Cancelled Shows and Mid-Season Replacements...

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by TheoGB, Nov 1, 2001.

  1. TheoGB

    TheoGB Screenwriter

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    Hi,
    I'm interested in knowing more about how shows come to be cancelled and replaced. Over here in the UK I don't think a show is ever cancelled midway through its run.
    It just seems odd that Buffy (for example) was a mid-season replacement. It's 12 eps so that suggests the show it replaced can have run for up to 12 eps also. But how long must it have taken to set up? Surely longer than 6 or 8 weeks?
    So this would mean the network already knew the show it replaced was a dead duck after like 3 or 4 weeks?
    Am I totally insane here? Do the networks have absolutely no backbone?
    And then you get something like American Gothic or Space Above and Beyond which go the whole run but get cancelled anyhow.
    With Space Above and Beyond you could even see the point where they were getting told they weren't going to make it because they suddenly started making some decent, dark Sci-Fi instead of the pap they began with. It's a real shame.
    Hmm. I don't seem to have much of a point to make so I guess I'm just fishing for views and ideas about this. [​IMG] [​IMG]
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  2. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

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    quote: It just seems odd that Buffy (for example) was a mid-season replacement. It's 12 eps so that suggests the show it replaced can have run for up to 12 eps also. But how long must it have taken to set up? Surely longer than 6 or 8 weeks?[/quote]Right - but midseason replacements often start production at the same time as fall-premiering shows (or not much after). Networks generally order their fall schedule and a number of shows as mid-season replacements at the same time, to have alternate programming in reserve in case of disastrous ratings.quote: I'm interested in knowing more about how shows come to be cancelled and replaced. Over here in the UK I don't think a show is ever cancelled midway through its run.[/quote]US and UK television production is different, too. Based on what I've seen, US series are much more open-ended than UK ones. Also, US networks don't produce their own entertainment programming (well, they do, but the law requires production and distribution to be compartmentalized), but order it from various studios/production companies. They also don't own all of their affiliates/broadcasters - generally just the ones in the big cities (so WCBS in New York is owned by CBS, but WGME in Portland Maine just purchases programming from CBS, which purchases it from Paramount/Warner/Columbia/etc.).
    An American network series in its first year generally starts out with a 13-episode order. It's important to note that the series will usually begin airing before the order is complete, and is often only a month or so ahead of what airs. If the show is successful, the network will order the "back nine", to extend the order to 22 episodes, with production continuing without a stop.
    After that first year, the network has first rights to broadcast another season, and can make another order, generally for a full 22-episode season. Sometimes they'll make a smaller order, sometimes a longer one ("Law & Order", for example, got an astounding 5-year order a year or two back). If they do not exercise those rights, the program becomes a free agent, either being offered to other networks ("Buffy"), syndicated to individual stations ("Baywatch"), or no longer produced, since it's got the smell of death on it.quote: So this would mean the network already knew the show it replaced was a dead duck after like 3 or 4 weeks?[/quote]Pretty much. The networks' increasingly quick hook has become a real source of frustration for US viewers.quote: Am I totally insane here? Do the networks have absolutely no backbone?[/quote]But it's understandable, in a way.
    Production costs have skyrocketed, and most of a studio's income for a property comes from the network. For example, "Buffy" has become more expensive as Gellar, Whedon, etc., were able to renegotiate their contracts when their original ones expired. Fox, the studio which produces it, asked WB (the show's original network) for $2M/episode. WB balked, but Fox was able to get the money from UPN.
    But that's a successful show. Consider one like "Harsh Realm". It was also costsing $1-2M per episode, and while its first week was great, its audience was cut in half for the second week. And halved again by the third... Pretty quickly, advertising wasn't going to cover what the Fox Network was paying for it. So they cancelled the rest of their order from Twentieth Television. Might the show have found an audience? Maybe. And when you're talking about an inexpensive fixed-set sitcom, you can wait it out - but Fox didn't think it was worth losing $1M/week to find out.
    The network only profits off the advertising from the initial two runs of an episode - they don't have a piece of the merchandising, syndication, or video money, so they're not exactly motivated to hang on to a show that might become popular. There's big money at stake, and it's tough to blame a network for being skittish.
    Note that this is a simplification - recently, networks have been allowed to have a production stake in their programming; that's why Viacom bought CBS, Disney bought ABC, and Fox/Paramount/Warner all started networks. Also, networks aren't a terribly profitable business. Before the studios started buying them as distribution channels for their product, they made most of their money off the TV stations they owned in large markets.quote: And then you get something like American Gothic or Space Above and Beyond which go the whole run but get cancelled anyhow.[/quote]Technically, they aren't cancelled. They just aren't renewed at the end of their orders.
    [Edited last by Jason Seaver on November 01, 2001 at 12:03 PM]
     

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