Y’all, the Upfront Mayhem is finally over but the chaos of broadcast TV just hasn’t stopped. The networks picked up 36 shows a few weeks ago but still haven’t decreed the fates for three and ABC’s darling Roseanne got cancelled. Since Upfront week ended, a handful of ridiculous and unexpected events occurred and I will go over them here.
Pickups and Ownership
First, some numbers. Of the 36 shows ordered by the five broadcast networks, 19 made it to the fall schedule. Two are revivals, Murphy Brown and Last Man Standing. (Bye Roseanne!) Though there is a hail Mary attempt to move on with the show but focus on Sara Gilbert’s Darlene .
Networks continue to push ownership of shows with many co-productions. (Many of the shows are double counted for that reason.)
CBS Television Studios had twelve orders, Universal Television got eleven, while WB TV and ABC Studios each got nine orders. Finally, 20th Century Fox (which will move to Disney or Comcast) had six picked up.
Sadly that leaves Sony Pictures Television Studios with only one pick up at ABC. Though they did give up more ownership for a Blindspot renewal, and The Blacklist is already a 50/50 split. Clearly Sony is trying real hard to save Timeless again. Also waiting on news is NBC’s Champions and Ghosted on FOX. All three are assumed dead, but anything can happen after this year’s shenanigans.
FOX the New Sports Network?
Outside of Roseanne‘s abrupt cancellation after her recent spate of bigoted comments, media eyes had focused on FOX. And not only on its cancellation of B99 (saved by NBC) and its other cancellations like Lucifer. The network is waiting on Disney acquiring most of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc., Important here is that Disney or Comcast will acquire the studio where all but two of their shows come from. The first of the two is Lethal Weapon, which underwent a recent re-casting due to incredibly hostile and negative behavior on set before its renewal. The other is, of course, Gotham, which was renewed for its sixth and assumed final season.
For Fall 2018 (and through 2022) FOX has Thursday Night Football, leaving five nights for scripted, which explained some of the networks’ cancellations. (Conversely, The CW has reclaimed Sundays!) Then, a week after the Upfront presentations, news broke that (New) FOX is in the process of acquiring WWE Smackdown! A show that airs literally every week of the year, no exceptions. As such, starting in Fall 2019 through at least 2023, New FOX will only air scripted fare four nights a week. Current reports suggest that Smackdown moves to Friday, but it currently airs on Tuesday.
So the network (2019 on) could air scripted Sunday through Wednesday and go all sports, live entertainment, and WWE on Thursdays through Saturdays. Or every other day.
Regardless of what NewFOX decides to do, with only eight hours to program scripted fare at least in the fall, expect a chunk of their scripted shows to meet the TV Grim Reaper. I don’t envy either the network brass deciding what shows to renew from 20th Century Fox or the scheduler over there.
At the moment since Ghosted is a question mark, FOX has 16 shows to work with this year. Assuming it is in fact Gotham‘s last season, and at least three to four more cancellations… Even if the network picks up a few newbies, the network will have to fit their dramas around two, maybe three hours of comedies.
So next May will be just as chaotic if not more than this year!
Canada Gets In the Game
While not as loud, NBC passing on Sony’s (poor Sony) LA’s Finest was another noisemaker. The most expensive pilot of the season clocked in at twelve million dollars. Twelve! But Sony couldn’t work it out with NBC, went with a mix of genre, character based, and New Amsterdam pick ups as its lineup.
Fortunately for Sony and the cast, crew, and writers, Canada’s Bell Media picked up the series for a thirteen episode first season. The show will air on a specialty entertainment network in Canada. Sony is still in negotiation with Charter Communications to air it stateside. The pick up by Bell Media is surprising because when American pilots are passed on, usually other national broadcast networks save them. FOX actually saved B99 originally while the CW saved Black Lightning from FOX for example.
The pickup gives Sony a win in its worst season yet, with only Schooled ordered by ABC which joins The Goldbergs and Good Doctor as the other Sony produced shows on ABC. They also have SWAT on CBS.
Ratings, Ratings, Ratings
I’m sure as the summer continues more news will come that will affect how broadcast networks moves forward as linear ratings decline. Networks and advertisers are obviously publicly (and probably mostly privately) okay with the system we have with Nielsen. However, at some point I have to assume that multiple nights going fractional in the demo across all the networks outside of FOX and The CW is a problem.
CBS did announce that they and Nielsen are debuting Live Ad insertion to make commercials more relevant, which in turn is better for advertisers. Still, it’s only on CBS and won’t matter if viewers continue to skip the targeted commercials.
Still, as wild as this May has been, I can only imagine how wild next May, and really the upcoming season is going to be. Let’s just hope the networks are prepared.