I followed all the recent TV cancellation and renewal action on Twitter this year, and while there was plenty of snark, relief, and anguish expressed in 140 characters or less, there was also a lot of talk about this year being a bloodbath in the cancellation department.
Wondering if this year was in fact a particularly filling year for the Cancellation Bear, I checked out TV by the Number’s lists of renewed and cancelled broadcast scripted shows from the past four TV seasons… And then I put that information in graph form. The following is a look at all shows combined followed by a network-by-network breakdown:
*To see the list of renewed and cancelled TV shows for any of the last four broadcast TV seasons, click on the corresponding pie chart.
So, more shows were in fact cancelled this year than in any of the last four traditional TV seasons, but not by much. Only one more show was cancelled this year than last.
Although it was a particularly bad year for sitcoms, 21 of the 39 cancelled shows (53.84%) were half-hour comedies. That’s up significantly from the last three TV seasons: 2010-2011: 30.55%, 2011-2012: 37.14%, and 2012-2013: 47.36%. For every Modern Family, How I Met Your Mother, and New Girl there’s shows like Dads, Mixology, and We Are Men. I wonder how often “can’t win them all” is uttered in the television industry.
Here’s another fun fact from all of this data: 75% of all scripted series cancelled this year, debuted this year. That’s probably only good news for shows that have made it past their rookie seasons. And although that number seems pretty damn high, it’s not, or at least not compared to the last few years. Out of all cancelled shows, all-new TV series tend to be cancelled much more frequently, which makes sense because why would you invest in a failure.
Shows in their sophomore season are also particularly vulnerable, or at least according to TV By the Number’s logic, because green-lighting a third season almost guarantees a fourth in order for a series to have enough episodes for syndication.
Want some more stats, check out the network-by-network breakdown below:
ABC seems to be batting about .500 every TV season, which would be awesome if they were playing baseball, but since they aren’t there’s obviously room for improvement (especially given their slow descent to the bottom of the ratings pack in the key 18-49 demo).
In my opinion I think ABC is suffering from an identity crisis. Now I understand that the point of being a broadcast network is to cast a wide net and appeal to the widest audience as possible, but every season they’re promoting a wide array of shows from family sitcoms (Modern Family) to comedies about 20-somethings (Super Fun Night), primetime soap operas (Revenge) to Marvel tie-ins (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), and supernatural series (Resurrection) to crime-solving dramas (Castle). That inevitably has led to some interesting pairings and quandaries about how to promote such series.
The only upside for viewers is that they seem willing to experiment with a lot of different programming, you’ll never know what you’re going to find on ABC.
CBS’s current slogan is “America’s Most Watched Network” and based on the above graph it’s kind of obvious why. Whether or not they lose that crown, CBS still has a pretty solid renewal-to-cancellation ratio.
I might not watch any of their comedies and can only watch so many crime procedurals before I need something happier, but apparently I am not the normal American viewer because they’ve found what works and stick with it.
Yeah yeah, The CW doesn’t really play by same the rules as everybody else but at the end of the day it’s still a broadcast network so I wanted to include it all the same.
With far less hours of programming to come up with, The CW isn’t making huge moves every year. Any series with some level of live viewership, social media engagement, and international interest is going to be renewed every season until it has enough episodes for syndication or streaming deals.
The CW isn’t going to give any network a run for their money any time soon, if ever (how does it still exist?), but from a viewer perspective you’ve got to appreciate Mark Pedowitz’s renewal / cancellation decision process. (Thanks for that last season of Nikita.)
In the early 2000s my hatred for FOX was at an all-time high. Firefly anyone? For several TV seasons I was fearful of liking anything on FOX, worried that it would be axed the moment I added a new show to my must-watch list.
But that was a long time ago, and based on the graph above its evident that FOX isn’t as trigger happy as one might think. Although they did just cancel The X Factor and plan to pare down American Idol to just one two-hour episode a week so it should be interesting to see how this upcoming TV season plays out with far less singing competition crutches to lean on.
With a little help from The Winter Olympics and Sunday Night Football, NBC surprisingly went from last place to first place in the key 18-49 demo, but that still doesn’t change the fact that they are the only broadcast network to consistently cancel more than they renew.
Although it seems like they might be making strides towards changing that trend. This season they cancelled Revolution and Community, which in my mind kind of demonstrates that the network is done settling for the safe bet and mediocre-to-low ratings promised by their existing shows. Next year will also mark the final seasons for Parenthood and Parks and Recreation. So only time will tell if cleaning house clears the way for a new and improved NBC.
(While I was rooting for Community to fulfill it’s #sixseasonsandamovie prophecy, Parenthood will actually have a movie and six seasons when all is said and done.)
Stay tuned for Part II of this series, where I’ll be breaking down the renewal / cancellation trends for each broadcast network for its freshman series.
*Cancelled shows included TV shows that came to a natural end (i.e. House, 30 Rock, Gossip Girl, & How I Met Your Mother) and shows that moved to a new network (i.e. Cougar Town), because either way it was a block of time that the network would need to fill.