's Network Power Rankings, Early March 2013: Who's On Top, Post-Sweeps?

Happy March, friends, and thanks for joining me for another edition of the most important power rankings on the internet,’s Network Power Rankings! Quick reminder for those of you who are just tuning in, the power rankings work as follows: Using a complicated 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 a smattering of networks (really any networks) over the previous two weeks.

We’re in post-sweeps mode. Last time around, AMC went from unranked to top of the mountain. Really, really popular zombie shows just have that kind of power. Can AMC hold on to that spot? Which networks are making their way onto the list first time? And will I stop writing in a way that suggests I’m auditioning to do voice-over work for a decades-old low-fi sci-fi serial? You’ll find answers to all those questions and more in this edition of the network power rankings.

1. History (previous rank: 8)

Last time, some folks were upset that a single show pushed AMC to the top of the rankings. Hopefully this one sits with you better. 2013 is a crazy time. History—yes, History—just debuted two new programs (The Bible and Vikings) that garnered 13 million and 6 million viewers, respectively, in their original airings. Those numbers will go up even more with additional airings and DVR figures. For a quick comparison, only three shows on broadcast topped The Bible’s 13 million viewers figure last week, and Vikings’ 2.5 in the 18-49 demo would put it in or near the top 25 among broadcast shows as well. If you didn’t know yet, the broadcast TV model and the cable TV model are going in different directions. I’m not too interested in The Bible, but Vikings is pretty solid. It’s very cool that A.) History can make shows like this and B.) People will watch them.

But it’s not just scripted fare that is helping History blow up. Pawn Stars, American Pickers, and Swamp People were all also among the most popular shows on cable over the past few weeks. Based on these figures, it’s clear that History is using its excess “reality” TV money to produce some good-looking scripted programming. That’s smart business, even when you’re airing a show called Swamp People.

2. AMC (previous rank: 1)

Not a big drop for AMC. The Walking Dead’s ratings are stable and still very high and the show continues to do well in places like GetGlue and on Facebook and Twitter. And more importantly, the last few episodes have been pretty damn good. It’s unfortunate that the show is dealing with more showrunner turnover, but maybe it won’t be so bad after all.

AMC is buzzing as well, thanks to a swag teaser for the new season of Mad Men (R.I.P., Fat Betty) and some solid casting news. Pushing Daisies' Lee Pace is returning to TV in a pilot from Breaking Bad EP Mark Johnson, while Jamie Bell is coming aboard the network's existing project from Nikita’s Craig Silverstein. For a while there, it seemed like AMC had no idea what they were doing. Maybe, just maybe, they’ve started to figure it out.

3. ABC (previous rank: 6)

It's been a nice couple of weeks for ABC. Despite a number of holes in the network's schedule, Once Upon a Time, Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, Modern Family, The Middle, Suburgatory, and The Bachelor make a nice group of shows. Revenge is in the tank, ratings-wise, but at least the last few episodes hit the mark creatively. And we can’t ignore the bump in viewership that comes with airing the Oscars, the red carpet pre-show, and all the other preview/review programming that come along with it. You might have hated Seth MacFarlane, but the telecast did well, particularly in the important demos, and made all kinds of noise on social media, to boot.

And, as usual, ABC is having one heck of a crazy pilot season, giving jobs to all kinds of appealing actors: Patrick Fugit and Naveen Andrews (both on Reckless), David Spade and Rachael Harris (both on Bad Management), Hannah Ware and James Cromwell (both on Betrayal), Samaire Armstrong (The Returned), and Seth Gabel (the unbelievable-sounding Gothica). It’s ABC, so who knows if any of these shows will be good or even make it to air, but we can always count on the network to do the weirdest, most entertaining stuff during pilot season. That matters here at the power rankings.

I’m still undecided about whether or not Zero Hour’s cancellation is good or bad. Thankfully we’ll probably get to learn about those clocks sometime this summer.

4. CBS (previous rank: 2)

The definition of steady. The ratings for Golden Boy weren’t great, which is unfortunate because the show has some promise. Chi McBride just cannot catch a break, even when he joins a CBS procedural. Elsewhere, though, news is better for the Eyeball network. CBS, thanks to the Super Bowl, the Grammy telecast, and tons of powerhouse shows, won February sweeps pretty easily (and for the first time since 1998).

There will be lots of people out there who are happy with the news that Marg Helgenberger is returning to the network; fewer will be jazzed by by Sam Neil joining a CBS pilot, but that’s still kind of cool. I just remembered that Alcatraz was a thing.

