Take second-year NBC show "Parenthood." It just had its season finale, posting a decent 2.5 rating among 18-49ers, up from its 2.1 rating the week before. At MediaPost's Outfront event recently, Bill Carroll, VP and director of programming for Katz Television Group, noted how NBC was slowly nurturing the 10 p.m. show.
The trouble is that less of this nurturing goes on today. Networks usually have a good idea whether a show will have legs -- or not. For example, CBS stopped "Chaos" after three episodes. On the other side of things, HBO recently renewed "Game of Thrones" after one outing.
You might argue that CBS and HBO are on two completely different playing fields. You might even argue that "Parenthood" doesn't need to be nurtured since it meets some minimum standards for a network television show. It regularly posts 2+ ratings in the key 18-49 demo, now a regular above-water mark for a network show.
While every show has its own minimum requirements, you might just look at a broad primetime 18-49 rating measure. In a recent April week, NBC earned a 1.6 rating/5 share. That would make "Parenthood" an easy choice for coming back. Throw in that it does well with upscale viewers and, like most 10 p.m. shows, gets a lot of time-shifting action. Those are two plusses.
Even against other network raw measures, "Parenthood" looks good. During the same week, CBS averaged a 2.0/6 among 18-49ers; ABC 2.1/6; and Fox 2.6/8.
Nurturing is important but only for shows and businesses expected to grow fast, especially those shows and networks just starting out.
There are exceptions, of course. CBS' "NCIS," after being on the air for several years, witnessed a sharp, out-of-nowhere ratings spike. (That gave the network the confidence for a spinoff).
What about network shows that are drifting along in the 1.1-1.5 rating range among 18-49ers? Most of them are just playing out the string -- they are not in the land of nurture.
More nurturing now goes on before a show hits the air -- also called development, to some.
What is the standard error on a 2 rating? When ratings were larger, when a show needed a 12 (later a 10) to be renewed, that +/-1 margin of error was negligible. Now that were down to the low single digits, it is ludicrous to expect the leasurement to even matter! Is a 2 really a 2 or is it a 1, or a 3? What a crazy way to decide.