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Surprise! Maybe your favorite TV show didn't get axed

Published May 19, 2017 2:03 pm

Television • Networks are hanging on to more shows and throwing fewer new series at us in the fall.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

As the television networks announced their fall schedules over the past few days, the biggest surprises came not in what shows were canceled, but in what shows were not.

A few of those decision were absolutely stunning. ABC is keeping "Quantico"? CBS renewed "Code Black"? NBC picked up "Taken"? Fox is bringing back "The Exorcist"? Really?!?!?

All were hanging by a thread. All got picked up for the 2017-18 season. And there are lots of other examples.

ABC renewed "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." and "Once Upon a Time." CBS kept "Amazing Race," "Elementary" and "MacGyver." Fox reordered "Gotham" and "New Girl."

NBC renewed "The Blacklist," "Great News," "Shades of Blue" and "Timeless." The CW kept "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend," "iZombie," "The 100" and "The Originals."

You could make a case — for some, an extremely strong case — to cancel any of those shows. Ten years ago, many of them would've been axed.

But today, networks are less likely to drop shows because new ones are hard to launch.

"Stability is one of the cornerstones for us," said ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey — who renewed "Once Upon a Time" despite the fact most of the cast won't be back.

NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt said returning shows stand a better chance of renewal because of the potential for growth, or at least hanging on to the audience they have. "We didn't want to just throw them out the door for new shows."

At CBS — which has been the most stable and most successful network over the past 15 years — executives brag about changing their schedule as little as possible.

"In the last 20 years, CBS has had exactly two shows air regularly Tuesday at [7 p.m. MT]," said Kelly Kahl, senior vice president of CBS Primetime — "NCIS" and "JAG."

"In that same time frame, NBC has had 32 different series, Fox has had 33 series, and ABC had a whopping 50 series. So [that] gives you a little idea what we're about here. Stability means something."

It's something CBS' competitors (and sister network, The CW) have picked up on. The five networks are adding 19 new fall series (CBS six; ABC five; NBC three; Fox three; The CW two), less than half of what it was some years.

It's not that networks aren't adding new shows, it's that they're not adding so many in the fall. They're spreading them out — and holding back returning shows.

"You're going to see a lot more shows deployed in the midseason and summer, including returning shows," Greenblatt said.

Once upon a time, networks came out guns blazing in September, launching dozens of shows pretty much all at once. It was like throwing spaghetti against the wall and seeing what would stick.

Most shows didn't stick because it's all but impossible to get "traction" (as they say in TV) if you're one of 40 more new shows. The mortality rate was higher than 80 percent some seasons.

Now, they're apt to retain a marginal show rather than invest in a new show.

There's also more to cancellations than just ratings.

"We used to make these decisions primarily about the linear ratings," Greenblatt said. "But we are also now factoring in the value of delayed viewing [on DVRs] and the value of digital [online] viewing."

So while "Jane the Virgin's" same-day, linear ratings are weak, CW president Mark Pedowit said it is "an incredibly strong show by delayed views and digital viewing" — at least by The CW's standards.

And if a network owns or co-owns a show, it has incentive to renew it because it makes money from selling it in other countries and into syndication — from the back end (as they say in TV).

"Did that give 'Quantico' a little bit of an edge? Certainly it did," ABC's Dungey said. "Of course we also look at ownership structure. I don't think we are alone in that as far as networks are concerned."

Absolutely not. CBS Chairman/CEO Leslie Moonves said ownership plays a huge role in scheduling decisions.

"For the first time, less than 50 percent of our revenue at CBS is advertising," Moonves said. "About five years ago, that number was somewhere in the low 70s. … So the back end is now worth more than the front end."

That's why, for example, CBS picked up "Elementary" for a sixth season — because it sells so well overseas. (It will return at midseason.)

Networks don't own/produce every show they air. Fox produces NBC's "This Is Us"; NBC produces Fox's "Brooklyn Nine-Nine"; Warner Bros. (which co-owns The CW with CBS) produces ABC's "The Middle, CBS' "Big Bang Theory," Fox's "Gotham" and NBC's "Blindspot" — just to name a few examples.

But it's also true that the networks that air "Quantico," "Code Black," "Taken" and "The Exorcist" all own or co-own those low-rated-but-renewed series.

Here are the new shows set for this fall on broadcast TV:

ABC • "The Good Doctor" is a drama about a young, autistic surgeon; "The Gospel of Kevin" is a comedy/drama about a man on a divine mission; "The Mayor" is a comedy about a rapper elected mayor of his hometown; "Marvel's Inhumans" is a spinoff of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."; and "Ten Days in the Valley" is a drama about a TV producers whose daughter disappears.

CBS • "Young Sheldon" is a comedy prequel to "The Big Bang Theory," centering on 9-year-old Sheldon; "9JKL" is a comedy based on star Mark Feuerstein's real-life experiences living in an apartment between his parents and his brother; "Me, Myself & I" is a comedy about a guy at the ages of 14, 40 and 65; "Seal Team" and "SWAT" are action/dramas; and "Wisdom of the Crowd" is an unorthodox crime drama about a billionaire who uses tech and crowd sourcing to solve crimes.

NBC • "The Brave" is a drama about an elite military team; "Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders" is a fact-based limited series about the brothers convicted of killing their parents; and there's a revival of "Will & Grace."

Fox • "Ghosted" is a sitcom about a skeptic and a true believer who investigate weird happenings; "The Gifted" is a drama about a family who flee when their kids turn out to have mutant powers; and "The Orville" is an hourlong comedy set aboard a starship 400 years in the future.

The CW • A reboot of the 1980s prime-time soap "Dynasty; and a military drama, "Valor.

And the list of canceled shows includes:

ABC • "American Crime," "The Catch," "Conviction," "Dr. Ken," "Imaginary Mary," "Last Man Standing," "Mistresses," "Notorious," "The Real O'Neals," "Secrets and Lies" and "Time After Time."

CBS • "American Gothic," "Brain Dead," "Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders," "Doubt," "The Great Indoors," "The Odd Couple," "2 Broke Girls," "Pure Genius," "Ransom" and "Training Day."

NBC • "Aquarius," "Blacklist: Redemption," "Celebrity Apprentice," "Emerald City," "Grimm" and "Powerless."

Fox • "APB," "Bones," "Making History," "Pitch," "Rosewood," "Scream Queens," "Shots Fired," "Sleepy Hollow," "Son of Zorn" and "Wayward Pines."

The CW • "Frequency," "No Tomorrow," "Reign" and "The Vampire Diaries."







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