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In a television universe of diminishing viewership returns and greater focus on streaming, international and other revenue streams, the Big Four networks relied more on ownership this upfronts season than ever before.
As ratings and ad dollars continue to trend south, ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox aligned even closer with their studio counterparts this season. (Fox and NBC bought exclusively from 20th Century Fox and Universal Television, respectively, in a key change from last year.) Off-network sales, meanwhile, became increasingly rare as shared ownership is largely the new lay of the land in that space.
Warner Bros. Television and Sony Pictures Television felt the squeeze this season, scoring multiple series pickups but having to give up a slice of the ownership pie on nearly every one of them in the purest sign of the new reality for independent studios.
Here’s a look at how all the studios fared this season, with only a small number of pilots remaining in contention. (Tallies do not include shows picked up for summer.)
*Designates straight-to-series order
CBS Television Studios: Ten series ordered (vs. nine last year when it finished in second)
The David Stapf-led studio came into upfronts with 17 pilots in contention — with its lone outside sale — Wisdom of the Crowd (a co-production with UTV) — moving forward. But the studio rises to the top of the rankings this season after boarding four shows from outside studios as a co-producer in yet another sign of the value placed upon ownership. CBS Television Studios boarded Warner Bros. Television’s By the Book and Me, Myself and I, as well as The CW’s Life Sentence, while also working in tandem with Universal TV to develop CBS’ Jeremy Piven drama Wisdom of the Crowd.
SEAL Team (CBS)
SWAT (CBS, co-production with SPT)
Wisdom of the Crowd (CBS, co-production with UTV)
By the Book (CBS, co-production with WBTV)
Me, Myself and I (CBS, co-production with WBTV)
Life Sentence (CW, co-production with WBTV)
Valor (CW, co-production with WBTV)
Returning series: 16 (all at CBS or The CW) for a total of 26 on broadcast
CBS’ Blue Bloods, Code Black (co-production with ABC Studios), Criminal Minds (co-production with ABC Studios), Elementary, Hawaii Five-0, Madam Secretary, NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles, NCIS: New Orleans, Scorpion, Bull, MacGyver, Man With a Plan, Superior Donuts, The CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Jane the Virgin
Universal Television: Nine series ordered (vs. seven last year when it finished in fourth place)
New chief Pearlena Igbokwe’s studio was up two from a year ago, thanks to straight-to-series pickups for Will & Grace and anthology Law & Order True Crime. The studio converted only one of two off-network pilots to series: CBS’ Jeremy Piven drama Wisdom of the Crowd — which CBS TV Studios boarded as a co-producer. Still, that was good enough to bump UTV up from fourth to second this season. Perhaps the most interesting story to come out of the upfronts was NBC’s decision to reverse course on Timeless — with Universal Television now boarding the Sony TV drama as a co-producer.
A.P. Bio (NBC)
The Brave (NBC)
Good Girls (NBC)
Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders* (NBC)
Will & Grace* (NBC)
Wisdom of the Crowd (CBS, co-production CBSTVS)
Returning series: 12 (with only one off-network) for a total of 21 series on broadcast: Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine; NBC’s Chicago Fire, Chicago Med, Chicago PD, Law & Order: SVU, Shades of Blue, Superstore, The Good Place, Great News, Timeless and Taken (Marlon, Midnight Texas and bubble Chicago Justice are awaiting renewal.)
ABC Studios: Eight (even with last year when it tied for third)
Even year-over-year, Patrick Moran’s Disney-owned studio had 15 pilots in the works and has its lone off-network sale (ABC’s Household Name) still in contention. ABC Studios also boarded both Sony buys as a co-producer. The studio also was behind one of the biggest shockers of upfront week: Shonda Rhimes’ straight-to-series Grey’s Anatomy spinoff.
Alex, Inc. (ABC, co-production with SPT)
The Crossing (ABC)
For the People (ABC)
The Good Doctor (ABC, co-production with SPT)
The Gospel of Kevin (ABC)
The Inhumans* (ABC)
The Mayor (ABC)
Untitled Grey’s Anatomy spinoff* (ABC)
Returning series: 11 (with two co-productions at CBS) for a total of 19 on broadcast: ABC’s Agents of SHIELD, Black-ish, Grey’s Anatomy, How to Get Away With Murder, Once Upon a Time, Scandal, American Housewife, Designated Survivor, Speechless (co-prod with 20th); CBS’ Code Black (co-prod with CBSTVS) and Criminal Minds (co-prod with CBSTVS) (A decision on ABC’s yet-to-premiere drama Still Star-Crossed will come later.)
Warner Bros. Television: Eight (even with last year when it tied for third)
It’s impressive that given the ownership push that the indie studio was able to hold ground with last year, WBTV was the only studio to have pilots set up at all five broadcast networks and finished the season with shows on every network save for Fox and NBC. (Although, its Batman prequel Gotham earned the prized Thursdays at 8 p.m. slot on Fox and still has Trial and Error on the bubble with NBC.) All told, the indie had two key sales to ABC and three at CBS. Peter Roth’s studio also boarded The CW’s Valor as a co-production.
Young Sheldon* (CBS)
By the Book (CBS, co-production with CBSTVS)
Me, Myself and I (CBS, co-production with CBSTVS)
Splitting Up Together (ABC)
Black Lightning (CW)
Life Sentence (CW, co-production with CBSTVS)
Valor (CW, co-production with CBSTVS)
Returning series: 16 (with shows at all five broadcast networks) for a total of 26 series on broadcast: ABC’s The Middle; CBS’ The Big Bang Theory, Mom; CW’s The 100, Arrow, The Flash, iZombie, Legends of Tomorrow, The Originals, Supergirl, Supernatural, Riverdale as well as CBSTVS co-prods Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend; Fox’s Gotham, Lucifer, Lethal Weapon; and NBC’s Blindspot
20th Century Fox Television: Six (vs. 12 last year when it finished first)
The Jonnie Davis- and Howard Kurtzman-led studio posted the biggest declines year-over-year as Fox, which renewed a large swath of its schedule, had fewer needs. A year after supplying NBC with the fall’s biggest new series (This Is Us), neither of 20th TV’s pilots at outside networks moved forward.
The Gifted (Fox)
L.A. to Vegas (Fox)
The Orville* (Fox)
The Resident (Fox)
Returning series: 15 (with sales at ABC, CBS and NBC) for a total of 21 on broadcast: ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat, Modern Family, Speechless (co-production with 20th); CBS’ Life in Pieces; Fox’s Bob’s Burgers, Empire, Family Guy, Last Man on Earth, New Girl, The Simpsons, The Exorcist, The Mick, Star, The X-Files; and NBC’s This Is Us (A decision on The Carmichael Show will be made later.)
Sony Pictures Television: Three (vs. five last year when it finished in fifth)
Despite an 11th-hour reprieve for Timeless at NBC and a hefty two-season renewal for The Goldbergs at ABC, Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg’s studio without any ties to a broadcast network had three of its nine pilots land series orders, sacrificing ownership on all of them in the process.
Alex, Inc. (ABC, co-production with SPT)
The Good Doctor (ABC, co-production with ABC Studios)
SWAT (CBS, co-production with CBS Television Studios)
Returning series: five (across three networks) for a total of eight on broadcast: ABC’s The Goldbergs; CBS’ Kevin Can Wait; NBC’s The Blacklist, The Night Shift and Timeless
Keep track of all the broadcast renewals, cancelations and series pickups with THR‘s handy scorecard.
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