On a whim, last October, I started collecting news stories about which TV shows were getting renewed or cancelled, though I wasn’t quite sure what I’d do with the links. Mostly, I wanted to know if the TV shows I cover each week in the Streaming Ratings Report had already been cancelled or renewed. Around the same time, my editor/researcher started pushing for a regular feature in the Streaming Ratings Report highlighting shows that got cancelled or renewed. Other people, especially the trades, handle this subject more comprehensively and in a much more timely fashion, but there is something I can add…
Whether these are good decisions or not.
I finally started writing a mini-dive into renewals and cancellations for last Friday’s Streaming Ratings Report, and, unsurprisingly, I went long. Like way long. I started writing about January 2023’s renewals and cancellations. (Unsurprisingly, like much of the streaming wars, sometimes these decisions match the data at hand, but other times they don’t.) Then I took a look at Q4 in 2022 as well, then I had strategic takeaways.
Soon enough, it became its own article.
Plus, inspired by a certain LA basketball team making a really dumb decision in the last few weeks, I came up with a fun, Bill Simmons-esque framing device. So I’m going to compare each type of renewal/cancellation to an NBA basketball player.
So here it is, renewals and cancellations, from Q4 2022 to January 2023, what I think about these decisions, and what it says about Hollywood today.
(To be clear, this is NOT a complete list of shows, just the most notable ones or shows that I felt like I had something to talk about. Again, my focus is on whether I like these decisions or not, but there are so many renewals/cancellations/purchases, I may have missed something. If you have any feedback or notice I got anything wrong, tweet or email me.)
The Giannis: No Brainer Streaming Renewals
Is Giannis Antetokounmpo the best player in basketball? Yes. (Why? He’s an elite player on both sides of the ball. Want to quibble and say it’s Jokic. Fine! I like him too.) Does he deserve a max contract? Yes, obviously.
Do these hit shows deserve to be renewed? Yes, obviously. So up first, hit shows that should have gotten renewed and did.
Like Wednesday. I mean, what else can I say except, “No duh this got renewed.” (Yes, I am aware how brutally this dates me.)
Same goes for HBO renewing The Last of Us. Or Netflix ordering more seasons of Ryan Murphy’s “Monster” anthology series. (Though I am curious how this anthology series does with a different murderer. Later seasons of American Crime Story did NOT do as well as the first.). The Watcher also got renewed.
I’d add Cobra Kai to this list. Even though its latest season wasn’t as big of a hit as past seasons, this is still a hit show and I get why Netflix renewed it for a sixth and final season. Same goes for HBO renewing The White Lotus, a show whose ratings actually grew in its second season, or Yellowjackets getting renewed, since it’s Showtime’s biggest hit.
The Joel Embiid: Broadcast Channel Renewals for Sitcoms and Procedurals
Joel Embiid is basically an old school center, who, in the words of Zach Lowe, kills teams two points at a time. Everyone says that the future of basketball isn’t big man centers, even though, arguably, the three best players in the league are all centers. (Though Giannis, Jokic and Embiid all shoot threes, they play best around the basket.)
At the same time, sitcoms are “dead” to most dev execs and TV critics, but they’re also really popular.
Joel Embiid is the broadcast TV of the NBA.
Surprising no one, ABC renewed Abbott Elementary, a sitcom that’s funny and broadly appealing. Same goes for Ghosts, The Neighborhood and Bob Hearts Abishola over at CBS. And Fox renewed their animation block: The Simpsons, Family Guy and Bob’s Burgers. Someone has to make the next generation of sitcoms, with hundreds of episodes, for people to binge watch on streaming à la people bingeing The Office, Friends, or Seinfeld on Netflix for most of the second half of the 2010s.
Sitcoms are popular!
