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I recently received some reader feedback. One of the shows that I nominated as “Flop of the Year” got renewed by its streamer, therefore, according to this reader, that show must have been popular.
And it got me thinking.
I write a weekly streaming ratings report to figure out what’s working and what isn’t on television. True, I want to look at things from a larger, macro level (Who’s “winning” the “streaming wars”? What types of shows should people be making?) but I also care about the more granular, micro perspective. For many people in the industry, especially writers, producers, and development execs, the most important question is, “Will this/a/my TV show get renewed or cancelled?”
To slightly paraphrase Montell Jordan, “This is why we do this.” The streaming ratings report exists to answer this question, because ratings data is the single biggest factor in determining what gets renewed and what doesn’t.
But ratings data isn’t “perfect”. People think/want “data” to provide definitive answers to questions like this with 100% certainty. They want experts to give them a clear “Yes/No” to nearly any question. And when it comes to whether a show will get renewed, that’s just not possible.
(Nate Silver has dealt with this his whole career. People want political pundits to give them definitive predictions about what’s going to happen—in his case, who’s going to win an election—when the “data”—in his case, polling—will never be able to provide a definitive answer. Saying “Trump has a 30% chance of getting elected” turns into “You said Trump wouldn’t get elected!” even though he had a three in ten chance!)
Let me be clear: the ratings are NOT a perfect guide to what’s going to get renewed and what’s going to get cancelled. The ratings will never correlate perfectly with a show’s future because there’s just too many factors that go into whether a show will be renewed, not to mention that the streamers, studios and networks have their own internal data and, often, there are tons of ways to measure data and analyze it.
With all that said, it’s time for my next installment of “Renewals, Cancellations and Un-Orders” going back to June of this year. (We’re doing this installment in lieu of a Streaming Ratings Report, since we were really light on new streaming titles from four weeks ago, so I’m going to do a double issue next week.)
And I want to focus on this question of why some shows get renewed and others don’t, regardless of the ratings or in spite of them. As last time, we’ll cover:
- What popular shows got renewed.
- What unpopular shows got cancelled.
- What shows were un-ordered or removed from various streamers.
- Over 11 charts and tables showing the ratings in visual detail.
But we’re going to start with the confusing shows, asking what’s the proper takeaway if an unpopular show gets renewed. (Or a popular show gets cancelled.)
Confusing Renewal (and One Cancellation) Decisions
In addition to updating you, the reader, on which shows got renewed or cancelled this summer, I want to debunk the idea that if a show gets renewed, it must be popular. This is a horrible heuristic I often encounter when a show I’ve called a miss inevitably gets renewed. (Usually by Apple TV+.)
That said, when a show gets renewed, that’s useful information! It’s a new data point at the very least. To me, a show with low ratings getting renewed is just the start of the puzzle. Clearly, someone knows something (or someone) that got them to renew the show.
As someone who’s been on the inside, I can tell you there are dozens of factors that go into TV shows getting renewed and cancelled. Factors like…
- Budgets and how much a show costs.
- Whether the show is critically acclaimed and/or wins awards.
- Whether the executives have relationships with talent that they want to keep intact.
- Or, in some cases, personal relationships with talent, agents, producers and who knows who else i.e. they’re just friends with someone. (Personally, this example—which I definitely saw in person—baffles me from a rational, decision-making perspective.)
- Or business relationships, like a long-standing relationship with a production company, for example.
- Or, in the most prosaic example of all, sometimes executives just really like a given show and want to see more of it!
Ratings are just one piece of the greenlight puzzle; they might be the biggest piece, but they’re just one piece. And to repeat: they are highly correlated with renewal decisions. But they aren’t perfectly correlated.
Let’s get into some examples.
Disney+’s Proud Family: Louder and Prouder and Chip ‘n’ Dale: Park Life
Sometimes, shows don’t cost all that much to make. And that lower cost can justify lower ratings. A few weeks ago, discussing Cocaine Shark and Raiders of the Lost Shark, I wrote, “For the right price, you could make anything.” and I stand by that.
This makes figuring out why/how/which shows will get renewed tough, because budgets are one of the main data pieces that I don’t have. (TV show budgets are NOT publicly available, which isn’t the case with most movies that go to theaters.)
