's Network Power Rankings, Mid-February 2013: AMC Lurches Ahead

By Cory Barker

Feb 21, 2013

Welcome to the second edition of the most important power rankings on the internet! For those of you who missed the inaugural edition (and really, shame on you), here’s how they work: Using a tremendously complex and advanced methodology including ratings (Nielsen overnights, DVR numbers), business proceedings (pilot orders, scheduling moves, personnel decisions), buzz (social media, “viral” moments, various other bouts of goodwill), and quality (good shows, episodes), I evaluate the performance of the most noteworthy networks—for better or for worse—of the previous two weeks.

In the last go-round, CBS and Showtime took the top two spots. The rankings look a little different this time. Here we go.

1. AMC (previous: N/A)

Common logic is that one show can’t sustain a network. I still believe that’s true, but The Walking Dead is testing my belief. The show returned for the second half of its much-improved third season to even higher ratings than before: 12.3 million viewers. And that was against the Grammys, one of the more popular TV events of the year. Ratings for the show's second episode back did decline a bit, but not substantially. At this point, The Walking Dead is not just an unbelievably successful show on basic cable; it’s an unbelievably successful show period. The show’s influence spreads across Twitter and Facebook, where the mid-season premiere was the most social episode of the week in which it aired, and GetGlue, where it quadrupled the activity of the next-closest scripted cable show (Pretty Little Liars) and nearly doubled the activity of the top broadcast show (The Vampire Diaries). As a result, it’s tough to deny AMC the tough spot this time. Outside of zombies, the network has actually made some nice—or at least interesting—moves over the past few weeks as well, bringing Peter Sarsgaard and Elias Koteas aboard for the third season of The Killing and moving forward with pilots for both a period piece from Nikita creator Craig Silverstein and a drama based on the popular novel The Terror. And as far as I can tell, no showrunner was unceremoniously fired in the last two weeks; progress!

But I have to be honest: The announcement of Celebrity Bowling almost made me pull AMC all the way off this list. I'm not sure if Celebrity Bowling is better or worse than the network's new Thursday-night unscripted programming block—featuring Comic Book Men alongside the taxidermists and side-show performers of Immortalized and Freakshow—but with Walking Dead's successes, I guess AMC can order all the dumb shows they want.

2. CBS (previous rank: 1)

Just a small dip for the Eyeball network (which, in the name of full disclosure, is a parent company of that also owns Showtime and part of The CW; there you go, everyone). If it weren’t for everyone’s love for zombies, it’d be tough to push CBS down at all. Last time, the net had the Super Bowl bump on its side (as if they needed it); this time, it’s the Grammys, which earned the title of last week's highest-rated telecast and straight-up dominated in the social buzz figures as well. According to the Trendrr TV/Mashable social TV ratings, the Grammys had about seven times more social media posts than the closest broadcast telecast last week—over 19 million posts! That’s something. Quality-wise, the Grammys are whatevs. It’s not CBS’s fault that Chris Brown and Rihanna sat together, I guess.

Elsewhere at the network, it’s business as usual, and that business is domination. A staggering 17 of the top 20 shows in total viewers came from CBS last week. I’ll throw some love toward Person of Interest since its fans got on me last time in the comments; the show is doing very, very well this year. Ratings are good and viewers seem to dig it. Despite being flush with sizable hits all over the schedule, CBS isn’t playing around this pilot season; Deadline reports that the network has ordered 53 percent more scripts to pilot than it did last year, which is wild when you consider that the only shows really in danger of being canceled are CSI: NY, Vegas, and one show out the Good Wife/Mentalist pairing. However, two random signs of cracks: the low premiere ratings for the new season of Survivor and the quick cancellation of The Job. But it’s okay, you didn’t even know The Job existed. CBS likes it that way.

