How’d They Do? Evaluating The Ratings of Criminal Minds and Madam Secretary’s Final Seasons

Welcome to this edition of ‘How’d They Do?’. The final season ratings of two CBS shows which ended in the 2019-20 season are evaluated here. Note that this does not include cancelations, but rather shows that were announce to be ending ahead of time.

Credit for the ratings go to Programming Insider. Any missing numbers is a result of them not being reported. Some shows will have a column reflected their viewership in Canada, but numbers are only available for weeks where the show made the top 30. Averages in the Canada column are only visible when the vast majority of episodes have ratings reported.

Criminal Minds (2005-2020)
Criminal Minds proved itself to be a key player on CBS’s schedule over time. It was never a huge hit to the level of NCIS and CSI, but its stability at the turn of the 2010s decade was remarkable. This is not to mention how often it’s in syndication rotation, making backend money for CBS and Disney. It also had international appeal, with South Korea even creating their own version. CBS tried twice to replicate its success through spinoffs: Suspect Behavior in 2011 and Beyond Borders in 2016. Neither spinoffs were successes, and got canceled after no more than two short seasons.

For the most part, Criminal Minds’ short final season, which aired in the winter, had impressive year-to-year trends. Airing at 9pm for all but one of the first six episodes certainly couldn’t have hurt, but it’s not like the Undercover Boss lead-in was especially coveted.

It is fully possible, though, that Undercover Boss was stronger in Live ratings than the typical show, which may see a sizable Same Day viewing jump. This theory can be validated by looking at the year-to-year trends in the first chart: the Live + Same Day ratings for Criminal Minds had a better trend than the delayed viewing numbers. Also, while the median age of viewers grew, it was by less than a year, implying it gained a few younger viewers this season. Perhaps these people for the most part were in their 50s, given the stellar trends in not just A25-54, but also the gender breakdown of that age bracket.

The final two episodes, which aired alongside each other on one night, rose from the previous episode in all 16 demographics shown above, including hitting a high amongst seven-day viewership in Canada. The Live+7 bump in the A18-49 demo was rather modest, yet still a higher rating than most other episodes in this final season.

Criminal Minds’ final season added episodes for syndication and international viewing, had solid trends in every demographic, and likely did better than what any other shows that could’ve realistically aired in place of it. It also appeared to not be overly depending on lead-ins, looking much better in retention out of Undercover Boss than Survivor.

Grade: A

Madam Secretary (2014-2019)
Madam Secretary began its six-season run in the coveted Sunday at 8pm time slot, taking over for The Amazing Race. The A18-49 Live + Same Day results weren’t great, and simply got worse over time. Ratings were always well below average, and yet it kept making the cut for another season. Over time, it was given time slot downgrades, first moving to 9pm for Season 3, and then 10pm for Seasons 4 through 6.

Madam Secretary was down 25% in the A18-49 demographic for its final season, and the delayed viewing ratings trends were no better. All subdemos also had rough year-to-year trends as well. This is not out of the ordinary for most seasons of Madam Secretary.

The series finale’s ratings rose in every demographic, although modestly. Still, with no subdemos significantly below average, the finale shouldn’t be judged too harshly. It was well past the point where it would be able to post ratings much better than it. 

The ratings had a few scares throughout the season, mostly with the M18-34 demo. Hitting a 0.1 for its third episode could give the feeling that it would at some point hit the dreaded 0.0. Luckily, it didn’t go lower than that 0.1, although it did match it in two subsequent episodes and had a 36% year-to-year drop. Also, the ratings for episodes 3 through 6 signaled the results in the final four episodes could’ve been much worse. 

Grade: D

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