But you can make some educated guesses. Disney renewed two animated shows this summer, neither of which made the ratings charts, The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder and Chip ‘n’ Dale: Park Life, but this gamble might be worth it. Animated shows usually don’t cost that much to make, plus kids shows always struggle to make the ratings charts. Plus, Disney+ obviously has “kids” as one of their main target demographics, so they need to make content for them.
Paramount+’s Mayor of Kingstown, School Spirits and RuPaul’s Drag Race Shows
I think budgets and long-standing business partnerships explain why MTV and Paramount+ renewed all of the RuPaul Drag Race shows. The ratings more than justify these shows’ budgets, since the fifteenth season of Drag Race hit ratings highs. That said, Drag Race All Stars is exclusive to Paramount+, but it’s never made the Nielsen charts, or even interest metrics.
So do I think this renewal makes sense? Sure, because I don’t think this spinoff show costs all that much to make, and you’re keeping your producing partners happy.
Again, you can make anything for the right price. And I’m guessing that paramount Global is making the RuPaul’s Drag Race shows for the right price.
That doesn’t apply as much to Mayor of Kingstown, the Jeremy Renner Paramount+ series from Taylor Sheridan that Paramount+ just renewed. When season two came out earlier this year, Nielsen wasn’t yet releasing data for Paramount+, so we didn’t get any viewership numbers. It may have even done well, like other Tayler Sheridan shows, and it did have a very long run on TV Time. (Again, without any data, it’s tougher to judge it a miss.) The delay in renewal was likely related to Jeremy Renner’s snowplow accident earlier this year.
School Spirits, on the other hand, did make TV Time, but only for 2 weeks, but this show does look really cheap, so I get why Paramount+ renewed it. Maybe.
Hulu’s How I Met Your Father
I was always rooting for How I Met Your Father (even though die hard How I Met Your Mother fans kept telling me it wasn’t as good as the original) because I think the streamers need to make more sitcoms and, more importantly, more sitcoms with 20+ episodes (which would also help the writers on those shows…)
On the plus side, HIMYF had terrific TV Time scores…
…but not much else. It never made the Nielsen charts, meaning that it probably wasn’t very popular. Data is messy. In the end, I get why Hulu cancelled this show, but depending on talent costs, I’d have loved to see it make it to a third season, just to see if a traditional sitcom could finally succeed on streaming.
Peacock’s Bupkis Renewed
Peacock renewed Bupkis (starring Pete Davidson, Edie Falco, Joe Pesci and everyone else in Hollywood) for a second season. If you’re sitting there saying, “This show got renewed, so it must be popular”, well, we know that it isn’t; it only had 2.1 million hours viewed in its first week, which is really bad and well outside the Nielsen top ten that week, even though it binge-released all eight episodes. And it has bad IMDb scores. Here’s the “Debuts” chart I made for the week of 1-May for some context:
If this were the broadcast era, my guess is that this show would be widely-known around town as a flop. In the streaming era, no one knows. (Except my readers, of course.)
My guess for why it got renewed? To keep talent happy.
Max’s And Just Like That…, Righteous Gemstones, and Velma
The rest of this article is for paid subscribers of the Entertainment Strategy Guy, so if you want to see analysis on the renewal, un-order and cancellation decisions of…
- Max’s And Just Like That…, Righteous Gemstones, The Idol and Velma
- Netflix’s XO KITTY, Warrior Nun, King of Collectibles: The Goldin Touch. The Lincoln Lawyer, FUBAR, Quarterback and He-Man
- Prime Video’s The Peripheral, The Summer I Turned Pretty and A League of Their Own
- Apple TV+’s Silo, Suspicion, High Desert and City on Fire
- Hulu’s Nine Perfect Strangers, Up Here and The Great
- Disney+’s Dougie Kamealoha MD, The Spiderwick Chronicles and 20 Thousand Leagues Under The Sea
We can only keep doing this great work with your support. If you’d like to read more about why you should subscribe, please read these posts about the Streaming Ratings Report, why it matters, why you need it, and why we cover streaming ratings best.