The Fog of Renewal: The Known Unknowns
For most shows, the odds of renewal boil down to just two questions: “How close are the ratings to the network average?”, and if worse than average, “Do they have syndication money on the horizon?” For the true bubble candidates, however, there are a host of outside factors that the public simply has no concrete information on. Here are some of the questions I’m asking myself as we head into the home stretch:
How much of a ratings bump does The Voice provide? About a Boy and Growing Up Fisher continue to be NBC’s top rated comedies; then again, neither has aired in its regular timeslot without a new episode of The Voice as a lead-in. How much of that audience disappears if they move elsewhere? Revolution lost about half a demo point moving to Wednesdays; a similar drop for the comedies would leave About a Boy as an above-average comedy while Growing Up Fisher would end up right around Parks and Community - but without the syndication upside.
How expensive do veteran shows get? All shows get more expensive with age, and the most likely cause of “surprise” cancellations are veteran shows that have become so expensive that even the syndicated backend no longer keeps them competitive. This year’s candidates were obviously Two and a Half Men and Law & Order: SVU, and while Two and a Half Men squeaked by (albeit with chatter that it is likely for a shorter, probably final, season), SVU may not. There are already reports that NBC wants a cost reduction to keep it going. Last time around (with the original Law & Order), NBC called Wolf’s bluff and canceled the show, so it will be interesting to see how Wolf responds this time.
How cheap are those international co-productions? Both Dracula and Hannibal are likely cheaper than the average NBC drama; then again, they had better be if they want a renewal, as their ratings are downright middling compared to the rest of NBC’s Monday-Friday slate. The more important question is likely “How cheap are Dracula and Hannibal compared to the other co-productions NBC is being offered for next season?”
How much would Almost Human have fallen in Spring? Most Springs are rough on the ratings, and this year is no exception, with the majority of shows recording series lows over the last month. Almost Human missing those Spring declines (by not being on the air) means that the ratings it ended with are now literally higher than the rest of Fox’s live-action shows. How Fox models how Almost Human would likely be performing now is the key – drops similar to what The Following has seen would put it at around a mere 1.3, a rating superior to Fox’s comedies but by no means worth breaking the bank for. Then again, the bigger question at Fox is…
Can Fox put together a version of American Idol that is profitable at the current ratings? Assuming the show continues to struggle to hit a 2.0 next season, can Fox put together a judging panel for peanuts that their audience would actually want to watch? And even if it comes back, how many hours out of the schedule would it be for?
How much extra income does Nashville’s singles, tours, etc. bring in? To be clear, Nashville’s ratings are underwhelming, half a demo point under the next-worst ABC drama (Castle) that isn’t being dragged along to syndication (Revenge). Considering how everything that ABC tried in its death slots (Tue@10, Thu@8) this season performed, if those alternate revenue streams for Nashville amount to anything meaningful, that should be enough for a renewal, especially since they still have a supporter in…
What dirt does Paul Lee have on the Disney board? This week Paul Lee received a contract extension as head of ABC. As preposterous as I would have found this six months ago, after a brutal Spring, this isn’t too surprising – Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has gone from a spin-off that would not level off into something that’s competitive with CBS’ drama ratings, The Goldbers has gone from a comedy that’s a sharp step down from the Wednesday ABC ratings into something that’s competitive with NBC’s and Fox’s comedies, and Resurrection is a nice bonus (even if I’m not sure it makes it into 2015 alive).
For those playing along at home, NBC’s Greenblatt signed a new contract in September, CBS’ Tassler got a promotion/extension in February, and now ABC’s Lee received his extension this week. With The CW’s Pedowitz managing their decline about as well as can be expected, the first takeaway is I will continue to assume ulterior motives when the new guy on the hot seat (Fox’s Reilly) wants to change the conversation (by, say, altering his pilot process). The second takeaway is that, despite the continued declines across the industry, the network ownerships have essentially (and alarmingly) declared “We don’t think anyone else can do significantly better.”
