Chuck vs. The Ratings pt. Deux

Calling All Statisticians! Calling All Statisticians!

Amy’s our resident ratings guru, but she’s on duty (and serving her country like it’s going out of style! We thank you, Amy). So please let me pinch-hit for her, present the data and give my best guess as to what it means to a layman.

So here’s the graph

Ratings Week of Oct. 18-22 (Thank you Thinkling!)

…with the ratings data for the week of Oct. 18-22 included (click to see an enlarged version), for the “coveted 18-49 demographic”. So what this shows first and foremost is that, relative to the other shows that we are concerned about, Chuck is very stable. If you ask “Is this good or is this bad?” this answer is still “Yes!”, emphatically, in fact, given the fact that Chuck received an order for 11 more episodes this season. Stability and predictability count for a lot in the business world. Clearly, Undercovers and Chase recovered some of their audience, but in any other year, I seriously doubt that last week’s data would make a difference (especially in the case of Undercovers, which still has to be considered a disappointment, given the hype and promotion it received).

It pretty much goes without saying that all these shows need better numbers to make advertisers happy. Of course, that’s like saying the sun will rise in the east tomorrow; it’s a given. The Event, I think, may have a chance to show it can survive for another season, but that depends on a continued starting an upwards trend. Oddly, that would work to Chuck‘s benefit, since NBC’s hope was that the show would be aided by its strong lead-in.

My closing comment is to say that I tend to discount most conjecture right now, including TVBTN. There is no way in which this can be considered just another year for NBC. Indeed, with its pending sale to Comcast, this is a year like no other and I, for one, see no obvious way to compare ratings to previous years or even to shows on other networks. Moreover, this is NOT the 20th century. All the networks are in the midst of a tidal wave of change, I think, that they don’t fully recognize and don’t completely believe is happening. ABC and CBS are looking over their shoulders too, I’m sure. At times, I fear more for NBC’s survival than I do for Chuck.

But since I can’t quite conceive of a world without NBC (or ABC and CBS, for that matter), that means I feel pretty good about Chuck’s chances for next season. They need shows with records they can point to, and NBC doesn’t have many of those in prime time.

– joe


About joe

In my life I've been a professor, martial artist, rock 'n roller, rocket scientist, lover, poet and brain surgeon. I'm lying about the brain surgery.
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53 Responses to Chuck vs. The Ratings pt. Deux

  1. thinkling says:

    Well, if I have to choose, I vote for Chuck to survive.

    NBC is a television institution. I can remember our first color TV. Practically the only thing actually in “color” was the NBC peacock. But I still vote for Chuck over the peacock.

    • joe says:

      Oh, gee! The whole world was in black ‘n white when I was a kid, Thinkling. And then there was Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color.

      Of course, all radio was monaural and had no base, too 😉

    • atcdave says:

      I remember my parents getting color to watch the moon landing! Of course the broadcast was of such poor quality it barely mattered. I still enjoy watching 60s television, when the world exploded in color!

  2. atcdave says:

    I know NBC execs have talked at length about the importance of on-line views; and with all the complexities of disc sales, coming iTunes sales, and of course being an outsourced production (WB) (oh, and did I mention rumors NBC might want to buy Chuck outright); wow. It really is a sticky knot to unravel. Somehow, things have worked to our favor so far. Let’s hope that continues!

  3. herder says:

    As things stand now, Chuck’s ratings have to go up for there to be a season five, personally I think that they will. I see the first four episodes as a prolonged apology to the fans, putting things in a place where the base is happy. Now they are moving into the story for the season and as baseball ends some of those viewers (young males) can move over to Chuck.

    With the ratings the way that they are the best hope for a season five that I can see is that NBC moves Chuck to Friday for a final year. That said in any event we have not only a season four or a full season four but a slightly super-sized season four, all of this is good. The other hope is that the rest of the NBC schedule is such a disaster that if NBC is making some money out of Chuck that they will keep it where it is while they work on other schedule holes.

