The broadcast networks were atypically kind to their new scripted series this season. But, paradoxically, that doesn’t necessarily mean the network TV business is suddenly on a healthy upswing.

As of this writing, fewer than half of the 44 new scripted shows on ABC, CBS, The CW, FOX and NBC have been canceled. Even ones that did go away more often got to air their full initial orders: Only three rookies (“Doubt,” “Time After Time” and “Powerless”) were yanked before playing out the string.

Here’s how the just-completed season stacks up to each year since we started tracking the annual failure rate in 2009-10:

Season New scripted shows Renewed Canceled Failure rate
2009-10 33 13 20 60.6%
2010-11 37 10 27 73.0%
2011-12 44 16 28 63.6%
2012-13 37 11 26 70.3%
2013-14 44 13 31 70.5%
2014-15 46 22 24 52.2%
2015-16 44 17 27 61.4%
2016-17* 44 19 20 45.5%
Totals 329 121 203 61.7%

*Still undetermined: “Downward Dog,” “Marlon,” “Midnight, Texas,” “Salvation,” “Still Star-Crossed”

This season’s failure rate is currently the lowest of any season we’ve tracked, Even if all five summer shows don’t make it, 2016-17 will still have the second-lowest rate of the past eight seasons.

On the other hand, the networks have still axed more shows than they renewed (with five summer series still to be determined). Several of those that were renewed have what could charitably be called marginal on-air ratings. Networks seem to be taking a devil-you-know approach to renewals in the past couple years: Sure, Show X’s numbers may not be great, but in the current TV environment, it’s far from a given a new show will do much better.

Consider: Of the 18 rookies renewed for next season, seven (“Great News,” “MacGyver,” “Riverdale,” “Superior Donuts,” “Taken,” “Timeless” and “Trial & Error”) had same-day adults 18-49 ratings below their network’s scripted average. Four more — “Designated Survivor,” “The Good Place,” “The Mick” and “Man with a Plan” — were less than a tenth of a point above their network average.

(All of those save “Trial & Error” and “Timeless” were produced by their networks’ sister studios, so the parent company keeps whatever money is to be made from streaming or syndication deals in-house.)

Here’s how each individual network fared (all ratings mentioned below are live + same-day unless noted).

ABC

New scripted shows Renewed Canceled TBD Failure rate Best/worst case
9 3 4 2 44.4% 44.4%/66.7%

 

Comedies “American Housewife” (1.4 in adults 18-49) and “Speechless” (1.6) seamlessly fit into the network’s Tuesday and Wednesday comedy blocks. “Designated Survivor” (1.3) was the best of a bad bunch of drama newbies and also overperformed in delayed viewing.

None of the network’s other in-season dramas (“Conviction,” “Notorious” and “Time After Time”) averaged better than 0.9. “Imaginary Mary” was ABC’s lowest-rated comedy.

CBS

New scripted shows Renewed Canceled TBD Failure rate Best/worst case
10 5 4 1 40% 40%/50%

 

The network will end up no worse than .500 this season, renewing the aforementioned “MacGyver,” “Man with a Plan” and “Superior Donuts” along with “Kevin Can Wait,” the top-rated new comedy (by a few hundredths of a point over “Speechless”) and solidly rated drama “Bull.” The network’s attempt at new 10 p.m. dramas, however, produced a goose egg as “Doubt,” “Pure Genius” and “Training Day” all fell. “The Great Indoors” got the ax after underperforming in its post-“Big Bang Theory” time period.

The CW

New scripted shows Renewed Canceled Failure rate
3 1 2 66.7%

 

The network had two misses in the fall with “Frequency” and “No Tomorrow” but kept “Riverdale,” whose 0.4 rating put it in the middle tier of CW shows behind the four superhero series and “Supernatural.” This was the first season since 2013-14 in which The CW canceled more than one new series.

FOX

New scripted shows Renewed Canceled Failure rate
10 4 6 60%

 

The network has a fairly solid building block in “Lethal Weapon,” a decent “Empire” companion in “Star” and a possibly stable Friday drama in “The Exorcist” to go with lone comedy pickup “The Mick.” “Son of Zorn” and “Making History” both came up wanting in the post-“Simpsons” slot on Sundays.

On the drama side, the demise of “24: Legacy” is the highest-profile exit given that it started with a post-Super Bowl episode. “Shots Fired” remained a “limited series” after putting up just so-so numbers. “APB” and “Pitch” were also below average.

NBC

New scripted shows Renewed Canceled TBD Failure rate Best/worst case
12 6 4 2 33.3% 33.3%/50%

 

The Peacock had the second-worst failure rate last season (66.7 percent, eight of 12 new shows canceled). This season, it’s renewed half of its 12 first-year shows, with “Marlon” and “Midnight, Texas” still to come.

“This Is Us” was the highest-rated new show by far in adults 18-49, but four of the network’s five other pickups had below-network-average numbers. “The Good Place” was slightly above average, and at a 1.3 rating, it holds the title of NBC’s top-rated comedy.

Posted by:Rick Porter

Rick Porter has been covering TV since the days when networks sent screeners on VHS, one of which was a teaser for the first season of "American Idol." He's left-handed, makes a very solid grilled cheese and has been editor of TV by the Numbers since October 2015. He lives in Austin.

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