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rise of the renancel

Television

Rise of the Renancel

The broadcast landscape is continuously changing, and now we’ve got a new term to learn. The renancel! Your favorite show just received a renewal. Yay! But it got a last season announcement at the same time. Boo! You’ve been renanceled! Think Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend last year (and five others) and Arrow and Supernatural this year.

Notice a commonality? They’re all CW shows with at least four seasons! The CW has not canceled a four or more season long show without a final season renewal since 2015. The CW canceled Hart of Dixie two weeks before its fourth season/series finale. Rookie shows on any network are canceled without fanfare. In fact, the most fanfare this season was that the first cancellations from Fox came on a Wednesday and not during the usual Friday bad news dump. That and The CW renewed all five of their newbies, indicating current shows will move into late spring and summer next year. Fortunately, except for The Carrie Diaries, all shows that get to a season two have made it to five seasons or more in recent history.

Last year also marked the end of a long-standing trend for CBS when they canceled Scorpion in its fourth season. It had no syndication deal to keep it alive making it the first CBS Studios drama canceled without reaching a sixth season! The rest of its five or more season long dramas received syndication deals with various third party buyers so if they end, it’s because of money. Though, CBS did hand out one recancel this season to Criminal Minds and could hand out another.

Elsewhere, ABC renanceled Modern Family. I doubt any of their other six or more season long shows are receiving a renancel this year. Though HTGAWM isn’t doing the best… NBC renewed all of their shows with four or more seasons except Blindspot so that one could receive a renancellation or just end outright. But! A lot of shows might receive a renancel next year.

This leaves FOX…but they don’t have any scripted dramas that could qualify except Empire. However, with the network losing Friday to WWE Smackdown, expect a bloodbath like last year’s in preparation for the Disney/Fox merger.

So as all the networks’ shows age, and third party buyers don’t want to buy new seasons, we’ll see more renancellations. Shows on The CW especially are in trouble.  Even on a network where ratings are not the first thing to worry about, you don’t cancel two of your highest rated shows if the money can’t make it work. Whether that’s paying your stars enough money to stay, or getting people to buy more seasons. Plus with Netflix decreasing the number of titles, funding for new seasons is less likely to come. Dynasty was the last CW show to receive the lucrative international deal with Netflix.

On the flip side, just last week NBC renewed Good Girls even though it is their fourth lowest rated drama. Guess who pays a fee to air the show? If you guessed Netflix you’ve been paying attention! Bringing this back to CBS, the majority of their long running shows have syndication deals and air in multiple international territories. Unsurprisingly, as of this article’s writing, all but one of their long running (9 or longer) shows have been renewed. Hawaii Five-0 is in its ninth season but has for years had cast chaos behind the scenes and might be renanceled. We should know the fates of all shows by the time Upfronts start on May 13.

I mentioned earlier that rookie cancellations come with zero fanfare.  This year the true news is that not a single network canceled a newbie before its first season finished airing. In the past, networks pulled multiple low-performing shows off the schedule entirely, or would send them to other time-slots to make room for shows originally set for the mid-season. This year without those schedule changes, a sizeable chunk of new series did not premiere until late March. A few shows are even premiering after this week! Bless the schedulers at all the networks for dealing with this new normal.

A new normal that signals a few likely surprise renewals and cancellations. Especially now that even with an expected 13% year over year decrease in ratings, the scripted average is barely a .8. If the networks order more than 35 new shows, I would be shocked. Unless a few of those shows are ordered specifically for summer or truly limited series. Plus next spring brings Winter Olympics to NBC and very few scripted premieres occur during that time.

Overall, four renancellations isn’t a significant number, but we will reach a point where networks start renancelling many long-running shows. The longer they’ve aired, the more praise that comes with the cancellation. Think what’ll happen when Grey’s Anatomy, SVU, and NCIS finally die! Then we’ll be back to where we started since the current average length of seasons across all five networks is barely 4.1 and that’s including the three dramas above and animated fare on FOX.

But until then, fans can rest easy for most shows knowing that if they’ve received four seasons, they’re likely receiving more, or at least one final season to say goodbye with!

Seher
Written By

Seher obsesses over show ratings and usually writes about media representation issues. Otherwise, she's at work in the non-profit world using her anthropology and public health training.

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