    Chuck’s competition for a place on the 2010/2011 schedule is as follows: The Event and Chase on Mondays, Parenthood on Tuesday, Undercovers and LOLA on Wednesday (SVU is safe), maybe Thursday at 10 (longshot), Friday scripted show (last resort) and Sunday in the winter after football is done. Community, 30 Rock and Outsourced are in a seperate competition with Parks and Recreation (great show) and other new half-hour comedies for spots.

    This year NBC tried six new shows in those slots; The Event, Chase, Undercovers, LOLA, The Apprentice and Outlaw. I don’t see them going to six new hours again, perhaps four hours. Chuck is ahead of four of those shows (Chase, Undercovers, The Appretice and Outlaw), but not all of those slots are available to Chuck and there is also the question of both unscripted (reality) shows and a new comedy bloc to consider.

    Really I see it as a contest between The Event, Parenthood and Chuck and a possible new comedy bloc for two slots. It is very doable for Chuck to get a fifth year, but an uptick, not even a great one would make it a reality.

    • joe says:

      I sort of like that analysis, Herder. Personally, I was just not impressed with Parenthood, and I tend to think it doesn’t appeal to the same audience. That means I have a feeling it’s not in competition with Chuck as much as the others, but more likely co-existing. You may be right, though.

      There’s been a lot said that all the episode orders last week were because NBC was really unhappy with what they had in the pipeline for new shows. They already have a lot of time to fill, and apparently, just not many shows to fill it with.

      I sure do hope they don’t order any of those infernal reality shows, though. I’ll get up off the couch and talk to real live people before I watch those things. My neighbors are NOT partiers who live on the Jersey Shore or crash White House soirées, pretty much by design. So why would I invite someone into my house who does those things?

      • herder says:

        Parenthood has one of the highest female skewing audiences on tv (scripted shows), Chuck has one of the highest male skewing shows (scripted, in fact it is the highest non-animated scripted show). If advertisers want to reach a certain segment they look at who is watching the show for instance Gossip Girl survives on the teenage girl demographic. It is Chuck’s relatively rare youngish male demographic that allows it to punch above it’s weight and has saved it over the past two years, that and the general weakness of the NBC schedule. The desireable demographic, age, gender, income level ect that makes Chuck profitable for NBC where another show with similar ratings might not be.

    • Faith says:

      My view of Chuck competition is basically anything we can put in front of the bear before it takes a bite out of us. A couple of us were actually joking around about this on twitter but there’s some merit to it.

      I know some people are fans of Community for example but if it helps Chuck, I’m all for Community going away.

      I shudder at the thought of Friday (even for its last season). I think I’ve been pre-programmed to think of it as the death zone but logically it just depends on the expectations on that slot. Smallville got a full pickup of its 9th season and now its 10th season because their (low) expectations were exceeded by the actual numbers (first time winning the 18-49 share with their 200th episode at 1.3. 1.3?!).

      As is I’m worried about what DST will bring. We always seem to suffer the time change.

      • Rick Holy says:

        Faith, I may be mistaken, but I think it’s when we switch TO daylight savings time (in the Spring) that Chuck’s ratings are negatively affected. Right now I’m on “Chicago” time, and CHUCK starts at 7 p.m. on Monday nights. That’s “early,” relatively speaking. Ya’ll can correct me if I’m wrong, but I think Chuck’s numbers have been historically better when we’re NOT on DST – and when the show starts for most (if not all) of the country at 8 p.m.

        It will be interesting because I think the switch FROM D.S.T. to “regular” time is in November, during the sweeps. Hopefully that will help. If we see LOWER numbers, then that’s definitely not a good sign. Fingers crossed!

      • JC says:

        Cancel Community?? Take that back Faith.

        You’re right about Smallville,the same goes for Supernatural. Niche shows like Chuck can work on Fridays, since they have such a dedicated fan base that usually follows the show no matter the night.

        What worries me is the long possible break during December and I would guess early January.

      • Faith says:

        Right, Fr. Rick. Sorry, that was what I meant. March does not like us.

        Sorry JC, can’t ;-). When it comes to Chuck, it’s schadenfreude. Shows eat shows (well whatever the equivalent of every man for himself in tv speak is)!

