Networks have been hesitant to cancel anything this season, but that’s not because shows are doing so much better this season than in any other. It’s more because in a TV environment that constantly demands a flow of original programming, it makes more sense just to run out the initial order than to pull the show off the air, reports Variety.
So far this season, there have been some break outs. NBC’s This Is Us was strong out of the gate and continues to do well for the network. CBS’ Bull is the network’s best-performing new series and has been sold around the globe. And ABC is having success with several of its sitcoms, including Speechless, starring Minnie Driver, and American Housewife, starring Katy Mixon.
But many shows are turning in exceptionally low ratings – ABC’s Conviction, starring Hayley Atwell, and Notorious, and Fox’s Pitch and The Exorcist all are performing at sub-1.0 ratings among the key advertising demographic of adults 18-49 – but none of them have been canceled. Instead, networks aren’t ordering any more episodes, and in the case of Conviction, are shortening their initial orders.
What that means is that networks are taking their time debuting shows waiting in the wings to replace this season’s low performers. Should that time get pushed back too far, these replacement shows may not have the opportunity to debut at all, says Variety.
Still, in this highly fragmented market, it makes sense to give shows—particularly ones that seem to be working creatively—a solid chance to find their audience. Networks are looking at far more than just shows’ ratings to determine whether they live or die. Network researchers and analysts do still look at how shows perform in live-plus-same-day ratings, commercial three-day ratings and even as far out as live-plus-35. But they are also taking other factors into consideration, such as whether the studio that owns the network also produces the show, whether it’s making money internationally, whether it’s working on digital and on-demand platforms, whether its viewers are engaged and so forth, Jeff Bader, president of program planning, strategy and research for NBC Entertainment, told Variety.
Viewers also are having to get used to watching their favorite shows in these new ways. For example, fans of ABC’s serial dramas – Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, Grey’s Anatomy – often have to wait many weeks to get new episodes. Those fresh episodes are then delivered weekly for many weeks in a row, only for the show to disappear again. In the past, networks would run originals for a few weeks and repeats in slow weeks – over the winter holidays, for example. Today, networks largely turn over the holiday season to live events and specials to try to keep viewers tuned in.
On the plus side, viewers that fall in love with a doomed show – and it happens every year—are likely to get to see at least ten episodes before seeing that show disappear.
READ MORE: Variety