We know that The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones are the two biggest series in cable. But while all the networks base their renewal and cancellation decisions on Live+7 ratings (and may extend that to 35 days soon), many of us in the news media haven’t quite caught up. Live+7 ratings — the number of live viewers for a television show plus the number of viewers who watched an episode within seven days of its original airdate — often are not revealed until weeks after the episode, and by that time, those interested in the horse race have moved on.
Overnight ratings are still the most reported, even though they often don’t tell most of the story. Take, for instance, Mr. Robot, the show that’s changing the face of the USA Network. It has reportedly had ratings struggles in its sophomore season, and yet the USA Network made the decision today to renew it for a third season. Why is this? Overnight ratings for Mr. Robot are poor — it barely reaches 1 million viewers — but once seven days of viewership are accounted for, ratings for the series jump nearly 150 percent. Likewise, overnight ratings for AMC’s Preacher weren’t much to brag about (especially when it aired opposite Game of Thrones), but once DVR viewership is factored in, it’s the 7th most watched cable show of the year in the 25-54 demo.
What has been doing well and what hasn’t this summer, post Game of Thrones? Here’s a quick ranking of the Live+7 ratings for scripted cable shows in overall viewers.
Rizzoli and Isles (TNT) — 6.8 million
Major Crimes (TNT) — 6.7 million
The Last Ship (TNT) — 3.9 million
Suits (USA) — 3.4 million
Power (Starz) — 3.2 million
Preacher (AMC) — 3.1 million
Murder in the First (TNT) — 2.6 million
Mr. Robot (USA) — 2.5 million
Hell on Wheels (AMC) — 2.5 million
Ballers (HBO) — 2.5 million
Animal Kingdom (TNT) — 2.4 million
Ray Donovan (Showtime) — 2.3 million
Pretty Little Liars (ABC Family) — 2.2 million
Queen of the South (USA) — 2.2 million
Devious Maids (Lifetime) — 1.9 million
Tyrant (FX) — 1.6 million
Dark Matter (SyFy) — 1.3 million
UnReal (Lifetime) — 1.2 million
Killjoys (SyFy) — 1.1 million
Scream (MTV) — 832,000
Feed the Beast (AMC) — 829,000
Roadies (Showtime) — 527,000
Outcast (Cinemax) — 416,000
(Live+7 ratings are not yet available online HBO’s The Night Of or Vice Principals. Based on overnight ratings and their expected rise, it’s likely they are seen by around roughly 2.2 million viewers, and 1.5 million viewers, respectively.)
Overall viewers for Mr. Robot and Preacher have not stacked up against TNT’s offerings, but where it matters — in the 18-49 demo — Power and Preacher come out on top among scripted series, followed by Rizzoli and Isles and Mr. Robot. In other words, relative to other cable offerings in the demographic that matters the most, both Preacher and Mr. Robot have been performing well.
On the flip side, the summer’s best scripted offerings on cable are being trounced in the ratings by mostly reality and game shows on broadcast networks, where American’s Got Talent (14 million viewers) and The Bachelorette (8.6 million viewers) continue to dominate, along with Big Brother (7.5 million) and American Ninja Warrior (7.3 million). Those series, however, have little shelf life after their original airdates in terms of being licensed by streaming services or being sold internationally.