      • atcdave says:

        Actually with Smallville finishing up this season, the Friday night slot might work really well for us. I’m not eager for change, I like the notoriety of having steady numbers against killer competition; but if NBC decides change must be made, I’m okay with Fridays.

      • herder says:

        I don’t think Community’s ratings have anything to do with Chuck. It’s a half hour comedy and if it goes away it will be replaced with another half hour comedy.

        It may have a tangental effect in the sense that if the Thursday comedies all do great (which is not the case now) then NBC may be tempted to use the extra series that it has ordered for the new year as a bloc on another night. If that new night is sucessful then that would take away one hour of prime time and reduce the number of problem areas for NBC possibly putting pressure on Chuck.

        Other than that Chuck and Community are not in competition with one another for air time.

      • Faith says:

        Herder, I know that being a 30 min comedy Community really doesn’t have a lot to do with Chuck, but the idea is any show that has lower ratings than us…in a network in which it’s the best of the worst situation is tops…I’ll take it.

        Anything to escape the bear.

  4. Rick Holy says:

    Part of this is relative to NBC’s situation – as you stated. And just like in past years, much of NBC is a train wreck. I haven’t been following all these stats closely, but it seems to me like even some of the Thursday night shows – like 30 Rock – aren’t doing as well as they’ve done in the past.

    Other thing is production cost. CHUCK (as compared to a show like 30 Rock, for example) has NO “big-name stars.” Can you imagine what they’re paying Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin per episode? I think I read where Zac Levi is paid $40,000 per episode. Fey and Baldwin are probably getting 10x more than that (at least) – and their show isn’t “blowing away” the competition, that’s for sure.

    CHUCK’s survival depends on maintaining the consistency you mentioned. If we can get and sustain a little uptick (like up to a 2.0-2.2 range) in that Monday night time slot, I think it would guarantee a fifth season. As I’ve said before, until NBC finds something that is cheaper to produce than CHUCK and gets the same or higher ratings as CHUCK (and thus makes them more profit than CHUCK in that Monday night time slot), I think they’ll stick with the “known quantity.”

    Now a SIXTH season. That I wouldn’t count on – except for the fact that I seem to remember that Zach and Yvonne have six year contracts. But like someone said once before, those contracts don’t mean much in the end. The network can cancel you show anytime they want.

    The Comcast purchase is a big factor – and the fact that “CHUCK” was mentioned prominently in this sale I think means something on a positive note.

    So, we’ll see. All I know is that I’m going to enjoy every one of the remaining episodes of this season as if it’s the last. Then if we get a fifth season, it will just be another thick layer of icing upon an already delicious cake!!

    Keep up the great work, all. Contact the advertisers. Eat Subway. Vote for CHUCK in the TV Guide poll, etc., etc. And don’t forget CHUCK stuff for Christmas, Birthday, and other holiday gifts!! Every little bit helps!!

  5. Faith says:

    To echo what some have already said…

    I kinda thought all these pickups were curious?

    From a business standpoint being where they are (dismal) and with no end in sight, I thought they’d blow it all up and start all over. What I mean by that is seeing the numbers plummet, I’d pull the plug on all of the shows except say Office, 30 rock, solid numbers/emmy winning shows and basically start from scratch for the rest. But then again that’s prob. why I’m not a network exec. They’re doing the smart thing and letting growth come organically. There’s wisdom in letting the viewers get used to something. The rebound of the numbers (in some of the shows) I think speaks of their strategy working somewhat. It shows that people are more likely to tune in now that they know the shows they might get into aren’t going to be gone in a week.

    Having said that, I think a 24 episode pickup is curious. There are speculations that that means we’re 22 away from 100 and thereby syndication and I don’t think those specs are unfounded. Chuck (in my unbiased opinion) is a very syndicateable show (just made up a word there lol) and with its solid fanbase, syndication can only help Chuck gain more viewers. Comparisons are never fair but something similar happened to Family Guy (if I’m not mistaken) it had its core fanbase but syndication really blew it up. Chuck, like Family Guy has its pulse on pop-culture chic and I think that works in their favor.

    Still, I wouldn’t scoff at a .1 raise in share points. There’s something about the 2+ range that gives me comfort. And yes I expect such raise even without promotion.

