When the networks decide which programs to pick up for fall and which ones to ax, it's not only about the Nielsen numbers. "There is more financial analysis going on than ratings analysis," says one executive. Here are the prognoses for a few series fighting for survival.
Finding a home for Happy Endings since it moved from Wednesday and away from its strong lead-in Modern Family has been tough (it now airs on Tuesday, a night full of comedies). And its scheduling options are limited, since ABC still embraces the concept of family hour and avoids airing shows with racy content before 9pm. Happy Endings is popular with the network's ad-sales department, since the audience has a high concentration of viewers with incomes over $100,000. The question is, are there enough of them? With only 2.9 million people tuning in to the Jan. 29 episode, maybe not.
The Music City drama hasn't attracted the kind of audience it deserves based on the critical raves it has received. But it's making money, and ABC's other fall dramas (like Last Resort) fizzled fast. Marketing new shows gets harder and more expensive every season, so ABC is likely to stick with Nashville and hope its viewership can grow.
NBC often wins Parenthood's Tuesday-at-10pm time slot among broadcast networks in the 18-49 age group that advertisers covet. That should make it a sure thing for a fifth season, right? Not necessarily: The large and expensive cast could be an obstacle. If Parenthood returns, don't be surprised if there's a budget-related family tragedy that thins the herd. Another route the show can take is to keep the entire cast on board but not for every episode, as ABC did with Brothers and Sisters in its later seasons.
Eleven million seems like a lucky number for any new show. Not CBS' Vegas. Despite the large average audience, it hasn't fared well with the 18-49 demographic. (Not even close: The median viewer age is 60.7.) Nor does it generate the kind of online buzz that serialized shows typically do (yes, network executives pay attention to that). With its high-priced cast, including Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis, and feature film-worthy production design, Vegas is too expensive to move to Friday, where there are plenty of older viewers but where programming costs need to be low. Don't bet on this one to come back.
The Mindy Project
The Mindy Kaling-led Fox comedy hasn't shown any sign of being popular enough to lead off a night next season. "They chopped Ben and Kate, and it wasn't doing that much worse than Mindy," says one rival network exec. "It depends how many comedies they need next fall." Mindy does have supporters at the network who like the show creatively; one insider gives it a 75 percent chance of returning.
The Carrie Diaries
The CW's Carrie Diaries is an example of how online streaming is changing the TV business. The network's deals with Hulu and Netflix to carry its shows are based on the number of episodes produced. So even if The Carrie Diaries isn't a hit the night it airs, if viewership remains steady, it might just come back.