TV by the Numbers

TV by the Numbers
Available in English
Owner Tribune Digital Ventures
Created by Robert Seidman
Bill Gorman
Launched September 2007[1]
Current status Active

TV by the Numbers is a website devoted to collecting and analyzing television ratings data in the United States. It is a part of Tribune Media Services's Screener television news/listings site (formerly known as Zap2it).


An Internet and statistical analyst, Seidman had previously worked for IBM and Charles Schwab, and published an online newsletter about the Internet and AOL before founding TV by the Numbers; Gorman had been an AOL executive until 1998, and had read Seidman's column.[2][3] Friends since the early 1990s when they met near Washington, D.C.,[1] both were fond of television, as Gorman loved numbers and Seidman enjoyed statistics relating to it; the subject of television ratings data entered into one of their conversations. Gorman was dismayed at being unable to find other blogs devoted solely to television data, and after a Google search confirmed this, he and Seidman thought of the idea for a website devoted solely to the subject.[2][3][4] In Gorman's words, while there were sites devoted to disseminating certain subjects, "there was no site that did the same thing for the television industry. That is, compile the numbers in a way, and analyze them in a way, that consumers would understand".[4] Gorman elaborated in a 2010 interview:

We try to focus on publicly available facts. We're not breaking any news. We're not interviewing people to try to get the last bit of juicy gossip. We focus on publicly available, either ratings or financial information, and what that likely means for your favorite show. Whether they're coming back or going away.[4]

On June 30, 2009, in response to pressure from Nielsen Media Research, TV by the Numbers made large changes to their archives. The main ratings archives no longer go past 2 weeks prior to the date a reader accesses them.[5]

On November 10, 2010, TV by the Numbers announced that they were partnering with TV news website Zap2it. As a result, the website's URL changed to a subdomain of the domain. In addition, Zap2it features such as TV listings began to appear on the site.[6]

In response to The New York Times' decision in 2011 to start charging for access to online content, Gorman wrote an article stressing his website will remain free.[7]

In January 2012, Gorman and Seidman expressed interest in hiring writers to do the day-to-day writing on their site.[8] On February 12, 2012, they announced that Sara Bibel and Amanda Kondolojy would be joining the website.[9]

On April 3, 2014, Zap2It owner Tribune Digital Ventures purchased the site in full.[10][11]


According to one source, much of the information Gorman and Seidman had access to was not readily available to the media, and thus their efforts to analyze the data led to many "savvy readers" becoming interested in the workings of the ratings process.[12]

TV by the Numbers has been cited by such media outlets as CNN,[13] the Associated Press,[14] National Public Radio,[15] and former sister publication the Chicago Tribune.[16]

Harry's Law

TV by the Numbers received criticism from several facets of the television industry for their ratings analyses. Harry's Law star Kathy Bates publicly bashed the website's ideas about ratings and their symbol "The Cancellation Bear", in an interview for Entertainment Weekly. She stated, "Some of these people are just so stupid. I don’t even get it.... All [they] talk about is the blessed [18–49] demo this, demo that, and how the Cancellation Bear is gonna eat us and all that stuff. So we’ll see. We'll just see."[17][18] Harry's Law executive producer Bill D'Elia agreed with Bates, stating in subsequent Twitter messages, "WTF is TV by the numbers? Who cares what they think? #harryslaw is most viewed scripted drama on NBC and will return.[18][19]...First, tv by the numbers doesn't know anything. They are misinformed at best, ignorant at worst. Second, Kathy is right."[20]

After Harry's Law was cancelled in May 2012 and the site issued a passive-aggressive response to the news,[21] D'Elia again turned to Twitter to express his feelings on the website, stating, "TVBTN Negativism fuels belief to not watch shows.He influences viewers to not watch something,self fulfilling his prophecy.Just awful"[22][23]


The Cancellation Bear was mentioned in the Suburgatory season 2 episode "Body Talk".[24] Suburgatory showrunner Emily Kapnek subsequently did an interview with TV by the Numbers, explaining: "we just thought it would be really funny to have [the show's] school TV station governed by the same panic and hysteria that everyone feels watching their shows live and die and get discussed online so we thought it was just a really fun shout out because we’re all on your site all the time."[25]


TV by the Numbers has many features. Most focus on television ratings and the analysis of those ratings.

