Another season of Teen Mom OG is coming to an end.
Once again, recent episodes have confirmed that the show's ratings are on a consistent downward trajectory.
In most cases, network execs love reality shows because of how cheap they are to produce.
But when a show has gone on for as long as TMOG, the situation becomes more complicated.
The OGs of the franchise have been on the payroll for over a decade now.
With each new season comes with new contracts.
That usually means a sizable raise for the stars.
For at least the past three seasons, this has been a losing bargain for the show's network and production company.
Both have continued shelling out more money.
The only problem, on their end, is that they're paying for a show that becomes less popular by the week.
As The Ashley's Reality Roundup reported this week, Teen Mom OG has been renewed by MTV for another season.
But fans should prepare for a once-unthinkable possibility.
It may be that the episodes contained in Season 9B (more on that strange nomenclature later) might be the show's last.
The show's decline in popularity has been precipitous.
And at this point, it's safe to assume the series survives only because of the dearth of available content brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The writer's strike of a dozen years ago sparked a renaissaunce of reality shows. COVID is keeping a few afloat.
Before we get into the current numbers, here's a bit of history to provide some perspective:
When it premiered back in December of 2009, Teen Mom OG (known simply as Teen Mom in those days) became an overnight sensation.
It is easy to understand why.
The series was bolstered by the popularity of its predecessor, 16 and Pregnant.
It received free publicity via hand-wringing from experts about the effect the show might have on America's teen pregnancy rate.
The premiere of Teen Mom pulled in 2.1 million viewers.
Strong word of mouth and unexpectedly high drama helped the series build on that popularity.
By the end of its first season, Teen Mom was attracting an audience of 3.6 million.
And it was just getting started.
The season finale of Teen Mom Season 2 drew in an astonishing 5.6 million viewers.
But to the chagrin of MTV, those days are long gone, and the audience for Season 9A was less than one-tenth that size.
Things started out somewhat promisingly, with viewership numbers approaching 600,000.
But the audience dwindled rapidly in the weeks that followed the season premiere and the March 23 episode brought in only 532,000 viewers.
The following week, that number had shrunk to 527,000, and the April 6 episode became the least-watched in series history with just 501,000 viewers.
Numbers for Tuesday's reunion special aren't in yet, but it's safe bet that they're even lower.
So a show that once attracted audiences in the millions now struggles to hit the half-million mark.
So why hasn't MTV given TMOG the boot?
Well, part of the answer lies in that 9A/9B designation.
Producers have worked out an ingenious loophole.
This will allow them to hold off on giving the moms raises by splitting seasons into two filming sessions.
While Season 10 would come with a pay increase for the cast, Season 9B carries no such stipulation.
Season 9B will be shot with a production budget about the size of its predecessor's.
The stars could be upset that they're not getting a raise for next season.
But Amber Portwood, Cheyenne Floyd, Maci Bookout, Catelynn Lowell, and Mackenzie McKee should probably be grateful that there's going to be another season.