How important is an ABC Studios show to ABC on Fridays? ABC’s Friday comedy block revival has always been a bit mysterious. The network could likely do similar (or better) ratings with cheaper unscripted shows; the assumption is that it was worth the gamble to ABC to try and hit on an in-house production succeeding there (Malibu Country last season and The Neighbors this season were both ABC productions). The problem? The only existing ABC productions (Trophy Wife and Mixology) are doing poorly even before the move to Friday. So do we assume that at least one ABC-produced comedy pilot gets picked up for Fridays, or else one of the existing shows gets another shot? Or do we wonder if the block continues at all, as…
Who has the leverage with Last Man Standing?
For shows with 66 episodes, we assume a renewal, as the network can squeeze the producer desperate to hit the preferred 88 episodes for syndication. At least, under normal circumstances – and Last Man Standing may be the exception. On one side, as mentioned above, ABC could do better in the hour with unscripted programming, especially if they have no good in-house candidate to pair with Last Man Standing. On the other side, Fox has no reason to produce the show at a deep loss, as they could find room for it on one of their networks (Fox, FX, FXX, etc.) So who is squeezing whom to make the renewal (on ABC) a guarantee?
This week’s notable events:
2 Broke Girls, in its new time slot leading off Monday nights, was essentially flat from its last airing, while Friends with Better Lives rated in-line with how The Crazy Ones has averaged this Spring. (For a summary of how brutal this Spring has been, I’ll just say this: In Fall, We Are Men’s second episode rating a 1.8 got it pulled and cancelled. In Spring, Friends with Better Lives’ second episode rating a 1.8 now puts into the pole position for “next CBS comedy renewed”.) How stable those numbers will be next week without a notable guest star remains to be seen.
The Crazy Ones ended its season with a double airing, with the second episode rating a mere 1.3. Despite the names involved in the show, a 1.3 is not likely to cut it.
Tom Shaw is a computer programmer from Milwaukee, WI. Bereft of Lost theories to argue about, he's spent too much time attempting to figure out the TV industry.
Save yourself from hibernating bears! Direct your criticisms to @tvtomshaw instead!
Note: only scripted shows that have aired at least one episode this season are in the table below.
|Back In The Game||ABC||Canceled|
|Once Upon a Time in Wonderland||ABC||Canceled|
|How I Met Your Mother||CBS||Final Season Finished|
|We Are Men||CBS||Canceled|
|Nikita||CW||Final Season Finished|
|American Dad||Fox||Moving to TBS|
|The Michael J. Fox Show||NBC||Canceled|
|Sean Saves The World||NBC||Canceled|
|Welcome To The Family||NBC||Canceled|
|The Neighbors||ABC||Cancellation Predicted|
|Super Fun Night||ABC||Cancellation Predicted|
|Trophy Wife||ABC||Cancellation Predicted|
|The Crazy Ones||CBS||Cancellation Predicted|
|The Mentalist||CBS||Cancellation Predicted|
|Beauty & The Beast||CW||Cancellation Predicted|
|The Carrie Diaries||CW||Cancellation Predicted|
|The Tomorrow People||CW||Cancellation Predicted|
|Almost Human||Fox||Cancellation Predicted|
|Surviving Jack||Fox||Cancellation Predicted|
|Growing Up Fisher||NBC||Cancellation Predicted|
|Friends with Better Lives||CBS||On The Bubble|
|Unforgettable||CBS||On The Bubble|
|The 100||CW||On The Bubble|
|Parenthood||NBC||On The Bubble|
|Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.||ABC||Renewal Predicted|
|The Goldbergs||ABC||Renewal Predicted|
|Grey's Anatomy||ABC||Renewal Predicted|
|Last Man Standing||ABC||Renewal Predicted|
|The Middle||ABC||Renewal Predicted|
|Modern Family||ABC||Renewal Predicted|
|Once Upon a Time||ABC||Renewal Predicted|
|Hart of Dixie||CW||Renewal Predicted|
|Family Guy||Fox||Renewal Predicted|
|About a Boy||NBC||Renewal Predicted|
|Law & Order: SVU||NBC||Renewal Predicted|
|The Big Bang Theory||CBS||Renewed|
|The Good Wife||CBS||Renewed|
|Mike & Molly||CBS||Renewed|
|Person of Interest||CBS||Renewed|
|Two and a Half Men||CBS||Renewed|
|2 Broke Girls||CBS||Renewed|
|The Vampire Diaries||CW||Renewed|
|The Mindy Project||Fox||Renewed|
|Parks and Recreation||NBC||Renewed|