3. Fox (previous rank: 3)

Steady is as steady goes. American Idol continues to deliver solid ratings for Fox—though it at least feelslike people care less about the show these days. Despite a dip in ratings last week, The Following has steady ratings . The show isn’t totally my bag, but it gives Fox a hour-long drama to build around, considering it doesn't have much else. The net also has a number of shows in the top 25 DVR ratings, including New Girl (which has stablized in the ratings now), Bones, The Mindy Project, and the aforementioned The Following. Even better news is that Mindy is slowly but surely finding itself in 2013. The plot and characters have been parsed down and both the writing and Mindy Kaling’s performance are shining through with less clutter. I’ve always guessed that Fox would keep the freshman comedy around because they want to be in business with Kaling, but at least now it looks like that won’t be a totally worthless decision. And despite some waning hype, both Glee and Idol do gangbusters on social media (as do Family Guy and The Simpsons, somewhat surprisingly).

Fox is also killing it in the pilot casting department. Even though many of these projects won’t see the light of day, it’s impressive that the network has wrangled the likes of Andre Braugher, Emma Roberts, Billy Campbell, Felicity Huffman, Geoff Stults, Catherine O’Hara, and Michael Pena over the last two weeks. That’s a pretty amazing group of actors.

4. HBO (previous rank: 6)

While HBO doesn’t have enough shows on the air right now to focus on ratings (and like HBO totally cares about ratings anyway), it’s important to note that the Beyonce's Life Is But a Dream hit a “decade-high” rating for the first airing of a doc on the network. That’s pretty cool. Also cool: Girls and Game Change winning more awards at the WGAs not too long ago.

On the development side, HBO has signed an overall deal with Game of Thrones mastermind George R. R. Martin and ordered Damon Lindelof’s first post-Lost show to pilot.

But the real reason HBO gets this high slot has to do with the second seasons of Girls and Enlightened, both of which have been tremendous. Enlightened has probably been called underrated so much that it isn’t really so anymore, but you should absolutely watch it. What a marvelous little series that is.

5. FX (previous rank: 4)

FX is going to be a consistent fixture in the power rankings because its shows are so good. Justified, The Americans, and Archer are all enjoying rock-solid starts to their respective seasons. And despite a big dip in ratings for The Americans' second episode, the show saw a substantial 58 percent increase for that episode once DVR viewings were factored in. Finally, the network ordered the much-anticipated pilot The Bridge to series. That one is from Homeland scribe Meredith Stiehm and just seems destined to do big things for the network.

6. ABC (previous rank: 7)

There’s good and bad news here. Let’s do the bad first: Moving Happy Endings to Fridays is a killer. I was (probably naively) confident that network president Paul Lee would find a place for the show moving forward, but this is not a good sign for the comedy’s future. Is there a Twitter campaign I should know about? I’m still trying to figure out if the terrible ratings for Zero Hour are a good thing or a bad thing. The show IS terrible, but enjoyably so, and that timeslot is in the running for the most poisonous on all of television right now. Also bad: this season of Revenge. If you can explain to me what’s going on that show in less than 150 words, I’ll follow you on Twitter in an instant.

Oh right, the good news. It’s typical ABC good news: The few are carrying the many. Modern Family, Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, Once Upon a Time, and The Middle are all helping the Alphabet network, in ratings, in DVR numbers, and in social media buzz. Scandal has moved into its second arc of the season and it’s unclear whether it can touch the first, but I’m pretty psyched to see the writers try to make it happen. Modern Family’s Valentine’s Day episode was one of the better efforts the show has produced in the last two years.

7. ABC Family (previous rank: N/A)

This next stretch of the power rankings features some love for networks that didn’t make into the dance last time. Many of the cable networks are going to be somewhat interchangeable without big premieres (like AMC and The Walking Dead). Still though, let’s not undercut ABC Family. At the moment, the network is running with three shows that lots of people (and different people) enjoy in Bunheads, Pretty Little Liars, and Switched at Birth. While I personally prefer the first and third in that series, Liars is doing very well ratings-wise and on various social networks. Despite The CW’s mini-resurgence in quality this season (well, can you be resurgent if you mostly only sucked before?), ABC Family is still out-WB’ing The CW.

