The Trends Part 1: Renewing More Low-Rated Shows

Welcome to The Trends! In this segment, I discuss some of the trends that we saw in the madness that was early-to-mid-May 2017. This first segment focuses on the renewals of more low-rated shows.

I've long said that almost all shows have at least one legitimate argument for why it should be renewed, but usually when it's canceled it's because there was more going against it. All the shows I'm about to discuss had only one blatant factors that could have led to them turning a profit. Interestingly, most of these shows are receiving time slot downgrades next season; of course, with one large exception.

One of the more notable low-rated renewals was Quantico on ABC. The drama showed a ton of promise at the beginning of its run in fall 2015, growing consistently out of terrible lead-ins in the historically-troubled Sunday at 10pm time slot. However, in the spring of last season the ratings got a little rougher, and things didn't get much better in the fall. Due to alleged international sales, ratings potential, and the fact that ABC loves star Priyanka Chopra, it got moved behind The Bachelor on Mondays in the winter. Somehow, nothing has gotten better, and after a tiny initial uptick, Quantico is now getting consistent 0.6s, often 0.5s in the 10:30pm half-hour. At 55% of the Big 4 league average, the show is a downright flop in Live + Same Day ratings, and its previous DVR strength has dwindled massively as well. Despite this, it still scored a last-second renewal for a third season. While the ratings we see would make anyone question reality, the show must be turning a profit or else it wouldn't still be around. We're living in a new era where ratings and profits aren't 100% correlated.

In fact, there was a lot of speculation all season as to how many, if any, ABC would renew of Once Upon a Time, Marvel's Agents of SHIELD, and Quantico. Promotion for Once Upon a Time seemed to scream series finale towards the end, SHIELD isn't at all what it used to be and isn't often promoted, and then there's Quantico (see above). There was talk about ABC potentially cleaning house now so they can focus on finding new shows to replace the higher-rated old shows (see: Modern Family, The Middle, Scandal). All three shows ended up renewed. Maybe ABC didn't like their development too much, or maybe they simply believe all three will turn enough of a profit next season. It's definitely noteworthy that only one, Once Upon a Time, is on the fall schedule, and that it's been moved to Friday.

Similarly to the ABC drama trifecta, as I like to call it, there's the FOX comedy trifecta: New Girl, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and The Last Man On Earth. If you've kept up with my FOX Renew/Cancel posts, you'd see that all three shows, while somewhat low-rated, had something going for them. New Girl still does decently amongst younger viewers, has a syndication deal, and is produced in house; Brooklyn Nine-Nine has a syndication deal for five seasons (though it didn't specify that all had to be on FOX); and The Last Man On Earth was the highest-rated Lord Miller Productions shows. In the end, I predicted a renewal for all three shows, and all three shows were renewed. New Girl is on the bench for a shortened final season. which means it can be held back for if a show fails, or if any other veteran has a short order. With more shows having things going for it, FOX has found a way to fit all on the schedule to make a little bit more money without having to take up a time slot for the entire season.

Another notable low-rated renewal is Elementary on CBS. While the show initially did decently on Thursdays back in the day, it saw no notable post-Super Bowl boost. Regardless of ratings that didn't make it a massive hit, it made headlines for its syndication deal: WGN paid $3 million per episode to syndicate the show. That's something that would keep pretty much anything in the profit zone. The show didn't exactly do great in syndication; in fact, it's hardly aired on WGN at all. Even so, they are still paying that hefty fee to keep the show profitable despite really low ratings. Like Quantico, Elementary has been kept back for midseason. Maybe they even try it out on Saturdays.

In general, there were seemingly more bubble veterans renewed than in the past. However, there was also an unusual amount of new shows renewed that seemed 99% dead: three shows, to be exact. All of which were on NBC, and all of which aired after The Voice. I'm talking, of course, about Timeless, Taken, and Great News (Trial & Error's fate is still up in the air as of May 17). Timeless received the coveted Mondays at 10pm time slot after The Voice in the fall and didn't do all that well. In fact, when it aired after The Celebrity Apprentice in the winter, it went as low as a 0.6 rating in A18-49 Live + Same Day. It had stellar DVR numbers, but it wasn't owned by NBC, and thus got canceled. Of course, two days later is was un-canceled by the same network, something that obviously happens to every show. The second season is for 10 episodes and it is unclear when it will air, but regardless, NBC is giving it another chance. It will be interesting to see how it does given that it will almost certainly have a downgraded situation. Taken is in a somewhat similar situation. While it is produced by NBC and does about the same as Timeless did after a lower-rated spring cycle of The Voice, its DVR numbers aren't as great as Timeless' were. Regardless, it scored a second season renewal and now will air Fridays at 9 after Blindspot. There's a solid chance NBC could stick with the show as they try to redo Fridays, but Timeless could realistically land their midseason.

The renewal that shocks me the most is NBC's comedy Great News. The Tina Fey-produced freshmen comedy has hit 0.7s airing directly after The Voice and doesn't have good delayed-viewing numbers or critical acclaim. I assume that there is more to this renewal than Tina Fey, which most likely means a lot of streaming views. After all, supposedly Superstore is a big streaming player. What's the most surprising about this renewal is its time slot: Thursday at 8:30. That's no longer the show that airs after decently-rated Superstore, it's the show that airs between Will & Grace and This is Us. Assuming that Will & Grace returns well (there's a lot of hype surrounding it), and This is Us doesn't completely collapse, Great News one of the best situations on broadcast television next season. If it doesn't double or even triple these ratings, it will probably be the weak link of the night by a lot. It it fails right out of the gate, I could see it being quickly replaced by a midseason comedy or even Trial & Error (if renewed). But the important lesson of this story is that networks--specifically NBC--are seeing potential in these low-rated shows and want to see their ratings improve. Remember, some of the highest-rated shows today had relatively weak first seasons. It's something to look out for as television enters the 2017-18 season.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!

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