Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Renewal Prospects

"Once Upon A Time" Will Be Renewed

Fans develops an emotional attachment to their shows, so they become frantic about what might happen when the networks make their renewal decisions. Networks take a lot of factors into consideration when making those decisions (such as cost of production, availability of stars, the effect of the show on the network's image, etc.). Realistically, though, Networks give the cold, hard numbers the greatest weight.

Networks usually hand down their renewal decisions some time during the April/May time period (unless a show is really failing and gets the axe sooner, such as happened recently with "666 Park Avenue" and too many other series over the years to list). Executives look most carefully at season averages, not numbers from individual weeks, so there is no point getting excited about a particular episode's performance. Yes, the numbers for "Once Upon a Time" declined steadily early in 2013 after the holidays, but they also showed the same pattern during the first season. It likely is is a seasonal effect and a common symptom of serial story lines that programmers understand and can work around.

Wonder why "Once Upon a Time" runs straight through during the Fall, when ratings are strongest, but only appears intermittently during the Spring, when ratings falter? The programmers aren't stupid. You can argue about cause and effect, but they aren't going to fight a strong trend. Preempting the show and not airing many original episodes when the fans are off doing other things makes a tremendous amount of sense (one could call it "common," but it takes a lot of skill to program). The fans will be back during the run-up to the next holiday season, when the weather gets cooler again, fairy tales come alive and people become sentimental about fairy tale characters.

Through the end of March 2013, the season average ratings for "Once Upon a Time" were as follows:

Once Upon a Time2.9 (2.85)8.71

The figures are: 2.9 rating for the 18-49 demo (2.85 actual), and 8.71 million viewers on average each week. To put these numbers in perspective, there are only two scripted ABC series ("Grey's Anatomy" and "Modern Family") with higher average numbers - and 17 with worse numbers. "Once Upon a Time" is one of ABC's top scripted series (with better ratings in the key demographic than any ABC non-scripted series, too).  "Once Upon a Time" absolutely is in no danger of being cancelled (though, yes, stranger things have happened).

As Jane Espenson has tweeted (March 19, 2013):
They don't make a spinoff if you're not a hit!
Watch the double negatives, Jane! Just kidding. Anyway, the "Once Upon a Time" spinoff "Once: Wonderland" begins filming on April 7, 2013.

Below are the ABC ratings charts, complete through March 31, 2013, courtesy of TV Series Finale:

ABC Scripted
TV shows
18-49 demo 
rating (actual)
in millions
Modern Family4.4 (4.39)9.17season 4 ratings
Grey’s Anatomy3.1 (3.14)9.18season 9 ratings
Once Upon a Time2.9 (2.85)8.71season 2 ratings
Scandal2.4 (2.39)7.21season 2 ratings
The Middle2.4 (2.38)8.25season 4 ratings
Revenge2.2 (2.23)7.17season 2 ratings
Suburgatory2.2 (2.23)6.11season 2 ratings
Castle2.0 (2.02)9.95season 4 ratings
Nashville1.9 (1.93)6.07season 1 ratings
The Neighbors1.9 (1.86)6.19season 1 ratings
666 Park Avenue (cancelled)1.5 (1.51)4.66season 1 ratings
Last Man Standing1.5 (1.49)6.93season 2 ratings
Malibu Country1.4 (1.39)6.34season 1 ratings
Last Resort (cancelled)1.4 (1.38)6.26season 1 ratings
Body of Proof1.3 (1.33)7.39season 3 ratings
Private Practice (last season)1.3 (1.33)4.64season 6 ratings
Red Widow1.2 (1.22)5.43season 1 ratings
Happy Endings1.2 (1.21)3.37season 3 ratings
Zero Hour (cancelled)1.2 (1.17)5.61season 1 ratings
Don’t Trust the B in Apt. 23 (cancelled)1.1 (1.10)2.85season 2 ratings
ABC non-scripted
TV shows
18-49 demo 
rating (actual)
in millions
Dancing with the Stars (spring)2.8 (2.80)15.77cycle 16 ratings
The Bachelor2.8 (2.78)8.50cycle 17 ratings
Dancing with the Stars (fall)2.3 (2.29)13.87cycle 15 ratings
Dancing with the Stars (spring, results)2.3 (2.25)11.59cycle 16 ratings
Dancing with the Stars (fall, results)2.2 (2.16)12.92cycle 15 ratings
Splash2.2 (2.15)7.87season 1 ratings
Shark Tank1.9 (1.87)6.59season 4 ratings
Celebrity Wife Swap1.8 (1.83)5.40season 2 ratings
Wife Swap1.6 (1.55)4.60season 7 ratings
The Taste1.6 (1.55)4.51season 1 ratings
Primetime1.5 (1.50)4.72season 24 ratings
America’s Funniest Home Videos1.5 (1.48)6.50season 23 ratings
20/201.4 (1.44)5.31season 35 ratings

As you can see from the charts, the average rating of "Once Upon a Time" in the key 18-49 demo is better than any non-scripted ABC series, and beaten by only a few scripted shows. It is a huge hit, and will be back, probably for several more seasons, in fact.

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