Not all bubble shows are born equal. All rely on ratings performance, the stronger the ratings — linear or digital or both — the better the chance of coming back. Creative strength and critical acclaim also help. But then there are other aspects that factor in more and more as the broadcast ratings supported by advertisers erode.
Scripted series are increasingly treated like assets, with their performance not limited to the network but the entire company the network is a part of. Law & Order, CSI and NCIS are billion dollar franchises for NBCUniversal and CBS Corp. Marvel and The Muppets are marquee brands for the Disney Co.
Freshman ABC comedy The Muppets, produced by ABC Studios, had been all but written off after struggling to get traction with the original incarnation in the fall and the midseason reboot. The Season 1 finale logged 2.7 million viewers and a 0.8 adults 18-49 Live+same day rating after the show opened with 9 million viewers and a 2.7 demo rating. Then a rumor surfaced late last week that there is a possibility for The Muppets to come back. There is nothing definitive, and I hear a pickup is a long shot but the sheer idea of The Muppets being talked about and considered for next season is intriguing. The show makes money overseas where Jim Henson’s characters are very popular, and they also a hot merchandising property for Disney. The bar is pretty low on Friday, so it is conceivable that The Muppets could air there if it were to return for a hypothetical second season.
Disney is a company that puts a big emphasis on brands and cross-pollination. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. often is used to promote Marvel’s tentople movies that occupy the same superhero universe.
CBS’ CSI: Cyber has been consistent in the ratings, starting its second season with 6.79 million viewers and a 1.0 demo rating in Live+same day and ending with 6.32 million a 1.0 rating. By CBS network standards, that is pretty low. But by corporate standards, the show, produced by CBS TV Studios, is a profitable asset which makes a lot of money internationally as an offshoot from the CSI franchise. That gives the series an extra boost. It still may not be enough for a renewal but, all things equal with another bubble show, CSI: Cyber would get the advantage.
There are examples at the other networks too. Fox’s Sleepy Hollow is on the bubble with soft ratings but it’s a profitable show for producer, Fox sibling 20th Century Fox TV.
To paraphrase Leo Tolstoy, all hit shows are alike; each bubble show is on the bubble in its own way. Helping the corporate bottom line is one way to get on the rights side of the bubble.