So are procedurals, like Fire Country, a show that’s basically about sexy firefighters. Good pitch! CBS renewed just it. Though Paramount+ doesn’t share its ratings with the public yet, it renewed both Criminal Minds: Evolution, which tracks with this show’s very excellent run on TV Time, and SEAL Team, a show that’s basically about sexy Navy SEALs. (Both are on Paramount+, but came from CBS.) But some procedurals must come to an end, like NCIS: Los Angeles, which is ending after fourteen seasons.
NBC renewed La Brea for a third and probably final season, and The CW renewed All American, the first pickup since they were acquired by Nexstar. I’m unsure if either is a procedural, but they’re both broadly appealing; I doubt anyone thinks either show will get an Emmy nod.
Everyone tells me that broadcast television is dying. In the meantime, the broadcast channels seem to know that it’s smart to make broadly appealing shows. I haven’t run a full statistical analysis, but I feel like linear TV shows have a higher renewal rate at this point. (Though I’m aware that this definitely wasn’t always the case.) In times of belt-tightening, the ROI on broadcast can help provide some stability.
The Alex Caruso – Game Shows and Talk Show Renewals
Alex Caruso plays winning basketball, doing all the unglamorous little things that help secure a win, but don’t show up in the box score. And for not very much money.
Game shows and talks shows don’t cost a lot, but they deliver.
ABC shelled out big money to keep both of its marquee syndicated game shows, Wheel Of Fortune and Jeopardy!, for the next five years. (I’d bet that these shows are more popular with younger viewers than many people would guess.) Same goes for a bunch of other game shows on ABC, like Celebrity Family Feud and Press Your Luck.
On daytime TV, a whole bunch of talk shows got renewed, including Jennifer Hudson, Sherri, The Drew Barrymore Show, and The Kelly Clarkson Show. Conversely, two longtime talk show hosts, Dr. Phil and Rachael Ray, are ending their shows, though both say they have other (likely digital) plans.
I probably need to add “game shows” to my PANTSS acronym. (Short for “Procedurals, Award shows and specials, News, Talk Shows, Sports, and Sitcoms.) And I probably need to write a longer article on how these types of shows can provide steady viewership for low costs. (Sort of like how Alex Caruso isn’t the league’s best point guard, but an absolutely rock solid player on a cheap contract.)
Right now, there’s a certain type of show that does really well on broadcast, and the streamers haven’t really tried to make them. But these are the types of shows that have been a part of television for over sixty years now, yet aren’t really available on streaming.
As I wrote about last year, is this holding back the next generation of cord cutters?
The D’Angelo Russell: Not Sure What I Think
Is D’Angelo Russell an All-Star or an overpaid point guard who’s not even one of the top fifteen players at his position in the NBA? I don’t know! Both?
Even with more data than we’ve ever had in the history of the NBA, people can argue endlessly about NBA players and whether they’re good or not. (Believe me, I listen to enough NBA podcasts to verify that.)
Same goes for the streaming wars. Even with all the data in the world, some decisions on TV shows’ futures can be hard to judge. For example, Outer Range wasn’t a huge hit for Prime Video, but it wasn’t a flop either. Same goes for The Santa Clauses on Disney+. The Sex Lives of College Girls never made Nielsen, but did have a five-week run on TV Time (and has a buzzy showrunner). All three were renewed for their respective streamers.
Over at Netflix, 1899 was cancelled, even though the show made Nielsen for four weeks, probably because it was too expensive, while Sandman got renewed for a second “volume” (yay!) even though it was expensive too. Netflix also renewed The Empress. Though its American ratings were less-than-stellar, I sort of get this: it’s one of their biggest international hits and, depending on the budget, might be worth the cost.
I’ll say this to reassure confused creatives and executives: if a show is a hit on one metric, it’s probably a hit on every metric. Same if a show flops. The amount of shows that are actually “on the bubble”, where the data is mixed, is a lot smaller than most people think.
Speaking of confusing…
The Russell Westbrooks: DNBs that got cancelled, but are getting “shopped around”
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