    • Faith says:

      Oh one last thought Joe.

      If there’s one thing I’m learning from my stat class and research in psychology class (basically the same class :-/ ) …consistent is good. But consistently bad is another matter lol.

    • herder says:

      Even more interesting is something that Ryan McPartlin said in one of his recent interviews. It was something to the effect that the network had said that they had done all they could with regard to promotion and that it was up to them to promote things now. I take that to mean that the lack of promotion by the network was intentional and that barring some sort of ratings surge we aren’t going to see any great push by the network. The fact that they gave the extra episode order despite that means that they are ok with the ratings as they are for this year.

      I think that is why we saw a sudden spate of interviews by Yvonne, Ryan and Sarah as well as Vic and Scott. Promotion by other means than network ads.

      If a 15 second promo on NBC is $50,000 in foregone revenue having say three Chuck promos instead of ten in a week saves the network $350,000 which might be the difference between profitability and red ink. A profitable show is much easier to keep than an unprofitable show.

      I don’t see there being much promotion unless there is an uptick in ratings such that more promotion is likely to result in a further uptick. But the lack of promotion isn’t a sign that the network has given up on Chuck, but rather a new and unusual business strategy.

    • joe says:

      Well, if Comcast wasn’t about to buy NBC, then I might be inclined to agree about the possibility of schedule detonation, Faith.

      But I always thought the last thing they’d want to do now is anything super-risky.

      And I think Comcast coming in will feel the same, at first. Risks are for later. Right now, it’s “Steady As She Goes”.

      • Paul says:

        I agree Joe. I could see Comcast/NBC keeping the current line-up for the first year of the new management to let things stabalize and to get the shows THEY want lined up. THEN they will start cancelling the shows that they think are no longer viable. Unless Comcast already has line-ups in the works, I doubt they would go scorched earth their first seaosn in charge. So that would mean a possibility of at least a 13eps S5 for Chuck.

    • thinkling says:

      Syndication: I like the sound of that 🙂

      • Ernie Davis says:

        At a certain point it’s just about worth it to WB to basically give NBC the show for free just to get to syndication. If NBC doesn’t want it, with only a season to go, time to shop the show at bargain basement rates to basic cable, or failing that, run it on the CW. I have the feeling the 11 episode order was not arrived at … coincidently.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Faith, there is one principle of business you have to remember. No matter how bad things are, they can always get worse. Say they cancel Chuck. Well what are the chances of them pulling in new viewers who watch Dancing With The Stars or How I met Your Mother versus losing viewers who dutifully tune in for Chuck when they stick a new show in that time slot? Same for The Event. Undercovers and Chase are tougher, but they are outperforming what they replaced, so for the time being, they stay.

      I said this before, but from all the reading I did last spring NBC went pretty deep on the bench to fill the schedule, and having to pick up 13 of 19 pilots does not bode well for quality TV. Basically they can’t afford to cancel a dozen shows and replace them all, because they’d probably be stuck with another 20-ish pilots from producers who can’t afford to turn down NBC despite the limited chances for their show succeeding on that crippled network.

      My guess is that if The Event and Chuck even maintain, they get another season. Any uptick at all probably guarantees it. Chase has the rest of this season, but outside an increase, it dies. Parenthood and Community are critical hits despite ratings on par with Chuck, so absent cratering, they both get another season. Undercovers will be replaced this spring (Schaedenfreude!).

      • Faith says:

        That’s a…rosy POV. (*wink*). I’m not adept at anything business apart from what I learned from the office us (I’m not kidding lol)…

        it’s cheaper to keep old customers than get new ones.

        My “blow it up” theory, Joe is correct…I didn’t consider the Comcast component of all of this but my thinking like I said is prob why I am not a network exec. Having said that though I think at some point you have to weigh the what you know with what you don’t and sometimes the unknown (and thereby the possibility of better) just might win out.

      • Faith says:

        Especially if you consider the numbers plummeting component.

    • atcdave says:

      I’ll echo a lot of what Ernie said. Even if they blow up the schedule, they need to promote the new shows to someone to get any audience at all. And the someone they promote to is existing viewers. If they cancel everything, it means all their viewers are disgruntled. Not exactly the ideal market for advertising new shows.