News categories

The site is well known for its coverage of Nielsen ratings. The following is a list of all of the types of ratings covered by the site:[1]

Broadcast Overnight
Daily preliminary rating reports for television series airing in prime time on the five major broadcast television networks ABC, CBS, The CW, Fox, and NBC; ratings in this category are published the day after a program airs.
Broadcast Final
Identical to overnight reports, with the exception of additional processing and revising and are updated on weekdays; ratings for Monday through Thursday's broadcasts are released the following Friday, with ratings for Friday are released on Monday and Sunday's ratings on Tuesdays. Final ratings from Saturday are omitted from this category.
Cable Final
Rating reports for cable networks, updated on weekdays; the site receives a list of the top 100 cable shows for the night in the 25–54 age demographic from Nielsen. The site processes the information to list programs by viewers within the 18–49 demographic.
Cable News
Ratings lists for programs broadcast on major cable news networks; updated on weekdays
Broadcast DVR
Lists of programs that have increased their viewership the most after seven days of DVR usage has been indicated; reports in this category are published the second Monday after a show has aired.
Weekly Broadcast Network
The average ratings for each of the major broadcast networks from the previous week (Monday through Sunday), published on Tuesdays
Weekly Cable Network
The average ratings for the top cable networks from the previous week; published on Tuesdays
Top-25 Broadcast Shows
The top-25 television programs on broadcast television, in terms of both total viewers and the 18–49 age demographic; published on Tuesdays
Top-25 Cable Shows
The top-25 programs on cable television with identical terms as the above; published on Tuesdays
Top-25 Syndicated Shows
The top-25 syndicated programs for both cable and broadcast networks; reports in this category have a one-week lag and are published on Tuesdays
Season-to-Date Broadcast Network
Comparisons of season-to-date ratings for the top-five broadcast networks; published on Tuesdays
Late Night
Ratings for programs broadcast after 11:30 p.m.; published on Thursdays
Evening News
Ratings for news programs broadcast in the evening; published on Thursdays
Morning News
Ratings for daytime news programs; published on Thursdays
Soap Opera
Ratings for soap operas broadcast in the daytime; published on Fridays


TV by the Numbers publishes news stories about schedule changes & ratings in television. These mostly consist of press releases.[1]

Renew/Cancel Index

The Renew/Cancel Index is a mathematical formula developed and used by Gorman to predict whether scripted series on the Big 5 broadcast networks would be renewed or cancelled that season.

During the 20072008 broadcast season, Gorman experimented with different ways to predict the fates of television series. They were all unsuccessful, until close to the end of the season when he developed the Renew/Cancel Index.[26]

The Renew/Cancel Index differs from Gorman's previous attempts in that it compares a series's average ratings to the average ratings for their own network, as opposed to a basic numerical hierarchy or comparing ratings to an overall average from all the networks. Gorman formulates the numbers by dividing a series's season-to-date ratings average by the season-to-date average of all the scripted series on that network (in the latter half of the season, Gorman uses only numbers since that January for season-to-date numbers, as that seems to help renewal predictions). The resulting number (rounded to the nearest hundredth) shows how a series's average relates to the network's average (which always comes out to 1.00).[26]

Using these numbers, Gorman then creates a grading scale. There are five levels on the scale: Certain to be Renewed, Likely to be Renewed, Toss-Up, Likely to be Cancelled, and Certain to be Cancelled. Series above 1.00 are almost always certain to be renewed, while series directly below that are likely to be renewed. The distinction between likely to be renewed and toss-up is at 0.90. Although this number was 0.92 in the original incarnation,[26] it has since changed.[27] The toss-up range continues down to 0.75, when the likely to be cancelled level starts.[27] There is no clear-cut line between the likely to be cancelled and certain to be cancelled levels, but Gorman has said that discerning between likely/certain cancellations is usually just trivial, and thus unimportant. Friday series, being on a lesser-viewed night, are graded differently. The toss-up range is between 0.55 and 0.70, with the numbers above it being likely/certain renewals and the numbers below it being likely/certain cancellations.[27]

Gorman does not always follow the index numbers religiously. For example, series that are within a season of reaching the 88-episode mark (the usual requirement for stripped syndication) usually get a large boost. In Fall 2011, Gorman stated that no series that fell into this category would be ranked less than a toss-up.[27] In Fall 2013, he even made the point of putting most series in this category as Certain to be Renewed despite the fact that many of them had not aired yet.[28][29][30][31][32] On the other hand, he does not take internal issues (contract disputes, scheduling arguments, etc.) into account.

The Renew/Cancel index is updated with a new article every Tuesday, from the beginning of the broadcast season in late September to the dates of the network upfront presentations in mid-May.

Bubble Watch

Seidman created the Bubble Watch which, similarly to the Renew/Cancel Index, aims to predict based upon ratings data which television series will be canceled and which will be renewed.[2] It uses a scale for sorting series that is similar to the Renew/Cancel Index, with On the Bubble being identical to Gorman's Toss-Up. Series above the bubble are in the Renewal Predicted category, while series below the bubble are in the Cancellation Predicted category.

