CBS this morning gave early renewals to 11 returning and five freshman series. Those that are staying on the bubble after not making the list include several veterans — dramas Elementary and Criminal Minds, comedy 2 Broke Girls and reality stalwart The Amazing Race. Also in limbo are third-year comedy The Odd Couple, sophomore Code Black and Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, and freshmen The Great Indoors, Pure Genius, as well as midseason entries Doubt, which was swiftly pulled off the schedule, and Training Day, which was sent to Saturdays.
For Criminal Minds, now in its 12th season, this is nothing new. The long-running series often misses the cut for an early pickup as CBS and leading studio ABC Studios wrangle over costs and other deal points on the aging procedural. I hear this is the case again this year, with renewal negotiations between CBS and ABC Studios underway and expected to result in a Season 13 pickup. (Because of its age, the series also faces ending contracts of some cast members on a yearly basis.) While past its heyday, Criminal Minds still averages respectable 10.8 million viewers (Live+Same Day). Its Live+7 adults 18-49 tally (2.4) is the third-highest for a CBS non-sports program.
As for spinoff Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, it is too early to make a renewal prediction as the drama just aired the third episode of its second season last night. (It didn’t fare well, slipping to new Live+same day lows of 4.8 million viewers and 0.8 in 18-49.)
Unlike the mothership Criminal Minds, 2 Broke Girls and Elementary find themselves in an unfamiliar territory as they have been regulars on CBS’ early renewal lists in the past. Elementary, now in its fifth season, is a bit of a conundrum. Its ratings have slipped further this year in the Sunday 10 PM slot, though, while its demo rating dropped 33% to a 1.2 (L+7), in total viewers, the metric CBS uses, Elementary (7.4 million) is off by 18.7%, in line with most of linear declines for returning series. Elementary is 100% owned by CBS. It has off-network and SVOD deals with WGN America, Hulu Plus and broadcast stations that fetch in as much as $3 million total per episode that have a couple more seasons on them; and it is a solid international seller too. Just last May, CBS Corp. CEO Les Moonves used Elementary as an example of a program ownership success story, telling investors that the show had “made approximately an $80 million profit for the corporation” the previous year. The network seems to want to keep a few slots open for its new crop of pilots but Elementary is considered a serious contender for a renewal.
On the other hand, 2 Broke Girls is produced by Warner Bros TV. Used as a utility player on Monday, 2 Broke Girls, now in Season 6, has averaged 7.1 million viewers (L+7), which is below the comedies renewed today, though its 18-49 tally, 1.9, was above Man With A Plan and Superior Donuts. 2 Broke Girls also is CBS’ youngest-skewing comedy. CBS in the past couple of years ended prematurely two WBTV series with big off-network deals — Person Of Interest after five seasons and The Mentalist after seven, as well as Mike & Molly after six — costing the studio hundreds of millions in unrealized syndication revenue. That would also be the case with 2 Broke Girls, which holds the record for the biggest off-network sale for a half-hour comedy series, earning $1.7 million an episode from TBS alone. 2 Broke Girls is very much on the bubble, and WBTV will no doubt fight to bring the series back while CBS will review its comedy pilots before making a decision. The network already renewed three returning and three freshman comedy series, WBTV/Chuck Lorre’s The Big Bang Theory and Mom, 20th TV’s Life In Pieces as well as newbies Kevin Can Wait, Man With A Plan and Superior Donuts, all owned or co-owned by CBS.
As for The Amazing Race, for the first time since the Emmy heavyweight’s 2001 debut, it will have only one installment this season, which will premiere March 30, replacing Training Day on Thursday. The veteran aired in the Friday 8 PM slot recently but the network found success this season with MacGyver in the hour, which has invigorated the entire night. With all three CBS Friday dramas — MacGyver, Hawaii Five-0 and Blue Bloods — renewed for next season, it is unclear what berths CBS may consider for The Amazing Race beyond bridging the two seasons of Survivor. Yet, it is a legacy series for the network, so another season should be under consideration, if nothing else to bid a proper farewell to the most heralded reality series in Emmy history.
Like last year, sophomore medical drama Code Black is heavily on the bubble. The series, co-produced by ABC Studios and CBS Studios, has internal support at CBS whose executives have liked it creatively, and Code Black averaged OK viewership of 9.2 million (L+7), just below the audiences for renewed Kevin Can Wait and Mom. However, the drama did not show significant growth prospects in Season 2 despite the high-profile cast addition of Rob Lowe.
The Odd Couple, which also landed a last-minute renewal last May, appears unlikely to return for a fourth season after also not getting a back order this season. The series, starring Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon, was the second least watched CBS series this season behind Training Day, and its showrunner, Bob Daily, saw his new comedy Superior Donuts get an early second-season renewal.
At the Deutsche Bank Media & Telecom Conference earlier this month, Moonves indicated that “at least five, maybe six shows from this season” will be returning next season. CBS today renewed five, dramas Bull and MacGyver and comedies Kevin Can Wait, Man With A Plan and midseason entry Superior Donuts. As we projected, left out was new comedy The Great Indoors, the most vulnerable of the six freshmen in contention as it has failed to take full advantage of its strong lead-in, The Big Bang Theory. Still, the multi-camera comedy starring Joel McHale is very much in the running. Next week, the network will double pump the show, giving it a test ride in the Monday 9:30 PM slot in addition to its regular airing on Thursday as CBS brass want to get more information on the show’s ability to stand on its own, without Big Bang‘s protection.
There is no chance for the other three CBS series — midseason dramas Doubt, which was yanked from the schedule after two airings; Training Day, which was banished to Saturdays and also tragically lost its star Bill Paxton; and fall entry Pure Genius, which did not get a back order after an anemic initial run.