TV spinoffs are obviously nothing new, but after all these years, it’s still remarkably rare to come across a follow-up series that even comes close to approaching the quality of its predecessor, much less matching and/or surpassing it. After three shock-filled seasons, AMC’s Better Call Saul has absolutely proven itself one of those rarities, and while it goes against my better instincts to say this, all parties involved should start mentally developing more Breaking Bad spinoff ideas for the future. But it’s also the show’s surprisingly impressive ratings, as opposed to just rabid fandom, that are guiding this stance.
Throughout Season 3, Better Call Saul admittedly hasn’t been stomping every other series around it, nor has it been achieving the numbers that past seasons have, at least when one is accounting for people watching on Monday nights. But when one steps back to account for Live+7 delayed viewing on DVR and whatnot, Better Call Saul is revealed to consistently be the scripted cable series averaging the best percentages for ratings and viewership in post-Same Day airings. And in this current television era, where audiences can choose to watch their favorite shows however and whenever they want, those kinds of stats are undoubtedly vital to AMC execs thinking about where to take the next era of programming.
For instance, Better Caul Saul‘s ninth episode, “Fall,” was watched live by 1.47 million people (right above its series low for total viewers), with a 0.5 rating. Definitely not something to call home about. But after accounting for the next seven days, Saul‘s viewership increased by 2.76 million, bringing the total to 4.23 million people, for an increase of 188%. Similarly, the key 18-49 demographic raised up from 0.5 to 1.6, for a 220% increase. Compared to how many scripted series are shedding viewers, Better Call Saul is keeping things pretty consistent from season to season, both in live viewership and in delayed numbers, and cable networks tend to reward consistency.
Interestingly enough, AMC offers up its own comparison-friendly microcosm here, since it’s the home of both Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead‘s extended TV universes. Vince Gilligan’s initial masterpiece obviously didn’t reach the kind of ratings heights that The Walking Dead has, and the zombified offshoot Fear the Walking Dead came out the gate with numbers that squashed Bob Odenkirk’s time as Jimmy McGill, but the horror drama has seen much bigger viewership dips from season to season.
And what’s more, the Live+7 results for Fear the Walking Dead‘s “TEOTWAWKI,” which aired on the same night as Saul‘s “Fall,” only hit a decimal point higher with its 1.7 demo rating. And it had fewer total viewers, with 4.07 million, as compared to the 4.23 million that watched the immediate aftermath of Kim’s horrifying car accident. And considering Better Call Saul‘s finale landed 1.81 million viewers for its live airing, the drama could very well bypass Fear after the final totals are tallied.
And so, for all that some fans are clamoring for more TV shows set within the Walking Dead‘s post-apocalyptic landscape, I’d argue that Breaking Bad, and now Better Call Saul itself, provide far more interesting and variation-filled avenues to send audiences down during primetime. Even when compared to brand new projects that could potentially be the greatest TV show in the world — I’m obviously talking about Preacher here — I’m willing to play it safer by putting all my money on anything that Vince Gilligan thinks is a good idea. Because even if it doesn’t quite look like the audiences are there at first, they will come, and that should be the most important thing to networks.
Better Call Saul sadly won’t be back on AMC for Season 4 until some point in 2018.
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