The biggest surprise of last week’s network cancellations was Universal PIalthough the show was in the top 25 entertainment shows by total viewership, CBS cut it after four seasons.
Another reason for it to stand out? The broadcaster has drastically reduced the number of cancellations and series finales over the past two years.this procession of eliminate announcement This past week may not have felt that way, but the data confirmed the fact that, as a group, these networks are more likely to continue watching shows than they did over the past decade.
While fewer scripted series aired on the broadcast network, the number and rate of cancellations fell. As scripting audiences become more fragmented, the web is betting on familiar titles — Naval Criminal Investigative Serviceand law and orders – will be what keeps viewers coming back, whether it’s a specific prime time or the streaming platform that hosts the network’s show the day after it airs.
Over the nine seasons from 2011-12 to 2019-20, the cancellation numbers for the five English-language broadcast networks were fairly consistent: over those years, they ended an average of about 40.6 scripted shows (either by outright canceling or pre-announced the final season). ) quarterly. This number fluctuates from year to year, but has never been below 35 (2011-12) or above 45 (2013-14).
However, over the past two seasons, that average has dropped to just 24.5 cancellations — 22 a year ago and 27 this season. Even with the CW dropping half of its scripted lineup, the number of cancellations and endings has only increased by five series.
Source: THR Research. Figures do not include acquisitions.
Broadcasters have also aired fewer scripted shows since the pandemic began: 87 this season and 86 in 2021-22, compared with an average of about 105 over the previous nine seasons.For example, just four years ago, ABC canceled 14 shows; this season, it only broadcast 14 scripted shows (plus a miniseries) sporty woman).
The decrease in overall numbers was driven in part by spending shifted to streaming projects and production costs (regardless of distribution channel) rising due to factors ranging from increased fees for showrunners and top talent to additional COVID precautions.
However, the lower cancellation numbers aren’t just a function of cancelling fewer shows. Program cancellations have also declined over the past two seasons. From 2012 to 2020, the five networks shed an average of 38.7% of their scripted roster annually, and it never fell below 33.3%.
The average over the past two seasons is about 10 points lower. For the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years, the cancellation rate was only 28.3%.The season’s ratings were 31% (27 of 87 shows), 10 of which — just over a third — came from The CW as the network cut its roster before a potential sale.
While all four networks have slowed their cancellation rates, ABC has been the hardest hit. Starting in 2012-20, the network canceled or ended an average of nearly 11 shows per season. However, as its overall numbers have dwindled recently, that number has become unsustainable. It has dropped just eight series in total in 2021 and 2022, and only three series this season.
NBC has cut five series in each of the past two seasons, compared with an average of about 10 per year in the nine seasons prior to that.From 2012-20, Fox had an average of 8 scripted cancellations or closes, but only dropped 4 last year and 3 this year (assuming it can get a deal to bring 911 and resident back). CBS saw the smallest decline, going from eight series axed each year in 2012-20 to six per series in 2021 and 2022.
The CW has followed this pattern for years, never canceling more than a handful of shows in a given season. This season alone, as parent companies Warner Bros. Discovery and Paramount Universal explore the future of selling the network, the CW has changed its process of gradually building out a steady stream of scripted programming to use throughout the year.
First year breakout like CBS ghost and ABC’s Abbott Elementary School An increasingly rare commodity for broadcasters.Long-running titles and franchises like CBS’s Naval Criminal Investigative Service Stable, ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy and Station 19 and NBC’s law and order and chicagoMeanwhile, -verse continues to reach reliable and differentiated audiences on linear and streaming platforms: NBC has said Law and Order: SVU’For example, our streaming audience is a whole generation younger than the audience watching the series.
With broadcast networks becoming the starting point for cross-platform ecosystems, rather than their longstanding independent entities, it makes sense to stick to proven (or at least familiar) programming: Networks can still draw attention to broadcast programming that people are very familiar with and recognizable library titles help support affiliated streaming services. Aside from having NFL rights, it’s as much a win-win as the shrinking world of linear television can offer.