5. A&E (previous rank: N/A)

People really, really love Duck Dynasty. That is all.

6. FX (previous rank: 5)

As I’ve said before, great shows matter. FX has some really great shows on its airwaves right now. These shows, particularly Justified and The Americans, are doing well socially and it’s nice to know that both The Americans and Archer have been renewed for next season (I assume that with Justified it’s just a matter of tinkering with certain contracts and budgetary concerns; the show will be back for a fifth season without question). And I don’t know about you, but a time travel horror/drama from Kurt Sutter and John Shiban sounds like the one of the coolest projects in recent developmental history.

7. HBO (previous rank: 4)

This is mostly a spot for me to tell you how great Enlightened was in Season 2. Just a masterful season of television that almost anyone can enjoy, even if they think that they won’t. The ratings were not good (/understatement), but here’s hoping that the groundswell of online support means a little something to HBO. They always say quality matters first; this tests that.

But I don’t want to short-shift HBO in the buzz department. Those Game of Thrones trailers and posters are getting lots and lots of people jazzed for the end of this month, and you might be the kind of person to get excited about another teaser, the one for HBO’s Liberace biopic starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon. Soderbergh!

Also cool: A Louis C.K. special set for this April and a Ryan Murphy-directed movie starring Jim Parsons, Taylor Kitsch, Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, and Julia Roberts (hey, it will either be amazing or horrible—well, probably both).

8. FOX (previous rank: 3)

Those of you who thought FOX was ranked too highly in the first two editions of the power rankings, this is for you. The renewals of The Following, New Girl, The Mindy Project, and Raising Hope aren't the most surprising—Fox has very few scripted shows on its schedule, after all—but they're pretty good news. The Following isn’t for everyone and has a number of problems, but it’s a steady anchor for the network on Mondays. I’m guessing Fox will at least try to convince Kevin Bacon to do more episodes so that they can bring the show back earlier than January 2014. Bringing back Raising Hope means that Fox is either going to make another run at the four-comedy block, or—and more likely—put comedies on a couple of different nights come next season. Fox decided to air both New Girl (a.k.a. TV’s best comedy) and The Mindy Project (a.k.a. TV’s most quickly improving comedy) after American Idol come April, which is smart. I like that Fox has confidence in New Girl, but it was never going to dominate a night like Fox hoped. Giving it and The Mindy Project some additional eyes in the spring is a good move and will allow Fox to re-evaluate both series before the Upfronts in May.

The moderate surprise here? Still no Glee renewal. It’s certainly coming, but Fox is probably going to want to cut costs for a show that is doing well, but not burning up the world like it was during the 2010-2011 season.

On the negative side of things, Fox failed to win sweeps for the first time in years, which is part of the reason for the dip here. I touched on this last time, but buzz-wise, I feel like far fewer people care about American Idol right now. The ratings are fine, but it’s not the phenomenon it once was—or even what it was like two seasons ago. With The X Factor limping around in the fall as well, Fox might want to start at least thinking about a future without a schedule so dominated by singing competitions.

9. USA Network (previous rank: N/A)

Psych is back! And even better, the ratings for the Season 7 premiere were up over those for the Season 6 premiere. That’s impressive, especially after the extended break. Fans made sure that the show moved the needle socially as well. The season of White Collar  that just ended was a little divisve (or maybe I just didn’t care for it as much), but it performed pretty well. And as always, we cannot forget the ratings and social media successes of WWE’s Raw, which is doing especially well now that so many recognizable faces are participating in the road to Wrestlemania.

On the buzz front, the new extended preview of Jeff Eastin’s Graceland suggests that the network has another nice project on tap, one that steps outside the typical formula just enough to be intriguing. Can’t wait for that one this summer.

10. ABC Family (previous rank: 6)

ABC Fam falls a few spots, but that's mostly because other networks have had slightly better or buzzier things going on. Bunheads finally closed out its first (and perhaps only?) season, Switched at Birth did a really cool all-ASL episode this week, and Pretty Little Liars and The Lying Game are doing their crazy/entertaining things. Getting an Entertainment Weekly cover certainly doesn’t hurt your buzz-factor, though.

11. Univision (previous rank: N/A)

So far, I've been reserving this last spot for a more random or personal choice; might as well keep that going. I must give some props to Univision for topping NBC during February sweeps. It’s so easy to laugh at NBC’s plight (because, ha), but Univision’s successes are also important. Bravo!

There you have it, folks. Which network tops your list based on what they've been up to over the past two weeks?

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