On November 21, CBS announced that it would not be picking up its freshman series Pure Genius for the full season — the only one of the most-viewed network’s newbies to be effectively cancelled.
With an average viewership at the time of 5.62 million L+SD viewers for the four episodes that had aired, the Thursday night 10pm closer placed a middle-of-the-pack 42nd out of 88 broadcast shows (between ABC’s black-ish and NBC’s Blindspot). But among all CBS shows, it placed 22nd out of 25 (between 2 Broke Girls and Elementary) and was the lowest rated show on its Thursday night lineup — though it held onto 91% of its Life in Pieces lead-in.
It seemed like a wise move at the time as the next episode delivered a series low of 4.77 million viewers — 15% below its then-season average — and tying that low the following week.
But then an interesting thing happened: viewership for its next three episodes were the three highest since its 10/27 premiere. ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder had already ended its fall run and though its ratings were lower than that of Genius, Murder‘s hiatus likely helped contribute to the ratings growth for Genius as viewers went searching for a new show to watch.
Then another interesting thing happened: Pure Genius quietly emerged as a Top 25 L+7 DVR gainer in total viewers. With an average lift of 50% for those first four episodes, its L+7 viewership increased to 8.42 million. Since then, DVR lift has been consistent, though its cumulative viewership through 12/18 is a slightly-lower 8.02 million. Where this places Genius in the Nielsen rankings is hard to say at this point, but it could move up by upwards to 10 slots above other shows that come within the show’s L+SD and L+7 viewership range but don’t have that same lift.
Even with such a lift, Genius is still among the lowest rated shows on CBS’s entire lineup. And in comparison to its time slot predecessor, the quickly-cancelled Rush Hour, Genius is delivering in live viewership what Rush Hour did in L+7 viewership.
Then again, a fairer comparison might be Elementary, which preceded Rush Hour in the time period and was airing in it this time last year. In live viewership, Genius is essentially flat with Elementary during roughly the same time period (11/5/15-1/7/16). And factoring in DVR lift through 12/18, the difference is a surmountable 13% in favor of Elementary.
At the time the decision was made not to order that Back 9, only four episodes of Pure Genius had aired and only two weeks of DVR data were available. Since then, Genius has shown some signs of life, so CBS may have jumped the gun on making this decision. And while hindsight is always 20/20, they may want to exercise some foresight by considering a second season — especially since they co-own the show.
There are four more episodes remaining on Genius‘s initial order. And while the return of How to Get Away with Murder coincides with those final two episodes, CBS will have that much more information with which to make a decision on a second season and plenty of time to do it between now and May when they announce their 2017-2018 schedule.