EXCLUSIVE: Supergirl’s next flight might be to the north. As the freshman CBS drama’s future continues to be uncertain, I hear studio Warner Bros TV is seriously considering moving production from Los Angeles to Vancouver next season. There have been exploratory conversations with the cast during the past couple of weeks, and, while I hear many are not thrilled about the potential move, it is a realistic possibility as the series is looking to reduce costs.
Supergirl was one of the biggest network shows to commit to filming in California in the past couple of years, so the expectation was that it would be among those awarded a tax credit by the California Film Commission, which changed its methodology to give rebates based on productions’ economic impact. But Supergirl‘s application was not approved, which likely affected the show’s budget projections. For WBTV and Supergirl producer Greg Berlanti, relocating the show to Vancouver, which just trimmed its tax credit, also would make sense logistically because that is where all other Berlanti superhero dramas are filmed. But a potential Supergirl move to Canada would be a major blow to California’s effort to stem runaway production.
WBTV is looking to trim the budget of Supergirl as the studio is in conversations with CBS about a second-season renewal. The show commands a very high license fee, and a reduction of that and/or the number of episodes ordered by the network are considered a possibility. Then there is the possibility of the show not getting renewed by CBS. I hear there already has been incoming interest by multiple networks and digital platforms inquiring about picking up the show should CBS cancels it. The CW frequently has been mentioned as a possibility because of Supergirl‘s young skew, the CW president Mark Pedowitz’s public comments about regretting not going after the project when it was originally pitched, and the fact that the CW is co-owned by CBS and Warner Bros. (One of the CW’s DC dramas, Flash, already crossed over to Supergirl, bringing it into the CW universe).
A year ago, speculation was rampant that the Supergirl pilot would land on the CW, not CBS’ schedule, which didn’t happen. Insiders are skeptical that, even with a budget reduction and the move to Vancouver, Supergirl could be produced at a price point where it could make financial sense on the CW. It is a little easier when a project is in the pilot stage — the CW picked up Crazy Ex-Girlfriend from Showtime and Ringer from CBS — but harder when a series already has run on a big network, as was the case with WBTV’s Constantine last year, which did not make the transition for NBC to the CW. Still, anything is considered within the realm of possibility. Among outside networks, Hulu is believed to be a suitable option. Supergirl would give the streaming service a viable superhero franchise as it is taking on Netflix, home of the Marvel series, in the original programming arena. Even if networks are interested, no suitor can make a move before CBS makes a decision.
And despite all the chatter, many bet on Supergirl continuing at CBS in some shape or form, likely at a reduced license fee and possibly with a shorter order. (Its freshman season consisted of 20 episodes). CBS has yet to make renewal decisions on any of its freshman shows, including dramas Supergirl, Limitless, Code Black, Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders and Rush Hour. While Rush Hour is unlikely to come back, the other four are considered viable candidates with similar decent, not great, ratings performances, none standing out or lagging too much.
Still, despite the fact that its numbers tapered off significantly after a strong start, Supergirl, aided by a solid DVR play, averaged a 2.4 rating among adults 18–49 in a competitive time slot, ranking as the No. 1 new CBS drama and No. 4 new network series overall (behind only Blindspot, Life in Pieces and Quantico) in the demo this season. It is CBS’ youngest-skewing new drama and averaged nearly 10 million viewers. But it also is the most expensive new CBS show, and it is not owned by the network, which is why the renewal talks have been so complex. The other three CBS freshman dramas in contention are all owned or co-owned by CBS.
Still, Supergirl has been part of traditionally older-skewing CBS’ effort to attract younger demographic via newer dramas like Supergirl‘s Monday companion Scorpion. The network brass likely will weigh in all these factors as they head to New York during the next few days to start working on the network’s 2016-17 schedule.