      So ideally, even the most radical of restructuring involves keeping SOME of your loyal viewers happy. Chuck is in an excellent spot to be part of that core. Now if the network decides on a totally new direction, like all reality (shudder), Biggest Loser might be the only show they keep. But barring that unlikely twist, Chuck is in a pretty good position.

  6. godot says:

    If Chuck doesn’t tank in the spring, it’ll probably get a season 5 order. And the reason is that NBC Universal and Warner apparently struck a downstream revenue deal. And if they can get to five full seasons of inventory, Chuck would look very good checkerboarded on G4, a Comcast-owned network. It’s actually a better fit at G4 than even SyFy or USA, two networks currently in the NBC Universal stable

    • atcdave says:

      I hadn’t realized Comcast owns G4, that’s really an excellent fit (Although I still think USA is pretty darn good too).

  7. Faith says:

    Supplement to the chart up top. From Rafael of the NBC boards (keepchuckalive on twitter)

  8. Merve says:

    I don’t want to be a total pessimist, but let’s face it: Chuck’s ratings aren’t good. For whatever reason (Dancing with the Stars, Daylight Saving Time, general dissatisfaction with spy shows – take your pick) people don’t want to watch Chuck. Fan campaigns haven’t done much to improve ratings. Neither has NBC’s promotion, or lack thereof. (But seeing how poorly the rest of their lineup is doing, I bet they’re kicking themselves for not promoting Chuck a little more.) I don’t think that the ratings are magically going to rise out of the 1.7 to 2.1 range. Maybe that’s good enough for NBC. I don’t really know anything about the actual dollar figures involved. But what I do know is this: in a sane world, Chuck would have been cancelled after season 2. But this is a world where Jersey Shore is popular, leaving a banana out a windowsill is considered innovative modern art, and North Korea is ruled by an egomaniacal horror movie buff. In this kind of world, a 5th season is within the realm of possibility.

    • atcdave says:

      Chuck’s ratings aren’t good. But every network has its own reality. What’s good on NBC would get cancelled on CBS, and be the star of the line-up on CW. We can be glad that on NBC, Chuck has been good enough. I would love if the ratings went up so much Chuck could get its old budget restored. But we know that’s not likely, anything for S5 and I’m good.

      I’ve always thought Chuck’s problems start right with the title. It tells absolutely about the show. And the eclectic mix of themes makes it hard to tell what’s going on from previews too (is it action, comedy, drama, romance?). People watching from other shows likely have no clue; except now its been around long enough they don’t want to find out. The only marketing tool that will work is US! We need to tell people why we love the show. For me, its been a lot easier this season now that I actually believe in the show again. People do like what they see when you can get them to watch.

  9. Michael says:

    Just a quick observation from a new-comer to Chuck. They plug the heck out of the new shows and nothing for Chuck.

    • Paul says:

      That is becase the folks who watch Chuck nowadays are essentially the hard-core fans. Shows very rarely gain new viewers beyond the 3rd season. And because Chuck’s audience is stable, it is more cost effective plugging new shows than to plug Chuck.

      • Michael says:


        Paul, I took a look at the other 8PM shows for Monday and Tuesday.

        I have seen promos for the two highest rated shows; Dancing with the Stars and NCIS. As well as an NBC clunker; The Biggest Loser.

        I still think NBC isn’t trying. They got me by accident. Maybe a few promos and more relaxed rules about the older episodes might help.

        Ugh, what do I know? I don’t run a Studio.

      • atcdave says:

        Michael welcome aboard! Always great to see a new fan. It does seem NBC has decided the audience is stable and they’re not going to promote for now. I’m not sure what it would take to get them to change their policy; but anyone you know who might be interested in an imaginative action-comedy is someone you can try to recruit. The show is an easy sell when you find the right people; and an involved and aggressive fan base has kept Chuck on the air for two seasons past when it otherwise would have been cancelled.

        So hey, its not just an obsession, its a responsibility!