Unlike the Renew/Cancel Index, the Bubble Watch does not use a mathematical formula. Additionally, it takes the possibilites of future ratings into account, something that Gorman strictly does not do with his index. In the end, though, the predictions of the Bubble Watch and the Renew/Cancel Index are usually very similar.

In October 2012, Seidman decided to stop publishing the Bubble Watch and replaced it with a simple list of the renewed and the cancelled series. He did not disclose his reasons, but said that it might or might not be temporary.[33] Many readers were disappointed and expressed their disappointment to Seidman. Seidman recognized that and reinstated the Bubble Watch on November 4, 2012. He stated that readership levels were basically the same for the Bubble Watch and its temporary replacement, but he wanted to "give the vocal minority who really cares about the table format the table format they asked for."[34]

The Bubble Watch is updated with a new article every Sunday, during the same period as the Renew/Cancel Index. Seidman wrote every update from the Bubble Watch's inception until May 2013. He has taken a break for an unspecified period of time, and longtime reader and occasional contributor Tom Shaw took his place in September 2013.[35]

The Bubble Watch did not return for the 2014-15 season, however Tom Shaw has contributed to Renew/Cancel Index posts and there was a one-week edition of the Bubble Watch in December.

Former features

Scripted Cable Series Renew/Cancel Status

Readers of the Renew/Cancel Index and the Bubble Watch inquired many times to Seidman and Gorman about why they did not predict the renewal chances of cable series. In response, Gorman and Seidman explained that the cable networks were not limited to the strict structure of the broadcast networks. This results in them being much more erratic in renewals and cancellations, and thus too hard to predict accurately.[36][37] Seidman decided to make a compromise of sorts and made a simple list of the renewed and the cancelled cable series. Called the Scripted Cable Renew/Cancel Status, its first post was published on November 7, 2012.[38]

The Scripted Cable Renew/Cancel Status explicitly did not predict the fates of television series. It only stated their status. If a series had been cancelled or had been renewed for an upcoming season, it would have been stated in the list. If a series's future beyond the season that was currently airing (or, if the series was on hiatus, the season that had just been previously airing) had not been officially declared by the network, there would have been a blank spot in that series's row on the list.[38] The Scripted Cable Renew/Cancel Status did not include unscripted series, children's and teens' series, late night series on the Adult Swim network, and series airing on minor broadcast networks (such as PBS). These exclusions were necessary to keep the list short.[38]

