At the moment, it’s clear that NBC is in a spot with Law & Order: SVU that they haven’t been in quite some time: One where the ratings are going in the wrong direction.
Over the past few years, one of the major calling cards for the series has been its overall stability. Its managed to stay reasonably steady throughout a number of different cast and showrunner changes over time, and also continued to be at the epicenter of pop culture and network-TV discourse. We do think that the latter part of the statement is still true, as SVU is as relevant today as it was five or ten years ago.
What’s different now are the numbers. Last night’s installment ended up drawing a series-low 0.7 rating in the 18-49 demographic, which is probably one of the main reasons why there is starting to be some uncertainty around the show’s future among the core contingent of viewers out there. Yet, we do still contend that there is really nothing to worry about with the long-term future and that, beyond anything else, NBC likely did imagine that there would be a ratings drop of some sort.
There were, effectively, three different things working against last night’s new episode. First, you have the fact that it was airing opposite a Dallas Cowboys – NFL game, which never altogether great news. Next, you also have to remember that it was airing following a week off the air, and also doesn’t have all that great of a lead-in. All of this stuff matters. We don’t necessarily think that these things combined are the only reasons for the dropping ratings, but they do still matter.
Here’s what the live ratings don’t calculate: DVR viewership, internet streams, or the simple fact that SVU performs really well in repeats and in syndication. These are all important factors in determining the show’s future, and beyond all of that we seriously think that NBC wants it to get the record with a season 21. It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which this doesn’t happen, provided of course that Mariska Hargitay and the bulk of the cast wish to continue.
At this point, we are certainly curious to see how SVU fares in the new year, especially in the event it gets a stronger lead-in and also following the conclusion of Thursday Night Football. These should help its performance; if not, there could be reason to have a larger discussion.
No matter what happens, we should have a better sense of the status of an SVU season 21 by the time we get to the spring.
What do you think the chances are of a Law & Order: SVU season 21 renewal? Be sure to share right now in the attached comments. (Photo: NBC.)