  10. jason says:

    lots of guessing in these thoughts, but I read somewhere that comcast is interested in scripted shows, would seem low budget, cult-like fan base Chuck is right in the wheel house for that interest. Might also explain the generous and early gifting of back 4’s, and 9’s, and 11’s to several other marginal, but scripted shows.

    As a casual fan of ‘the event’ (I watch it and I like it), when I saw it was getting more eps, my interest was renewed in the story. Before the extra eps, I was waivering on stopping watching it, as it was looking like it was getting canceled. Maybe there are some new chuck fans out there who now will start watching, based on NBC’s commitment.

  11. Faith says:

    Awesome Chuckthis now has an icon next to the address bar thingy!

    Big time!

  12. DaveB says:

    I’ve wondered sometimes about how the networks plan their nightly layouts. Do they really think that simply because one show follows another that people will watch it? With literally hundreds of possible choices each night, shouldn’t the networks be trying to find out if someone who likes ‘Chuck’ would also like ‘The Event’, and vice versa?

    • JC says:

      I’m sure there’s tons of research and test marketing done beforehand. Chuck is niche show and fans are more likely to stick around for something like the Event then Law & Order. Undercovers is the only other NBC show at the moment that could possibly hold some of Chuck’s audience.

      I’m actually surprised that NBC put Chase on Monday. If anything the Cape makes more sense. Turn Monday Nights into a sci fi/ fantasy block of TV as a clear alternative to the other networks.

    • atcdave says:

      I’d agree JC, Cape or Undercovers would have made more sense to team with Chuck and Event. But typically they run more violent and intense programming in the later slots and more family friendly stuff earlier, so perhaps they just saw all those shows as early night material.

      For me personally, when a show airs doesn’t matter much; I watch everything except news, sports, and Chuck via DVR anyway. And I bet many Chuck viewers (at least those of us who are so involved in TV that we visit a site like this!) feel similarly. But apparently, there is still a large number of viewers who do just sit down and watch what’s on.
      I actually had a co-worker say to me after the season premier “dang I forgot Chuck was on this week, where can I watch it on-line?” That kind of blew my mind. Just that a guy who’s modern enough to know on-line viewing is an option (never mind being a Chuck fan and an air traffic controller) would have such stone-age TV viewing habits that missing a show was even possible. Weird.

  13. Gringo Chuck Fan says:

    Hola Amigos – I was just checking out the World Series schedule…. and I’d say if Chuck fans across the world had to plan a world series – this couldn’t have worked out better [ from a ratings point of view]
    1. the Series could very well be finished by the time we get to Nov. 1st…
    2. Neither of these teams are what I would consider MLB fan favorites [ outside of their own area].
    I’d call this the Cinderella Series on both sides. If you love to root for the underdog – well – you’ve got two teams to pick from : )
    What I am concerned with is the coming schedule of on again/off again nights… I’m not sure that is a plan for highly successful ratings – but I’m sure it fills the needs of NBC.

    • atcdave says:

      I’m not happy about the 11/8 pre-emption either; but otherwise I think we’re in pretty good shape for November.

  14. rac2873 says:

    Just saw the 7 day ratings. If everyone watched Chuck live it would have gotten a 2.38. Seems that is the ratings ceiling. So I guess a 2.1 live would be the dream and a 2.0 more likely.

  15. jason says:

    I was not present for all commercials during the packer / viking game so I might have missed some, esp in the second half, but I did see one for chuck, one for the event, and one for chase, all separate commercials, all during the first half.

    • atcdave says:

      I also saw one, someone at NBC Forums said there were two. I’m hoping; between Freddy Krueger, and Linda Hamilton shooting Chuck in the chest, this might be the one that helps get a solid 2.0 or better.

    • herder says:

      I saw two, one in each half, it was the 15 second promo. Two Sunday night promos, interesting guest stars, no baseball, House is a repeat, the stage is set for Chuck ratings to surge to a 2.0 or 2.1 demo.

  16. rac2873 says:

    House is a re-run tonight too. Let’s hope some of those people watch Chuck and not that crappy reality show.

  17. joe says:

    Jace put up this post about NBC’s travails this TV season.

    Definitely worth a read.

    His take: if NBC has a problem, more Chuck is the solution.

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