Ranking Your Favorite Cable TV Shows Based On Their Nielsen Ratings

I like to do this every once in a while, because while we often hear about the great ratings of certain shows like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, we don’t hear as much about the ratings for other basic and premium cable shows, and even when we do, we don’t have anything else with which to compare it. The 1.07 rating of a show like the USA Network’s Suits, for instance, doesn’t sound like something to brag about, but when you also mention that NBC’s Matthew Perry sitcom, Go On, scores around a 1.0 without The Voice lead-in, it sounds more impressive.

Here’s a few of benchmarks before we get to the numbers. Last week’s top rated network program was American Idol, which scored a 3.6 in the 18-49 demo (all numbers are 18-49, because that’s all advertisers care about). In today’s environment, anything over a 2.0 is considered successful on the networks. Once Upon a Time, for instance, scored a 2.2 last week, and that show is successful enough to launch a spin-off. (More depressingly, Splash scored a 2.6, good for the 14th highest rated show of the week). Cable shows now regularly beat the networks in the ratings, but the minimum threshold for renewal on cable is still much lower. A 1.0 would be considered a very successful show. Anything below a .8 gets into iffy territory, while anything below a .5 gets into cancellation territory.

With that out of the way, here are the numbers (these are the averages ratings of the shows for the month of March).

1. The Walking Dead: 5.69 — Far and away, the most successful show on ALL of television, The Walking Dead would trounce even the top-rated network show.

2. Duck Dynasty: 3.67 — Duck Dynasty is the break-out hit of the year, besting Modern Family on most weeks.

3. Game of Thrones: 2.4 — No scripted program on Fox has gotten a 2.4 THIS ENTIRE YEAR.

4. The Vikings: 1.56 — Very strong ratings (and I’m starting to really get into this show), but we’ll see how it does without The Bible (2.8) as a lead-in this Sunday.

5. Tosh 1.0: 1.31 — That’s remarkable for a Comedy Central show. For comparison’s sake on that network, The Daily Show gets around a .6 on most nights, while Leno on NBC gets around a .9

6. Bates Motel: 1.26. Terrible show that’s gotten worse by the week, but it’s still doing very well.

7. The Game: 1.26 — I don’t know this show, but it’s a huge cable hit for BET.

8.Suits: 1.07 — Of the USA Network shows airing this winter, Suits was the highest rated.

9. The Client List: .96 — I just wanted to put the Jennifer Love Hewitte Lifetime show in perspective with the others on this list. #9! Yikes.

10. Cougar Town: .95 — A great number for TBS, which is why it got renewed for another season.

11. Archer: .92 — Up a whopping 38 percent over last year, Archer continues to grow, thanks in part to readers on this site.

12. Justified: .91 — Those are decent numbers, but I had kind of expected Justified to rank closer to Game of Thrones numbers, especially since another FX drama, Sons of Anarchy, does do GoT-like numbers. Unfortunately, this year’s season finale was also down from last years. Don’t worry, though: It’ll get the six seasons that Graham Yost has promised us.

13. Psych: .89 — It’s been on forever, and hell if the show still isn’t a solid performer for USA.

14. Shameless: .81. It’s trounced by Showtime’s biggest show, Dexter (1.4), but it’s still a solid rating for Showtime.

15. Workaholics: .81 — Again, another show that’s growing thanks to the Internet.

16. The Americans: .75 — A decent, but not great number. Good enough, thanks to the additional critical acclaim, to get a second-season renewal.

17. White Collar: .73 — This show has actually been drifting downward, of late.

18. Anger Management: .57 — That’s not great for FX, which probably wishes they had not taken the 90-episode option.

19. Southland: .47 — Now we’re getting into the shows on the cable bubble. Several of Southland’s stars have signed on to other pilots, which doesn’t bode well for the future of the best cop show on television right now.

20. House of Lies: .45 — Not a great number, but it’s better than Californiacation, which has been around forever.

21. Bunheads: .45 — Some are calling this the best show on television (it’s good, but I wouldn’t go that far). The rating, however, puts it firmly on the bubble for renewal.

22. Being Human: .49 — A very good rating for SyFy.

23. Girls: .38 — HBO is not keeping this show around for the ratings; they’re keeping it for the media buzz.

24. Legit: .37 — Dismal ratings, but it’s been picked up for a second season for the FX spin-off network, FXX.

25. Californiacation: .33 — Surely, this show can’t go on much longer.

26. Enlightened: .10 — You can see why HBO cancelled it, despite (inexplicable) critical acclaim.

I don’t have the exact 18-49 numbers on it, yet, but I should also note that the Doctor Who spring premiere scored over 2 million overall viewers, making it the second best ratings in the history of BBC America last Saturday.

(Ratings Source)