Are Midseason TV Shows Cancelled Way Too Easily and Often? Or Does That Only Seem to Be the Case?

Deception Cancelled ABC

When both Deception and The Crossing were cancelled on the same day in May, I was bothered — in part because I had yet to give either show much of a chance as a viewer, but mostly because it seemed as if ABC hadn’t given the two midseason dramas any chance at all.

At the point it got the hook, Deception was averaging a 0.8 demo rating through nine airings. No great shakes, mind you, but still a bit better than fellow freshman For the People (0.7), which had been awarded a Season 2 an hour earlier (thanks, Shonda!), and well above the eventually renewed Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s 0.5 (thanks, Marvel!). The Crossing meanwhile had been averaging a 0.7 through a half dozen episodes, when it got the bad news.

Setting aside cold, hard numbers for just a moment, what’s even worse is that Deception, which I was more diligent in keeping tabs on, was doing precisely what a midseason diversion should do: entertain. (One may be tempted to argue it’d be the perfect summer show, but ABC has pretty much abandoned programming original scripted fare deep into the off-season.) The Crossing, likewise, had its merits and untapped potential.

So abrupt were the two dramas’ cancellations, I got to thinking that the “bad rap” assigned to midseason shows is in fact true. That midseason — or far worse, March/April — is where networks send certain freshman series to flounder, while the more promising (or more marketable) prospects get primo fall placements. Because when you instinctively think about it, doesn’t it just seem like a disproportionate amount of midseason shows fail to see a second season?

I crunched some numbers.

The Family ABCI dusted off my autographed Winnie Cooper Collector’s Edition abacus and took stock of all of the broadcast-TV series premieres from the past five years, starting with the 2013-14 season. Over that time period, ABC‘s renewal rate for freshman dramas launched at midseason was 44 percent — or, eight out of 18 shows. Meanwhile, ABC’s success rate with new dramas that debuted in the fall was… also 44 percent.

ABC in fact is the most balanced of the broadcast networks in that respect, whereas CBS is the most lopsided. The Eye network over the past five seasons has enjoyed a 60 percent successes rate with fall launches… versus midseason’s 29 percent. The caveat I would throw in there, though, is that CBS has only trotted out seven midseason dramas in that time span, versus ABC’s 18; Instinct and Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders were the two that lived to see a Season 2.

NBC meanwhile is one prolific Peacock come midseason, having launched no fewer than 20 dramas there over the past five years. Of those, 40 percent have seen a Season 2, whereas 46 percent of its fall launches found success. Like ABC, pretty balanced.

Fox — which by the way went 4-for-4 this past TV season with its drama launches — has renewed 62 percent of its fall freshman since 2013, while 50 percent of its midseason dramas were picked up. Lastly, over at The CW (which admittedly deals with smaller volume), fall launches have a 60 percent renewal rate, versus midseason’s 56.

Pretty much since Forever (the TV show, not eternity), the issue of ownership has gotten greater play in public, seeing as a broadcast network stands to benefit more greatly from the renewal of one of its own shows versus one supplied by an outside studio. And while that surely comes into play on a case-by-case decision-making basis, the fact is that “outside” productions are renewed at the same rate as everything else, 43 percent — though ABC and CBS at least in recent years seem more inclined to defer to “favorite children.”

Over the aforementioned five-year stretch, here is the renewal rate for all freshman dramas, fall and midseason, on each network:
58% THE CW (11-for-19)
56% FOX (15-for-28)
50% CBS (11-for-22)
44% ABC (15-for-34)
43% NBC (14-for-33)

And here is the renewal rate for all freshman sitcoms over the past five seasons:
46% ABC (10-for-22)
41% CBS (7-for-17)
36% NBC (8-for-22)
19% FOX (3-for-16)

Regardless of some of the numbers above, do you think midseason shows are given short shrift — or worse, hung out to dry? Should/could the networks do a better job of supporting midseason fare?

Want scoop on any un-cancelled shows? Email InsideLine@tvline.com and your question may be answered via Matt’s Inside Line.