8. History (previous rank: N/A)

Pawn Stars, y’all. Pawn Stars. The show’s ratings are still going very, very strong, and you know what? It’s still pretty entertaining, too. Go ahead and take away my critical credibility, but it’s more than fabricated pawning over at History. The network is also making bank on the immortal Swamp People and also doing well with something called Big Rig Bounty Hunters (which, no offense to any BRBH fans out there, sounds made up). It’s sometimes hard for me to remember which of these blue-collar/lower class exploitation shows is on which network, but at the moment, History seems to be doing the best with their offerings in that apparently never-exhausted genre.

9. SyFy (previous rank: N/A)

I’m way behind on both Being Human and Continuum (and in the latter show’s case, “way behind” means that I've never seen an episode), but the ratings aren’t bad on a crowded Monday night. Being Human does really well on GetGlue, which means a little somethin’ somethin’. Like USA Network with WWE Monday Night Raw, Syfy gets a lot of ratings and social media buzz out of WWE Friday Night Smackdown, and the show has also been pretty good in recent weeks as well. Although I’ll admit that SyFy's inclusion in the power rankings is mostly so I can talk about how much I enjoy Face Off, a show that does solid ratings for the network on Tuesdays, and Total Blackout. I’m a sucker for reality competition programs where people actually display real skills, and Face Off is one of the best of those. I’m also sucker for Urkel and people terrifyingly grabbing turtles in the dark, so there's that. Also: expect Syfy to sky-rocket up the rankings once Robot Combat League debuts next week. Robots! Combatting! It’s going to be like Battlebots, only much better.

10. Showtime (previous rank: 2)

Did Showtime (which, like, is part of the CBS conglomerate) stay in the rankings solely because they finally convinced Kyle Chandler to return to television in the upcoming and random and suddenly timely Pope-centric pilot Vatican? Yes, yes they did. COACH POPE (I know he’s not playing the Pope; I don’t care).

11. Netflix (previous rank: N/A)

Okay, so this one is a bit of a cheat. Netflix isn’t a television network. However, you’ve heard enough about how much NBC sucks or how much I love The CW. So why not take a moment to discuss this whole House of Cards thing nearly three weeks after its debut? I’ve seen the first three episodes of the show (I'm trying to watch one per week) and generally enjoyed them. Kevin Spacey is pretty great and I’m happy to rekindle my infatuation with Kate Mara. The big question is whether or not the series is actually a success for Netflix. The jury is still out on that one (and it will continue to be, I presume, for a long time). Netflix claims that House of Cards is currently the most popular show on the service but won’t release any specific numbers. Meanwhile, although the show did well socially in the first few weeks, there are indications that social media users aren’t too interested in it at this point, only 20 days after release. So the experiment continues on.

Previously ranked networks currently absent from our top 11: USA, TBS, NBC, The CW

What do you think? What network would you currently put at the top of your own power rankings?

  • Comments (100)
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  • LucaMaltaglia Feb 22, 2013

    I really advise you to catch up with Continuum :)

  • CoryBarker1 Staff Feb 22, 2013

    Oh, I want to! Just don't have the time.

  • DavidJackson8 Feb 22, 2013

    I like both AMC and The Walking Dead, but I really don't think one show can make a network #1 (especially considering it previously couldn't crack the top 11 without it). From the little that I know, I'd still rank CBS one. I kinda feel like maybe you dropped it and gave AMC the top spot just so the people who complained about CBS owning this site can quiet down a bit, hehe. Also, again, I'd rank FX a little higher. Good list though.

  • CoryBarker1 Staff Feb 22, 2013

    It's hard to deny the impact of The Walking Dead. It's other-worldly.

