TV Upfronts by the Numbers: Total Volume Hits 5-Year Low

The number of renewed shows rises as patience (and ownership) becomes increasingly commonplace.
Peter Kramer/NBC
NBC's 'Rise'

With several returning series negotiating reduced licensing fees helping to create a larger number of renewed shows, new series orders dipped to a five-year low as shelf space became harder to find across the schedule. As ad dollars and viewership erode amid a Peak TV landscape and SVOD world, the five broadcast networks focused on ownership and patience that a young show can build an audience (instead of spending millions in promotion and advertising). ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and The CW collectively picked up 39 new comedies and dramas — the lowest tally since combining for 37 shows in 2012 and the third straight year of overall declines.

The freshman class of 2016-17 fared better than a year ago, seeing 19 of 45 (.422) go on to a second season (with nine of them still to be determined). Of those, eight were comedies (up from five a year ago) and 11 were dramas (off three).   

Here's a closer look at how the Big Five networks are preparing for the 2017-18 season as well as the (almost) final word on the 2016-17 season. Click here to see how the studios fared.

TOTAL VOLUME SNAPSHOT

2012: 37
2013: 54
2014: 54
2015: 49
2016: 42

Total scripted series orders 2017: 39 (42 in 2016)
Dramas: 26 (27 in 2016)
Comedies: 13 (15 in 2016)
Single-camera: nine (11 in 2016)
Multicam: four (four in 2016)

ABC

Just when it looked like the Disney-owned network would see volume impacted by the arrival of American Idol, Channing Dungey announced straight-to-series orders for a Roseanne revival and a Grey's Anatomy spinoff. Even with Idol taking up a large chunk of time come midseason, volume was up as the network handed out short orders to Quantico, Roseanne and Marvel straight-to-series drama Inhumans, bumping its total haul up three from a year ago.

Series orders 2017: 12 (nine last year)
Dramas: eight (five last year)
Comedies: four (four last year)
Single-camera: fhree (four last year)
Multicamera: one (none last year)
(three straight-to-series pickups)

CBS

This season, CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves had a greater hand in series pickups as network president Glenn Geller was on medical leave to recuperate from a heart attack. Moonves kept things on par with last year — renewing two additional series and ordering the same number of pilots as the network remained the most stable of the five broadcasters.  

Series orders 2017: eight (eight last year)
Dramas: four (five last year)
Comedies: four (three last year)
Single-camera: two (one last year)
Multicamera: two (none last year)
(one straight-to-series order: Young Sheldon)

Fox

With more returning shows from a year ago, Dana Walden and Gary Newman are really hoping patience pays off. Having already filled their American Idol-sized schedule hole, the network picked up four fewer shows than a year ago. What's more, the network bought exclusively from sibling studio 20th Century Fox Television — including a pair of straight-to-series orders from prolific producers Seth MacFarlane (The Orville) and Ryan Murphy (911).

Series orders 2017: seven (11 last year)
Dramas: five (five last year)
Comedies: two (three last year)
Single-camera: two (one last year)
Multicamera: none (none last year)
(two straight-to-series orders)

NBC

How's this for stability: A year after canceling 10 shows and renewing only nine, Bob Greenblatt's network turned that around and is bringing 14 shows back for additional seasons and canceling only four. That naturally created fewer needs, reflected in a dip in new series from a year ago.

Series orders 2017: eight (11 last year)
Dramas: five (six last year)
Comedies: three (five last year)
Single-camera: two (three last year)
Multicamera: one (two last year)
(two straight-to-series orders: Will & Grace, Law & Order True Crime)

The CW

Speaking of stability, the younger-skewing network overseen by Mark Pedowitz lost only two veteran shows that were previously announced as final seasons (Reign and The Vampire Diaries) while returning one of three pilots from a year ago (Riverdale). Even with three holes, he still picked up an extra series as the network remains committed to splitting pickups between co-owners CBS Television Studios and Warner Bros. Television.

Series orders 2017: four (three last year)
Dramas: four (three last year)

WHO RENEWED THE MOST SHOWS OVERALL

With a blurring line between a hit and a miss, renewals were up six from a year ago (71 vs. 65). 

CBS: 18 (up two)
ABC: 14 (down two)
Fox: 14 (up two)
NBC: 14 (up five)
The CW: 11 (down one)

WHO CANCELED THE MOST SHOWS OVERALL

And as renewals go up, cancellations will come down (33 vs. 36).

ABC: 10 (even)
Fox: eight (up one)
CBS: seven (down one)
CW: four (up three)
NBC: four (down six)

HOW THE FRESHMAN CLASS FARED

Of the 45 new series ordered for 2016-17 broadcast season, 19 (.422) are returning as another nine still await word on their futures. (And that number could improve as nine more shows await a decision.) That's better than a year ago, when the five nets went a combined 16-for-45 (.355).

ABC: 3-for-9, .333
CBS: 5-for-9, .555
CW: 1-for-3, .333
Fox: 5-for-12, .416
NBC: 5-for-12, .416

ALL ABOUT THAT IP

After mixed results with reboots (farewell Training Day and Frequency, see you in the fall The Exorcist and Lethal Weapon), revivals and familiar IP remain commonplace. NBC is bringing Will & Grace back; ABC rounded up all the original stars of Roseanne and is spinning off top drama Grey's Anatomy; CBS is looking to TV's No. 1 comedy with The Big Bang Theory prequel Young Sheldon and a reboot of SWAT; and The CW is updating Dynasty with a modern take. And that's not even counting multiple comic book titles, book-to-screen adaptations, podcasts and international formats.

MILITARY

Last season, time travel was all the rage with four of the five broadcast networks looking to alter history. (Only Timeless survived after NBC reversed course on an unheralded cancellation.) This year, networks are recruiting military shows in an effort to appeal to a wider swath of America. NBC has The Brave (one of the first new shows picked up for the upcoming season); CBS has SWAT and SEAL Team; and The CW has Valor.

Keep track of all the broadcast renewals, cancellations and series pickups with THR's handy scorecard.

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