Which Midseason-Replacement Shows Are Most Likely to Survive?

'The Following' and Nine Other Contenders Star in TVGuide.com's Most Watchlist-ed Shows Chart

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Last August, Ad Age kicked off an informal editorial partnership with TVGuide.com to present a snapshot and analysis of its Watchlist feature, an entertainment guide that lets users make a list of their favorite shows, actors, etc. Watchlist interests us because it's proven to have some predictive powers: In the fall of 2011, eight of the Top 10 most Watchlist-ed new shows were picked up for full seasons, and Watchlist repeated that success rate in the fall of 2012.

We see the Watchlist community, which just surpassed 1 million registered users, as a huge focus group of devoted TV viewers -- the most committed segment of TVGuide.com's massive audience. As Mickey O'Connor, editor-in-chief of TVGuide.com, puts it, using Watchlist is "a clear statement of their intent to watch, in the same way that a grocery shopping list is a statement of an intent to buy."

It's too early in the midseason-replacement cycle to know how many Watchlisted shows will attract sufficient audiences week after week to survive long-term, but we suspect that the Top 10 list, shown here, will once again prove to be predictive. (As usual, we'll revisit this list -- in March -- with a follow-up post to see how things pan out.)

Here, O'Connor offers Ad Age readers additional commentary on four of the most notable shows on the chart:

  • "The Following" on Fox (No. 1) "The clear winner in our Watchlist tally of midseason shows," says O'Connor, "is Fox's 'The Following,' with nearly twice the adds of the runner-up. Our users have been adding this show to their Watchlists since it was announced at Fox's upfronts in May. It's also the only bona fide ratings hit with 10.4 million viewers and a strong 3.1 in the adults 18-to-49 demographic tuning in to last week's premiere. Yes, everybody loves Kevin Bacon, who takes on his first TV series role here, but they also love Kevin Williamson, who brought 'Dawson's Creek,' the 'Scream' movies and 'The Vampire Diaries' to life. Kevins aside, there's a reason the show is called 'The Following,' and trust me, once you meet those titular characters (a serial killer's demented disciples), you realize that this is quite the compelling ensemble."

  • "Deception" on NBC (No. 2) "NBC has ABC's 'Revenge' to thank for the early successes of this similarly themed mystery show," says O'Connor. "After a post-'The Voice' premiere on Jan. 7 that netted 5.6 million viewers and beat 'Castle' and 'Hawaii Five-0' in the demo, the show's numbers have softened somewhat, in a trajectory similar to that of the second season of 'Revenge.' Are audiences fatigued by serialized mysteries?"

  • "1600 Penn" on NBC (No. 3) "Last time," says O'Connor, "we talked about NBC's success with early sampling of its fall lineup -- both on the air and online. At the midseason, '1600 Penn,' another show our users have embraced since May, has benefited from these strategies for sure, but also by premiering a month before most other shows in a plum post-'The Voice' timeslot way back on Dec. 17. Its January episodes, which moved it to Thursday, haven't fared as well, but 'The Voice' will be back in March."

  • "The Carrie Diaries" on The CW (No. 4) "This is a tough sell," says O'Connor. "The CW has remade a '90s cable show about sexually confident New York women -- for the kids! 'The Carrie Diaries,' based on Candace Bushnell's young-adult prequel to 'Sex and the City,' is a cute, if fraught, idea. Once looky-loo fans of the frank HBO drama check out its teeny-bopper offspring, will they then... check out? Maybe, but the CW has proved that it knows how to package a show for young women. Once they hear the show's soundtrack, made up of fun modern covers of '80s hits, they'll start spending their discretionary dough."

Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" media columnist for Advertising Age. Follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.
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