TV Statistics in the Time of Pandemics

TV Statistics in the Time of Pandemics

Every year around this time I start to make sense of the statistics and get a feel for if things are getting better or not. Last October, I determined that the growth of representation had a downward trend through 2019 and I had begun to wonder if we were going to see a reversal.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic happened, and all my nice stats were thrown out the window.

The Good

The 2019-2020 US TV season had a lot of incredibly strong shows that lead with queer characters. From ABC’s Stumptown and The CW’s Batwoman to NBC’s Tommy, we’ve had a record high of queer-led series. Every single major network in the US has at least one TV show where a regular character is queer. If you look at Freeform and The CW, every single show on-air has at least one queer character who is a regular.

On top of that, the quality of these shows are improving. When I first looked at how various networks were doing, to try and understand if The CW really was as impressive as it seemed (spoilers? it is), 2018 was surprisingly positive. This has carried through to 2020. On average, major US networks have improved show-scores by 28%. For on-air shows, they’ve improved an average of 37% and they’ve increased in all levels nearly across the board.

NBCABCCBSFOXThe CWTotal
Avg. Score28%18%17%40%38%28%
Avg. Score (onair)32%44%22%50%36%37%
Characters25%29%26%20%72%35%
Dead Characters-3%35%8%25%43%22%
Shows22%14%18%11%33%20%
Shows (onair)45%-7%33%-38%42%15%

Note: NBC went down with death by one character, whom we determined was mis-counted.

Outliers, both ABC and FOX now have fewer shows on air than they did in 2018, and this number does not include the shows that were canceled this year (currently 42 overall, and 12 for network US TV).

The Bad

A record number of shows with queer rep are on the bubble. And worse? Most US network shows had to stop filming mid-March, leaving their seasons in questionable states. One Day at a Time on PopTV had to stop filming before a live-audience for their final two episodes of the month, and this week’s episode is their mid-season finale with no set date for when they might pick up.

While All Rise on CBS is filming a special pandemic episode, and How to Get Away With Murder had completed filming before the shutdowns occurred, not every show is so lucky. It’s known that Batwoman won’t be able to finish their first season as planned.

The Unknown

Sadly, I can’t offer any predictions. I’ve been researching and studying network TV for years, and up until 2020 I felt like I was getting a good bead on how the system works.

No one knows anymore.

Normally when a show is waiting for their season pickup, people have a vague idea of which way the river will flow. When we see people released from contracts, it’s because there’s doubt for a pick-up. No one knows what’s going to happen, when we might get people in studios, when we might get a new season.

I can’t even offer you a feel-good except this.

The people who are making these shows aren’t going anywhere else, so when their series start up again, the odds are they’ll be able to return.

About Mika A. Epstein

Mika has been deep in fandom since she could say 'Trekkie.' With decades experience in running fansites, developing software, and organizing communities, she's taken on the challenge of delving into the recesses of television for queers long forgotten. Making this site with Tracy is nothing short of serendipity. Mika lives with her wife and their cats in Southern California. Of course she has a hybrid, but she'd rather ride her bicycle.
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