Networks start to cull the new-show herd
Posted November 15, 2012
It's a Thanksgiving ritual: Major TV networks must separate the haves from the have-nots among their freshman crop.
New TV series are promised an initial run of 13 episodes. In success, nine more are ordered in late fall, to fill out the entire September-to-May season (plus repeats); in failure, the show ends after those initial 13, or fewer if it's a quick bomb, as CBS' Made in Jersey and NBC's Animal Practice were this fall.
Among shows that have done well enough to earn full seasons: CBS' Elementary and Vegas; Fox comedies Ben & Kate and The Mindy Project; NBC's Revolution, Chicago Fire, Go On and The New Normal; ABC's The Neighbors and Nashville; and CW's Beauty and the Beast and Arrow, that network's first new hit in three years. NBC's Guys With Kids was given four additional episodes Thursday.
Fox's Mob Doctor remains on the air for now but will not produce additional episodes; neither, likely, will ABC's 666 Park Avenue, CBS' Partners or CW's medical soap Emily Owens, M.D.
Still up in the air, though not for much longer, are the futures of ABC's Last Resort and Malibu Country.
This fall has been largely lackluster. Though climbing DVR usage provides eventual boosts to ratings for many shows, none have been the kind of buzzy, genre-defying hits on which networks depend. Instead, that mantle has been claimed by AMC's The Walking Dead, which has eclipsed all other TV dramas in terms of young-adult viewership, a first for cable.
On the bigger networks, Vegas and Elementary are the most popular new shows overall. And Revolution is tops among young-adult viewers. But more new shows are persevering with borderline ratings.
"A lot of series that have been picked up for the year have shown the standards are lower" for longevity, says Sam Armando, analyst at Chicago ad firm SMGx. Through five episodes, Ben & Kate is averaging fewer than 4 million viewers. "A few years ago, ratings like this would not have earned renewals."
CBS remains tops overall, but is down 10% from last year. ABC, which ranks second, is down 9%, while fourth-place Fox is having a tough fall, down 28%.
NBC alone has reason to cheer; it is up 20% from last year, and has moved from fourth to first among young-adult viewers prized by advertisers. But its top shows — Monday's Voice/Revolution combo and Sunday Night Football — will disappear by December, promising to quickly break that hot streak. The Voice and Revolution return in tandem, but not until March 25, extending their runs into summer. Football, of course, is back next fall.
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