While ABC is yet to decide Nashville‘s future beyond the current fourth season, work has started on the potential Season 5. Newly appointed showrunners, Thirtysomething creators Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz, are assembling a small writers room to ABC Logowork on stories for next season. I hear the move by producing studios Lionsgate TV and ABC Studios  is designed to both help the duo — who are new to the country music drama — hone a strong pitch for Season 5 and get a head start should Nashville get a renewal. While on the bubble, Nashville had been looking good for a fifth season, which could be a shorter, final installment. The writers room launch represents another hopeful sign just as the series somewhat alarmingly ticked down to Live+same day series lows among adults 18-49 (0.8 rating, tied with winter finale) and total viewers (3.7 million) last night.

Herskovitz and Zwick, who are under a deal at Lionsgate TV, are taking the helm of the soapy series from current showrunner Dee Johnson, who had been Marshall Herskovitz Ed Zwickwith the show since the first season, working alongside creator Callie Khouri. Nashville has been an important series for Lionsgate TV, the sole broadcast show for the cable and streaming-centric indie studio. The renewal of the modestly rated drama had gone down to the wire the last couple of seasons, mostly coming down to ABC and Lionsgate haggling over the big price tag of the show starring Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere.

Creatively, Nashville faced a major challenge this season as it had to accommodate the extensive medical leave of one of its stars, Panettiere. Ratings-wise, its very low Live+same day performance has been somewhat offset by solid DVR gains, and the music and touring business it has spawned, becoming a franchise for the network and producing studios.