The Trends Part 4: Six Seasons and No Movie

Welcome to The Trends! This installment takes on the trend of canceling shows that were six seasons deep but not owned by the network. If you've missed the previous articles, they can be found by clicking on the titles below:

The Trends Part 1: Renewing More Low-Rated Shows
The Trends Part 2: Massive Time Slot Upgrades to Newer Comedies
The Trends Part 3: Less Reliance On The Super-Creator

Considering that most of the shows on broadcast TV these days get very similar ratings, it should not be surprising to see a slightly lower-rated show get renewed over a higher-rated show for multiple factors. These include the age and ownership of the show, both of which play a role in the show's profit. The past NBC sitcom Community, which to say the least was never a ratings hit, coined the "Six Seasons and a Movie" term, and as the show kept getting renewed, fans started joking that Community could somehow make it that far without ever really being a hit. Unfortunately, six seasons and no movie was the final fate of the show, assuming they don't somehow convince a movie studio to do a feature film. Turns out, Community wouldn't be the only show to suffer from six seasons and no movie; the fate also recently came to 2 Broke Girls and Last Man Standing.

For several years, ABC has tried to fix their Tuesday at 8pm time slot by airing one of their buzziest new shows there. Last Man Standing was one of them, and it didn't work out. While it premiered well, ratings sunk to levels that would not be acceptable given the landscape of ratings then. Regardless, ABC renewed it and saw an opening on Friday, where audiences could accept the Tim Allen-starring multi-cam. Of course, it naturally took a big drop in its second season, but those ratings looked acceptable for a Friday night. It more or less steadied off after that, and while it was often unsuccessful of launching whatever show ABC tried to air after it, it was still a stronger show each season. If it was renewed for a seventh season and did a similar ratings trajectory, it may even have ended up averaging higher than the Big 4 league average, something that very few Friday shows can accomplish.

However, each year Tim Allen's high salary put the show on the bubble. For all the credit it has been given, it's still a multi-cam sitcom airing on a Friday night with below-average ratings, and Tim Allen's salary far exceeded the typical salary for that kind of show. For the longest time though, ABC kept renewing the show and kept placing a different show at 8:30pm. Going into the 2016-17 season, they finally found the perfect fit with Dr. Ken. However, at the end of the season, Dr. Ken was down over 20% from its first season, while the contracts on Last Man Standing had expired. Many expected for this to be worked out because Sony would have worked magic to get Dr. Ken to syndication, and that ABC would renew the two shows because they still did way better in the ratings than The Toy Box, which replaced them in April. Instead, Last Man Standing became more expensive than ABC would have liked, and Dr. Ken was canceled alongside it. In the fall, Once Upon a Time is scheduled to air there, which despite having a much better time slot than Last Man Standing, very rarely, if ever, rated higher than that week's episode of Last Man Standing. This is a classic example of how as much as we talk about ratings, profits are what really matter. While a lot of times ratings are a very strong indicator of a show's profits, that certainly was not the case here.

2 Broke Girls, while another show fitting the six seasons and no movie mold, had the writing on the wall much before the show was canceled. The first negative sign for it was how they not only picked up Superior Donuts off-cycle, but also moved 2 Broke Girls to 9:30pm, not allowing it to launch the show. If a show is in its sixth season and isn't trusted to launch and/or support a show, the people working on the show better hope that it's making the network a ton of money in syndication or via streaming. Since CBS did not own 2 Broke Girls, it wasn't making money off of it in either of these ways. The second kiss of death was the fact that Superior Donuts really did no worse than 2 Broke Girls, the former of which CBS owns and is almost certainly less expensive. And while CBS typically does a mass renewal and then holds off another couple for May, the fact that 2 Broke Girls was omitted from the mass renewal that contained not only Superior Donuts, but also Man with a Plan and Life in Pieces, was a bad sign. Simply put, CBS ran out of room for a show that's more expensive than the others that are owned and doing similar ratings. Had they owned it, it probably would have gotten a seventh season. Supposedly it is very lucrative for Warner Brothers in syndication, but that's irrelevant to CBS.

Networks almost always favor the shows they own versus the ones they don't. It should be noted that Once Upon a Time, also in its sixth season but lower-rated, is an in-house production. With their cast contracts expiring, they showed no mercy towards Last Man Standing and 2 Broke Girls. They were both good syndication players and were solidly-rated, but from a monetary standpoint the fact that the networks didn't own them made that irrelevant. There has been a lot of public fan outcry, but we've simply moved away from a time where ratings and profits were 100% correlated.

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