  • MelodyParis Feb 21, 2013

    Hey, I know the CW has problems, I mean look at the ratings for the first episode of Cult, but I have to give them props and would put them in my power rankings because Mark made a very smart choice in giving early renewals to Supernatural, Arrow and The Vampire Diaries. Very, very smart move indeed.

  • CoryBarker1 Staff Feb 22, 2013

    I agree with that. If it were up to me, Cult would run 100 episodes and The CW would be at the top of every single list of everything.

  • Grumpyclown Feb 21, 2013

    is anyone surprised how badly NBC is doing? i just read elsewhere that univision has better ratings. i am not in america, but my understanding is that univision is mainly a spanish language channel.
    i would like to see the comparisons, ratings wise, between NBC, USA and FX

  • CoryBarker1 Staff Feb 22, 2013

    A number of USA shows have topped NBC shows in the ratings in the past. I'm not surprised at all. NBC's fall success was a mirage inflated by football and The Voice.

  • Silver_Sword_14 Feb 21, 2013

    CBS might cancel The Mentalist??? Ugh, this network needs to be stopped. It pisses me off the only way they can put on new shows is to get rid of the long-running ones that are still creatively thriving.

    I hope this doesn't have something to do with CBS ordering a new Bruno Heller pilot...

  • CoryBarker1 Staff Feb 22, 2013

    I've read that a few different places. It would surprise me, but I'm guessing that if it comes down to The Mentalist and The Good Wife, they might keep TGW for the awards recognition.

  • Silver_Sword_14 Feb 22, 2013

    Ridiculous. Even on its new night, The Mentalist is still pulling in strong ratings. CSI is in season 13; when will they put that tired animal to sleep?

    Also, The Mentalist has been working on the Red John storyline since the very beginning. CBS better not cancel it without giving us a proper conclusion.

  • CoryBarker1 Staff Feb 22, 2013

    I think CSI: NY is a goner for sure. It's unclear to me why they'd nix The Mentalist over CSI: proper, but it might be a money thing.

  • Silver_Sword_14 Feb 22, 2013

    Yeah, you're probably right. The Mentalist should be safe for now. Thanks for comforting me, Cory. lol

  • JT_Kirk Feb 21, 2013

    Woo, goofball pestering pays off! What other channels does CBS own? Let's disclose them all! Any crappy digital broadcast subchannels the way NBC and ABC have?

    Celebrity Bowling sounds awesome, but I didn't realize it was AMC, I thought it was network, that's too bad then as it's going to flounder on AMC's measly non-Walking Dead or -Mad Men ratings. Bowling is already a stupid, goofy game, so there's room for entertainment there, and then the game moves along and requires skill so it actually could be fun. All that said, AMC top network because of 1 show?

    ABC has no good news so long as they're ruining Happy Endings. Bah humfuck to them.

    ABC Family makes some sense, they seem to stay on-message well and bring up shows to nurture at every pilot season.

    Oh, but then there's History, the channel that has soiled itself horribly and now staggers around, yelling in people's faces over nothing.

    Siffy on this list? Really? They've got no science fiction programming at all now, almost no original programming worth watching, and an embarrassing array of reruns to pad its daily miserable life.

  • CoryBarker1 Staff Feb 22, 2013

    CBS actually owns me, too.

  • Notusedname Feb 21, 2013

    If we take a look at original series and the amount of series I think USA and Syfy would be pretty high on my list. Even though there are many more series on CBS i watch.

  • mrjimmyjames Feb 21, 2013

    FX should probably be at least a bit higher on the list. The Americans has been great so far and everyone loves Justified (except me) and Archer.

  • mrjimmyjames Feb 21, 2013

    I have a feeling this is just the beginning for Netflix...

  • mrjimmyjames Feb 21, 2013

    Perhaps AMC's taxidermists should go ahead and stuff NBC. AMC, we're number one in taxidermy!

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