks Coming Into 2019 Strong

Lifetime picks up big numbers for their R. Kelly documentary series...

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In a new series, we’re taking a look at the ratings of various shows on the networks and occasionally the shows on cable channels. While the Emmys have turned away from the network channels, the best ratings still occur on ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC. Keep in mind, many series on a cable network would kill for down ratings of some of these shows. For example, newcomer “New Amsterdam” fluctuates between 5 million viewers and 6 million viewers depending on the episode. Meanwhile, the season finale for “Better Call Saul” only picked up a little more than a million viewers. The playing fields are different, and some networks may keep a show around simply for awards. Through this series, we hope to gain some insight into which series will earn themselves another season, and which ones might find themselves canceled. At the same time, we want to check in on a phenomenon like “Surviving R. Kelly” and explain their success.

A really quick primer. When I discuss total viewership, that looks at the raw number of viewers who watched the show. A big factor in renewal for a show is their rating among the 18 to 49 age group. If their rating is a 2.5, that means 2.5% of people who watched TV that night, watched the show live or via DVR. Typically, a show needs to hit at least a .65 rating to keep running. However, each situation at each network is different. When possible, we’ll include adjusted numbers that show how a series performs after the Hulu or streaming service boost.

With that out of the way, let’s go ahead and dive in!

ABC

There are a lot of questions about what direction ABC will take its slate, especially in the shadow of the Fox merger. Some shows that would be on the bubble might survive for the sake of continuity. Others might get dropped because they’re looking to shake things up. While none of their slate has been officially renewed, “Grey’s Anatomy,” “The Connors,” and “Modern Family” remain the highest rated shows on the network.

Purely based on the ratings, there are four shows to keep an eye on in the ABC lineup. They are “How to Get Away with Murder,” “Speechless,” “Splitting Up Together,” and “The Rookie.” Each of these shows has some positives going for it, but there are some vulnerabilities. “Speechless” has the lowest ratings and only posted a 0.49 rating. However, the Fox-produced show now comes under the Disney umbrella with the merger. It might be cheaper to roll back the show for the goodwill it generates from the media. It’s actually an entertaining show, so this could be our bubble case. At the same time, Disney+ is just around the corner. This could be a strong candidate for that service.

“How to Get Away with Murder” still posts strong ratings, but it’s past syndication rights at this point. This comes down to Viola Davis. I believe ABC will take her back if she wants another season, and really, that might be all that matters. “The Rookie” has been up and down, but still seems like ABC felt bad about how “Castle” ended for Nathan Fillion. This one could easily get cut through, even with a 0.79 rating. Last but not least is “Splitting Up Together.” Based on premise alone, this doesn’t seem like a show that could make a sustained run, but it’s posting a 0.73. However, that’s low for any non-Friday night ABC show. In this case, the network’s success may cause this to be a casualty.

CBS

This is the network most in flux this year. They’ve got to be worried about what to do as “The Big Bang Theory,” and its massive 2.24 rating walks out the door with it. So what will CBS lean on to replace their audience? “Murphy Brown” ended its 13-episode order, which means it will not return for another season. Outside of Candice Bergen, there didn’t really seem much of a reason for it to keep going anyway. “Happy Together” also looks like its done, despite not having officially been canceled yet. It is the only new show on CBS to receive an additional order for episodes and drew less than 5 million viewers an episode. For CBS, that’s not good.

Now the question turns to the rest of the lineup, and frankly, CBS is a tough one to predict. The network boasts their substantial numbers, but their 18-49 ratings are not the behemoth numbers they roll in. Instead, the 50+ audience does the heavy hitting at CBS (NCIS posts a little about a 1 rating, but draws 10 million visitors or more each week).

Madame Secretary,” “Magnum P.I.,” and “Seal Team,” all seem to be on the block in some way. “Magnum” seems like the safest. It continues to hover in the 5 million viewer range for the season and fits nicely with “Macguyver” and “Hawaii Five-O” on their lineup. It also posts a 0.87, so it plays well. David Boreanaz feels like a star destined to star on a show for ten seasons on CBS. It’s another show with eery consistency, again ranging from 5 to 6 million viewers. What might help “Madame Secretary” is the fact that it is already in syndication, and Netflix paid a premium. Reports estimated it got $2 million per episode, and with another 20 episodes on the way, CBS has to keep this in mind.

FOX

Fox has a lot to consider moving forward with its various shows, but one thing that certainly won’t be touch is their animation block. Barring a massive surprise, “The Simpsons,” “Bob’s Burger’s” and “Family Guy” are set to return. “Family Guy” represents the weakest link, but it’s still posting a 1.14 rating for the season. Not bad for a show in its 17th season that often went up against NFL Primetime games.

Meanwhile, the three weakest shows in Fox’s lineup are “Lethal Weapon,” “The Gifted” and “REL.” “Rel” found itself in the cellar in terms of ratings, posting a .63 in December. Worst of all, it has only broken 2 million total viewers (including DVR/Streaming) on four episodes. Lil Rel Howery continues to pop on the big screen, so it’s odd the show has struggled so mightly.

“Lethal Weapon” and “The Gifted” have completely different issues at play. First, “Lethal Weapon” has been an unmitigated disaster. The firing of Clayne Crawford was highly publicized. Now Damon Wayans will leave the series at the end of this season. The show’s initial leads are gone, and ratings continue to drop below 4 million viewers an episode. The show posted a 0.7 rating, and there’s a real chance that Fox just wants this to be over. Meanwhile, “The Gifted” will be affected in some way by the Disney-Fox merger, and it is unclear if it will help or hurt. A gambling man would say “The Gifted” is a dead man walking, especially since the show has only posted a 0.6 adjusted rating this past Tuesday.

NBC

At the Peacock, things have actually been trending up. Only two shows have officially been renewed, with “The Good Place” and “Will & Grace” already securing their next season. Considering the brands they represent, as well as their prestige factor, this should not surprise. “This Is Us” will get renewed, but they’ll wait to officially announce it until later in the year. Their new shows, including “New Amsterdam” and “Manifest“, have pulled down strong gs so far. That’s not to say some shows aren’t in danger.

Their three lowest shows regarding ratings are “I Feel Bad,” “Midnight, Texas,” and “Blindspot.” None of the shows performed particularly well in the Fall, and “I Feel Bad” already concluded its episode count on Dec. 27. Even in its season finales (it aired a double episode), the higher rated episode capped out at 2.48 million viewers. The show was at a .51 rating midway through December. Sadly, the Amy Poehler produced show looks like it won’t make it through. Meanwhile, NBC officially canceled “Midnight, Texas,” which only posted a 0.4 rating.

“Blindspot” seems like a show that could receive the ax as well. The show that once held 10 million viewers per episode in its first season has dropped all the way down to about 2.5 million viewers. Worst of all, it’s 18-49 rating is a paltry 0.45 on a Fridays. With renewal potentially meaning syndication (it currently sits at 75 total episodes), that could mean goodbye to Blindspot.

Cable Ratings – “Surviving R. Kelly” Dominates

This week, the release of the documentary series, “Surviving R. Kelly” created massive waves in pop culture and social media. The ratings bore this out too, with six of the top twenty-five ratings for Cable TV this week went to the series. That is actually more impressive than it sounds. With the College Football Playoff, NFL Playoff, and all the shows surrounding that buzz, “Surviving R. Kelly” actually posted six of the eight highest ratings for non-sporting events for the week. The ratings bear out the truth. The show was a huge deal.

What shows do you think are on the bubble? What shows will get canceled? Let us hear your thoughts in the comments below! 

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