Illustration for article titled Learn The Math Used To Predict What TV Show Dies Next

Wondering whether your favorite show is going to be the next to face the axe in a season that's seeing ratings fall and networks get nervous? It turns out that it's not as entirely random and malicious as you may have suspected (Although I'm still a little worried about Pushing Daisies' chances, to be honest); there may even be an art to predicting which shows have the most to worry about, according to some. But what is the "renew/cancel index," and does it really help us to know how close to death Knight Rider may be?Well, let's start with that last question first: Yes, it does help. We didn't pick that show at random, either; according to website TV By The Numbers, Knight Rider is one of the most likely to be cancelled scripted shows around right now, just in front of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (which should come as no surprise). In contrast, fans of Fringe, Smallville or even the ratings-plummeting Heroes can breathe a little easier, because their shows are relatively safe. But just how are they working this system out, exactly? Inside spies in network offices? Bribery? Telepathy? Not exactly; it's all to do with how you read the ratings, according to the site's Bill Gorman:

Last season I tried a variety of methods to predict which new shows were doing well and which were doing poorly. All of them suffered from a scaling problem. A massive hit for the pathetic CW could still be at the bottom of the list for another network. It was hard to analytically predict the likelihood of renewal or cancellation. But at the end of last season I decided to compare a show’s 18-49 viewership to its own network’s 18-49 average and the results were quite consistent in predicting renewal or cancellation (in this case after the fact)... For scripted shows, the line was clear. Maintain an adults 18-49 viewership above of 92% of your network average and you’re going to be renewed... Fail to exceed 92% of your network’s average adults 18-49 average viewership and you’re almost certainly cancelled.


So is this method reliable? Judged against last year's numbers, the answers seem to be yes - only two cancelled shows were above the 92% line (and one of those was the eternally-troubled Bionic Woman), and of the six surviving shows below the line, one was saved by a sponsorship deal, one by the WGA strike and one - according to Gorman - because it was just too cheap to throw away. The current table at the site only goes up to last Monday (so my precious Pushing Daisies isn't definitively doomed yet), but it's an interesting look at what shows may be more (or less) on the bubble than you would think: To live in a world where The Mentalist outperforms Terminator is a sad, sad thing indeed. [The Renew/Cancel Index]


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