The Scripted Cable Renew/Cancel Status was published every Saturday, a total of 12 times. On March 30, 2013, Seidman announced he would stop publishing the posts, citing low readership as the reason for the discontinuation.[39]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 "About". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved 2011-03-27.
  2. 1 2 3 Roe, Dale (2011-02-18). "Website has the odds on shows' survival". Austin American-Statesman. Retrieved 2011-03-27.
  3. 1 2 "TV by the Numbers". Social Science Research Council. Archived from the original on May 2, 2011. Retrieved 2011-03-27.
  4. 1 2 3 Saulsbury, Sean (2010-10-01). "Bill Gorman:". Retrieved 2011-03-27.
  5. Seidman, Robert (June 30, 2009). "Site changes (inspired by Nielsen)". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved February 10, 2013.
  6. Seidman, Robert (November 10, 2010). "TVbytheNumbers Partners with Zap2it". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved February 10, 2013.
  7. Gorman, Bill (2011-03-17). "Unlike The New York Times, TV by the Numbers Will Not Be Putting Up A Pay Wall". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved 2011-03-27.
  8. Seidman, Robert (January 9, 2012). "Help Wanted!". TV by the Numbers. Zap2it. Retrieved July 27, 2013.
  9. Seidman, Robert (February 12, 2013). "Please Welcome Amanda & Sara!". TV by the Numbers. Zap2it. Retrieved July 27, 2013.
  10. Seidman, Robert (April 3, 2014). "Thank You, Loyal Readers: Tribune Acquires TV By The Numbers". TV by the Numbers. Zap2it. Retrieved April 4, 2014.
  11. Spangler, Tom (April 3, 2014). "Tribune Acquires TV by the Numbers, Relaunches Zap2it Entertainment Site". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved April 4, 2014.
  12. Hinman, Michael (2010-10-02). "SciFriday: Don't Panic Over Ratings". Airlock Alpha. Retrieved 2011-03-27.
  13. Respers France, Lisa (2010-11-08). "Will Conan O'Brien live up to the 'Conan' hype?". CNN. Retrieved 2011-10-04.
  14. Bauder, David (2011-10-04). "'Playboy Club' is TV season's first cancellation". Associated Press. Retrieved 2011-10-04.
  15. Ulaby, Neda (2010-11-04). "Daylight Saving Time Seems To Affect TV Ratings". Morning Edition. National Public Radio. Retrieved 2011-10-04.
  16. Johnson, Steve (2011-03-01). "'Code' on the ropes". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2011-10-04.
  17. Bierly, Mandi (March 9, 2013). "Kathy Bates talks 'Harry's Law' return: 'I wish the naysayers would just shut the F up'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved November 10, 2013.
  18. 1 2 Gorman, Bill (March 12, 2012). "'Harry's Law' Star & Producer Don't Like The Way The TV Business Works, Nor Do They Like Being Reminded Of It". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved February 10, 2013.
  19. D'Elia, Bill (March 10, 2012). "Tweet". Twitter. Retrieved November 10, 2013.
  20. D'Elia, Bill (March 11, 2012). "Tweet". Twitter. Retrieved November 10, 2013.
  21. Gorman, Bill (May 11, 2012). "The Cancellation Bear Wishes Kathy Bates Well, As 'Harry's Law' Is Canceled". TV by the Numbers. Zap2it. Retrieved November 9, 2013.
  22. D'Elia, Bill (May 13, 2012). "Tweet". Twitter. Retrieved November 9, 2013.
  23. Gorman, Bill (May 14, 2012). "TV By The Numbers Is More Powerful Than You Can Possibly Imagine...". TV by the Numbers. Zap2it. Retrieved November 9, 2013.
  24. Gorman, Bill (February 7, 2013). "'Suburgatory' Gives Our Cancellation Bear A Primetime Shout Out". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved February 10, 2013.
  25. Bibel, Sara (January 17, 2014). "'Suburgatory' Showrunner Reveals The Story Behind The Show's Cancellation Bear Shout-Out". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved March 13, 2014.
  26. 1 2 3 Gorman, Bill (August 27, 2008). "The Renew/Cancel Index, Our Predictor Of Show Futures". TV by the Numbers. Zap2it. Retrieved July 16, 2013.
  27. 1 2 3 4 Gorman, Bill (September 11, 2011). "New & Improved! The Renew / Cancel Index Returns!". TV by the Numbers. Zap2it. Retrieved July 27, 2013.
  28. Gorman, Bill (September 24, 2013). "ABC: 'Once Upon A Time' & 'Revenge' Are Certain To Be Renewed". TV by the Numbers. Zap2it. Retrieved September 26, 2013.
  29. Gorman, Bill (September 24, 2013). "CBS: 'Person Of Interest' & '2 Broke Girls' Are Certain To Be Renewed". TV by the Numbers. Zap2it. Retrieved September 26, 2013.
  30. Gorman, Bill (September 22, 2013). "CW: 'Hart Of Dixie' Is Certain To Be Renewed". Retrieved September 26, 2013.
  31. Gorman, Bill (September 24, 2013). "Fox: 'New Girl' Is Certain To Be Renewed". TV by the Numbers. Zap2it. Retrieved September 26, 2013.
  32. Gorman, Bill (September 24, 2013). "NBC: 'Grimm' Is Certain To Be Renewed". TV by the Numbers. Zap2it. Retrieved September 26, 2013.
  33. Seidman, Robert (October 7, 2012). "Renew/Cancel: The Road So Far (Through October 7, 2012)". TV by the Numbers. Zap2it. Retrieved August 11, 2013.
  34. Seidman, Robert (November 4, 2012). "Renew/Cancel Recap: Bubble Watch is Back and Can't Possibly Be Wrong About 'Fringe' This Season! (Or Can It?)". TV by the Numbers. Zap2it. Retrieved August 11, 2013.
  35. Shaw, Tom (September 22, 2013). "Bubble Watch: Is 'The Mindy Project' Safe From Cancellation In The Short Term? + Bad 'Neighbors'". TV by the Numbers. Zap2it. Retrieved September 25, 2013.
  36. Seidman, Robert (August 11, 2011). "Question: Why Isn't There a Renew/Cancel Index for Summer Cable Shows?". TV by the Numbers. Zap2it. Retrieved August 16, 2013.
  37. Gorman, Bill (November 5, 2012). "Why Doesn't The Cancellation Bear Predict Cable Renewals & Cancellations?". TV by the Numbers. Zap2it. Retrieved August 16, 2013.
  38. 1 2 3 Seidman, Robert (November 7, 2013). "Scripted Cable Show Renew/Cancel Status List". TV by the Numbers. Zap2it. Retrieved August 16, 2013.
  39. Seidman, Robert (March 30, 2013). "The Scripted Cable Show Renew/Cancel Status List...Has Been Canceled". TV by the Numbers. Zap2it. Retrieved August 16, 2013.
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