It never occurred to me that Better Call Saul could end after this season (in fact, after next week’s season finale) until Alan Sepinwall raised that possibility with the showrunner Peter Gould last week. Though it seems like a formality, the show has not yet been officially renewed. While Gould noted that Sony and AMC have been good to him, he also cautioned that we “should always be worried in television.”
But should we really be that worried about the fate of Better Call Saul? There are other factors to consider, of course, but the most important one is ratings, in that regard, Better Call Saul is a safe bet. Among scripted cable fare in May, Saul held the highest ratings after seven days of DVR viewership. The Live +7 ratings for the most recent episode available was 4.2 million viewers, although it only clocked in 1.6 million overnight viewers. That, however, is increasingly par for the course, especially among cable dramas, many of which have seen their ratings numbers triple after seven days of DVR viewership (The Americans also consistently quadruples its rating in Live+7 ratings). The 4.2 million viewers, by the way, is more than Breaking Bad ever received until the final eight episodes of the series.
Anything could happen, of course. Negotiations could fall apart over money or scheduling issues (Vince Gilligan, for instance, is busy developing a new series for HBO about cult leader Jim Jones) but cancellation is unlikely given the ratings and the awards Better Call Saul racks up every year (and let’s be honest, much of the writing and directing team on Saul have been together so long now that they could continue without Gilligan and not miss a beat with Gould at the helm solo).
Meanwhile, there’s good news and bad news for Fear the Walking Dead fans. The good news is, Fear the Walking Dead‘s season premiere continues to lead all scripted cable series this summer, so far, besting even Better Call Saul, and doing so with only 3 days of DVR viewership (Live+7 ratings are not yet out for Fear the Walking Dead). The season premiere was seen by 4.6 million viewers after 3 days. There’s more bad news than good, however, because the second episode of the season, which aired right after the season premiere, lost half a million viewers relative to the first. Moreover, year over year, Fear the Walking Dead lost 55 percent of its 18-49 audience compared to the second season premiere. So yes, Fear the Walking Dead is still putting up impressive numbers compared to everything else on cable, but compared to The Walking Dead or even past seasons of Fear the Walking Dead, the show continues to falter.
It’s been renewed for a fourth season already, however, and next season, the series has already installed two new showrunners, so hopefully its ratings erosion will cease.
How does the rest of the current slate of scripted cable programming stack up? Here’s a look, using the most recent Live+7 ratings. As you can see, AMC is dominating, owning four of the top six slots, even when The Walking Dead is not on the air.
1. Fear the Walking Dead (AMC) — 4.6 million (after 3 days)
2. Better Call Saul (AMC) — 4.2 million
3. Good Witch (Hallmark) — 2.9 million
4. Into the Badlands (AMC) — 2.7 million
5. Fargo (FX) — 2.6 million
6. The Son (AMC) — 2.1 million
7. Genius (National Geographic) — 2 million
8. The Americans (FX) — 1.9 million
9. Pretty Little Liars (Freeform) — 1.8 million
10. Silicon Valley (HBO) — 1.5 million
11. American Gods (Starz)– 1.4 million
12. Doctor Who (BBC America) — 1.3 million
13. The White Princess (Starz) — 1.29 million
14. Veep (HBO) — 1.25 million
15. Archer (FX) — 847,000
16. Brockmire (IFC) — 538,000
Other notes about scripted cable ratings: The Live+7 numbers aren’t in for The Leftovers finale, but it should see an uptick from the 1.05 million viewers who watched the series finale live. Meanwhile, Last Week Tonight receives about 1.2 million live viewers, and while it is not a show that does well on DVR, it is a show that’s likely seen widely on HBO’s streaming app and on Youtube the next morning. Meanwhile, Twin Peaks didn’t even rate on the Live+7 ratings after the premiere drew a mere 500,000 overnight viewers. However, it did very well with re-airs on Showtime, as well as On Demand viewing. Showtime is very happy with its performance.