Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Why your favorite show got cancelled

There are many reasons a show gets axed. Just looking at some of the google searches leading people here, some of you are looking for reasons why. Why did [show name here] get cancelled? It isn't fair! It was a good show!

Possible reasons:

The ratings just weren't cutting it. This is the most likely reason. Sure, your show might have averaged 6 million viewers, but if the competition is pulling 16 million, your show isn't competitive. They may have even tried it on different nights, just to see if the ratings would improve. When CBS moved 'Close to Home' to Sunday night, not only did the show's ratings go up, it did better than the show which was previously in the timeslot, 'Threshold'. If the show goes on to hold its own against the other shows on at that time, it's a winner. If not...

The show lost steam. This could be creatively or again, ratings. Some shows start of small but over time build a following. If the show never builds, it is less likely to find a home. If it isn't gaining viewers week after week, then the show isn't being talked about, you aren't capturing any new viewers and the chances of getting new viewers in a second season are slim. Creatively a show could take a nosedive too. 'Commander in Chief' changed directions twice under new showrunners and most felt that the quality of the show suffered, leading to its demise. Unfortunately, 'Commander in Chief' also dropped because of another reason.

The network didn't know how to promote the show. They scheduled it wrong. The promotion was bad. They kept moving it around. Yes, the network can be to blame for a show's failure just as much (sometimes even moreso) than the show itself. They may try to get an audience boost by moving it to different time slots, trying to find a good hole to fill, but if the show gets moved too much, people won't be able to find it, particularly the audience that don't make the show appointment viewing, but still tune in when it is on, just because there's nothing else to watch. You lose those people, your show is doomed.

The show was too expensive. This happens to older shows. Strangely enough, this was one of the reasons '7th Heaven' was cancelled, but rumor has it that the network got an infusion of cash to pay for another year of it, though the cost had gone up quite a lot. When a show is on the air for several seasons, the price of production goes up (hey, when things go well for you, you get a salary increase...right?) Look at 'Friends'. If that show had really dropped off in viewership the last two years, they might not have renewed it. It was ungodly expensive to produce, but it kept getting good ratings, right to the end, and the syndication dollars on the show were golden.

I know a lot of you are upset about 'Invasion' and 'Surface' being cancelled. The problem with those shows was that they didn't ever break out of their genre appeal. Each had hardcore loyal audiences, but they never expanded. It doesn't matter how good a show gets (and these types of shows tend to get better as they find their footing), if it can't find a mainstream audience, like 'Lost' did, it will never be a hit for a network. Dramas also don't repeat well. Very rarely does a drama show pull good numbers with reruns, unless it is a hit show. The good news, is that with the changes coming with online distribution, it may not matter quite as much. If a network can find additional revenue streams for a show (read: paid downloads), they may not care about things like repeatability. You can be sure that the nets will keep a very close eye on which shows have high download rates. If a small hardcore audience is spending a lot of money on a show, it could justify its existence.

The future will be very interesting in this regard, as the rules are starting to change. You may find your next favorite show is only meant to run for one or two years, and if you purchase them on DVD, you could be funding the next great genre or niche show. Just as with everything else in the world, 'It's all about the Benjamins'.

Oh, I did leave out one last reason a show gets cancelled...they just don't like you.

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