With renewals up and new commissions down, the big five US networks are leaning more heavily on internal productions for the 2015 season. Our LA correspondent reports from the front line.
The US pilot season is all about the high stakes search for primetime’s next big thing, as with 2015’s home run drama debut Empire. But for a studio, the win doesn’t come until a series is renewed for season two and beyond. With this in mind, the 2014-15 season provides a positive upswing for ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox broadcast networks.
For a studio, the win doesn’t come until a series is renewed for season two and beyond.
The renewal rate of scripted series introduced during the September-May time frame is higher than it has been since 2009-10 for all but NBC. ABC renewed seven of its 11 new series for a second season, compared to three of 14 from the 2013-14 season. CBS picked up five of its eight season one shows, compared to two out of eight from the 2013-14 broadcast season. Fox renewed three out of eight, an increase over two of eight from last season. NBC renewed one out of a total of 10 scripted series from 2014, although decisions are still pending on two late midseason shows: A.D.: The Bible Continues and American Odyssey.
The name of the game for studios is getting more content into the syndication pipeline in a time when the battle to get on the air and stay there has never been fiercer because viewers have hundreds of series (both new and old) to choose from on broadcast, network, cable and digital platforms.
On the business end, networks ordered aggressively from their in-house studio arms, in order for them to control the windowing and off-air licensing strategies that are so crucial to a show’s profitability these days.
That made for a tougher environment this year for new orders and renewals for the largest external studios: Warner Bros. TV, Sony Pictures TV and Lionsgate TV.
The biggest challenge for studios is delivering shows that are great right out of the gate.
The last minute pressure to reduce co-production deals as a gateway to a timeslot was in full force this year, more so than in the past. With so much in-house studio production being done, the biggest challenge for the studios is delivering shows that are not just good but great right out of the gate and distinctly marketable in a sea of TV choice. There’s no longer room on the schedule for shows that do not have passionate fan bases.