CBS Renew/Cancel Week 21: The FBI Spinoffs Have A Peacock Problem


Welcome to Week 21 of CBS Renew/Cancel. With CBS getting ready to bring back their scripted series, it’s time for updated preseason predictions. While we don’t know what the ratings will look like yet, there are four key fixed factors that can sway a show toward renewal or cancelation: its age, ownership, whether it’s tied to a franchise or other existing IP, and how much of the show is available to stream on Paramount+ domestically. The below table reflects that, and includes the following prediction changes:

-Young Sheldon moves from Tilts Cancel to Canceled
-Blue Bloods moves from Leans Cancel to Canceled
-Bob Hearts Abishola moves from Likely Cancel to Canceled
-NCIS moves from Leans Renew to Likely Renew
-Elsbeth moves from Likely Renew to Leans Renew
-The Equalizer and FBI: International move from Leans Renew to Tilts Cancel

FBI, FBI: Most Wanted and FBI: International
One of the biggest question marks on CBS right now is what will come of renewal negotiations with lead studio NBCUniversal for the FBI franchise and The Equalizer. All four were granted a two-season renewal in 2022, and as such weren’t talked about all that much in last season’s CBS Renew/Cancel column. In the aftermath of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, it’s unclear if CBS really needs all four series. 

Of the four series, FBI is likely the safest. Despite having NBCUniversal as the lead studio, all seasons are available to stream on Paramount+. Plus, while it is the oldest of the four series, there is no indication there would be a need for cast contract renewals. It’s also the mother series in the FBI franchise, and significantly higher-rated than the two spinoffs. While that didn’t save 9-1-1 on FOX, the Ryan Murphy drama costs a ridiculous amount of money to produce. I don’t think FBI is in the same situation here. Still, negotiations could theoretically go south, although that seems to be a worst case scenario for CBS.

The FBI spinoffs are in a more precarious position. They are both entering their upcoming seasons as true bubble series. Unlike with FBI, Paramount does not have the full streaming rights to either spinoff series; rather, they are available to stream in their entirety on Peacock, alongside Dick Wolf’s Chicago and Law & Order franchises. In fact, if you click on the NBC tab of Peacock, FBI: Most Wanted actually appears in the ‘A-Z’ tab. While the ratings on CBS are solid, seeing Most Wanted and International on Peacock can get one to wonder just how much value they actually hold to Paramount, CBS’s parent company. FBI: International may be especially vulnerable, given its retention from FBI could be better and it’s still a long way away from a potential syndication deal due to the shortened season. A schedule without International likely slides FBI to 9pm and plugs NCIS: Origins at 8; an upcoming series CBS does fully own and will have the full streaming rights to.

The Equalizer
Based on CBS’s original fall 2023 schedule, it’s highly likely they plan on airing Matlock in the Sundays at 8 pm time slot in the fall. This would leave The Equalizer in need of a new time slot. While it was originally supported to air at 9 pm in fall 2023 and theoretically could move back there this upcoming fall, that time slot is now occupied by Tracker, which is getting the benefit of premiering after the Super Bowl. The Equalizer would likely do worse than it is now wherever it would end up being moved to, and will still be two seasons away from a potential syndication deal after this one due to the strikes. 

All episodes of The Equalizer are available to stream on Paramount+, meaning there is some incentive for CBS to bring it back for another season. However, if Tracker performs well, they may be prepared to move on without it unless NBCUniversal cuts a lucrative deal. There’s only so much room on the schedule, and CBS will likely prioritize the shows they fully own to join the group they’ve already ordered to series. 

Tracker is the only show on CBS that Paramount has absolutely no ownership stake in. Instead, it’s produced by Disney’s 20th Television. Tracker is also the show CBS picked to air after the Super Bowl. It’s possible they’re just trying to get as much ad revenue out of a show they don’t own as possible, avoiding another True Lies situation. While Tracker is premiering after the Super Bowl, don’t automatically assume that to mean it will get renewed. Two CBS Super Bowls ago, they premiered the reality competition series The World’s Best, a show that only lasted one season. In the 1990s, there were shows that premiered after the Super Bowl that ultimately got pulled from the schedule. Unless they’re Undercover Boss, CBS series premieres tend to perform worse after the Super Bowl in retention than most other offerings, so my expectations for Tracker aren’t extremely high. This will likely come down to the ratings, and could very well affect how many NBCUniversal-produced shows CBS wants to keep. 

It may seem ridiculous to downgrade Elsbeth before a single episode even airs. The sole reason for this is that while Matlock and Poppa’s House have been held for the fall and Tracker gets to premiere after the Super Bowl, Elsbeth’s premiere will be on a Leap Day midseason. It won’t see any special treatment, even as the 13-episode first season hypothetically would have wrapped by the time it’s actually going to premiere. Elsbeth is fully owned, but also something that could be poised to move to Paramount+ for any subsequent seasons. Again, this could depend on Tracker and negotiations with NBCUniversal.

The NCIS franchise is in a much healthier spot now than it was when NCIS was listed as Leans Renew. New spinoff NCIS: Sydney did surprisingly well for strike programming, and prequel NCIS: Origins has been ordered to series. Plus, Blue Bloods has since been announced to be ending. NCIS is an ancient series at a time when being on the air a long time is being held against shows, but this year is unlikely to be the end for NCIS. If it’s not announced as a final season in the next couple weeks, it could even get bumped up to Certain Renew — whether it’s for a short final season or for 10 more seasons. 

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