We’re more than halfway through November, and as we reported earlier, some broadcast network shows are, of course, doing better than others. But the biggest surprise is that to date, only one has been cancelled — ABC’s Wicked City, which got the ax after just three episodes.
Even the weakest in the ratings and critical acclaim have hung on. It’s the first time this has happened since the early 1950s, reported Scott Collins in The Los Angeles Times.
“The absence of cancellations is another sign of the tectonic shifts underway in the television industry. Thanks to digital recording and streaming, millions of viewers no longer watch shows when they are first telecast — making network executives reluctant to kill a program that may be quietly building an audience that’s not being counted by traditional ratings,” wrote Collins.
If a show doesn’t do well in its first viewing, in other words, there’s plenty of opportunity for it to catch on later on. “These dead shows walking can generate some delayed viewing bumps in live-plus-7,” wrote Adweek, pointing specifically to NBC’s The Player, which recently almost doubled it 18-49 rating in the extra days.
Collins said networks are also less willing to cancel series for fear that competitors like Netflix and Yahoo will grab them and raise their own profiles with redos (Hulu did this with FOX’s The Mindy Project earlier this year).
Plus, networks are afraid that pulling the plug on new shows and replacing them with repeats will lead to even lower ratings numbers.
So, instead of networks canceling shows outright, they’ve chosen to cut the number of episodes they order for flailing series (e.g. Minority Report, The Player, Blood and Oil).
And to be safe, networks order fewer episodes of a series upfront and then order more if the show’s a hit (that’s a model that’s similar to cable). It’s much more common to see a series order around 12 episodes rather than 26. But, according to Adweek, 13 is still the lucky number when it comes to international buyers, giving them a sense that the network believes in a series.