New TV shows with lousy ratings are getting a second chance

A.P. BIO — “Drenching Dallas” Episode 113 — Pictured: Glenn Howerton as Jack Griffin — (Photo by Colleen Hayes/NBC)
A.P. BIO — “Drenching Dallas” Episode 113 — Pictured: Glenn Howerton as Jack Griffin — (Photo by Colleen Hayes/NBC)
Image: Colleen Hayes/NBC
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Not long ago, NBC’s new sitcom A.P. Bio, which has the one of the fewest overall viewers among the broadcaster’s scripted shows during the current 2017-2018 broadcast TV season, probably would’ve gotten the axe in its first season. In today’s TV landscape, the Glenn Howerton-starring show was renewed for a second.

US broadcasters like NBC are giving new TV series more time to find an audience now that on-demand platforms and DVRs have killed off the ritual of gathering around the TV set to watch the show air live.

More freshman series were renewed in the past two broadcast TV seasons than in the decade-plus MoffettNathanson has been tracking renewals and cancellations, the research firm showed in a May 31 report.

Not all the shows renewed for a second season were ratings juggernauts like The Good Doctor and Young Sheldon. Some, like For the People and A.P. Bio, were among the worst performing scripted shows on their respective networks. The average viewership for the freshman series renewed at three of the big four US broadcasters—ABC, CBS, and NBC—was lower in the 18-49-year-old demographic coveted by TV advertisers during the most recent 2017-2018 broadcast season than in years past. In other words, the bar for renewals is getting lower.

Launching a new series is a gamble. It’s pricier to produce and market new shows than existing series, because the audience has to be built from scratch. Networks are simply making their best approximations as to what their audiences will want to watch. They’re betting that a lukewarm show can catch on in its second season if viewers find it later and watch it on demand.

NBC’s The Good Place started off strong in 2016, especially among 18-49-year-olds, but lost live viewers later in its first season. Its renewal for a second season was mostly seen as a credit to showrunner Mike Schur, who produced hits like The Office and Parks and Recreation for the network. But The Good Place maintained impeccable reviews and viewers caught on. The show’s live viewership remained strong in season two, and picked up steam in delayed viewing and across platforms. It will return for a third season.

Overall, broadcast TV announced 39 series cancellations in 2018 compared to 41 last year, MoffettNathanson found. And 68% of the scripted series slated for the 2018-2019 US broadcast season that begins in the fall are returning, which is the highest share in the firm’s data set.

Correction (June 30, 2018): This story said Champions was renewed by NBC, based on the MoffettNathanson report. It was not.