The short answer to the headline question is “money”.
But since the networks aren’t sharing their show by show income statements with the public, we have to try and triangulate the financial situation of each show from the publicly available information.
- Current season adults 18-49 ratings relative to other scripted shows on the same network. Ratings = ad $ for the network. Shows as much as 20% below the networks scripted average rating are still likely to be renewed. Shows above the average rating are virtually a lock for renewal. Shows airing on Friday have typically been renewed with ratings as much as 30% below Sunday-Thursday.
- Syndication status, Syndication revenue = $ for the studio, not the network. How many episodes has the show generated? 2nd-4th season shows often have powerful incentives to generate more episodes for the secondary market. Old (s5+ shows) get less and less benefit as they get older/more expensive.
- Who produces the show. When the studio is part of the same corporation as the network the syndication revenue benefits the corporation. Shows produced by the network’s in-house studio have a survival advantage over shows produced by a third party studio. That has become increasingly important to decisions in recent years.
What doesn’t matter:
- Ratings vs. shows on other networks, including “winning” a timeslot or night
- Total viewership
- Critic reviews, awards
Fans wanting to see the status of their favorite broadcast scripted shows can read TV Grim Reaper’s predictions every Monday during the US broadcast TV season (late Sept – late May). TV Grim Reaper will have new posts every week with updated renewal and cancellation predictions.
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Also published on Medium.