Viewers’ favorite TV shows, new and old, are becoming endangered. While there are still some beloved favorites on Netflix and other streaming networks such as the classic “Gilmore Girls,” current TV shows such as the “How I Met Your Father” and “Gossip Girl” reboots have been given the boot by streaming networks. “How I Met Your Father” was meant to play off the original, “How I Met Your Mother”, starring Hilary Duff. Hilary Duff was in a sense the “Ted Mosby” of this new version. “Gossip Girl,” using the same name as the original, revived the story of New York private school teens spreading gossip through social media, but now in a more modern take.
While some may assume these shows are ending due to the writer’s strike, “Marca Lifestyle” suggests it could be due to a lack of interest from the viewers.
“It's difficult to find a niche for a television show, especially in the age of digital media where people aren't prepared to wait to see how long-term storytelling pays off,” Marca Lifestyle said.
Especially in a reboot such as “How I Met Your Father,” viewers are looking to get that nostalgia from their love of the original, but it simply fell short of expectations. The original show ran for nine years, as opposed to the reboot which only held on by the fingertips for just two seasons. “Gossip Girl” was another case of a hyped-up first season and a disappointing second.
“While the first season generated the best ratings for a TV show for the streaming service up to that point and quickly garnered a second-season renewal, Gossip Girl ultimately didn’t live up to the lofty expectations of both critics and fans of the original series, which ran for six seasons from 2007 to 2012,” Daniel Kreps from Rolling Stone said.
Cancellations seem to have an ongoing pattern of lack of substance and depth to hold onto an audience. Take for example, “Mulaney.” “Mulaney” debuted to a wide audience of “2.3 million views and lost half of the audience that watched ‘Family Guy’ right before it,” Vox reported. In the case of “How I Met Your Father” and “Gossip Girl,” these shows were unable to keep viewers coming back for more. Ratings are still very important today.
"As much as people try to say it's about this and it's about that, it's still about the ratings," Kevin Biegel said to Vox.
Studios are so focused on ratings that they do not allow enough time to garner a steady fanbase. Streaming networks put so much pressure on shows now as opposed to traditional media that would allow a show to go on even after views had plummeted. Take a look at "Seinfeld." Even though the sitcom did not initially take off, the "network believed in it." A show may have potential if the network gives it that fighting chance to thrive in the hands of the right fanbase.
"It seems incredibly unlikely that it would have gotten through any of the hurdles today," veteran showrunner/ratings watcher, Kyle Killen told Vox.
When asked about “How I Met Your Father,” Ciara Wardlow, a Rotten Tomatoes critic, said, “There is, in a sense, nothing fundamentally wrong with the show, but there’s also nothing right about it either. It’s just a great big nothing.”
Others said similar things. For example Kevin Carr stated, ”The show’s fine. I don’t hate it, but it just doesn't have a magic touch.”
Unfortunately, shows being released today are almost trying too hard to be relatable whereas shows back in the day just had that relatability factor. Take for example, sitcoms such as “Family Matters” or “Full House.” Viewers may not have lived in Chicago or grown up in a home with three dads, but these families experienced real-life issues and audiences resonated with that. Maybe they were just simpler times or maybe there were better writers. Although, this is just one reason for cancellations.
Some news sites such as Vox suggest that the “flop era” streaming networks are experiencing are due to expense.
“As with everything else, time is money in TV, and giving a show time to find itself is increasingly an expensive proposition if that show isn't an immediate hit,” Emily St. James from Vox said.
For that reason, viewers will notice a pattern of TV shows appearing and disappearing within the same year. They just do not stick. With everything being about instant gratification, it could also be that consumers are impatient to see what is to come in a series and do not allow the writers to build on the characters. Whether it would be lack of suspense or once again, substance, viewers are not as motivated to watch.
St. James explains in the same article that some TV shows we watch are not fully owned by the network that airs them, but that they instead are leased. To paint a picture, the process begins with a production budget, which is decided on by the studio (the first party). From there, the party in charge of the production can pay a licensing fee to air the show through a network (the second party) of their choice. They could also pay a per-episode rerun fee to do just that, a rerun. After that licensing fee is paid, the fate of the show is more often than not in the hands of the audience.
“The production company or studio makes the TV show. The studio technically owns the show, and it collects almost all revenues generated by the show. This setup wasn't such a big deal when the only secondary revenue stream was the syndication market, but now that there are myriad ways (streaming, international distribution, DVD sales, etc.) to make money from a show, it behooves most studios to do their very best to produce as many episodes of the show as possible,” St. James explains.
“The network pays the studio what's called a licensing fee, which is essentially an agreement to pay a certain amount of money, per episode, to air the show a certain number of times. In exchange, the network gets the ad revenue generated by those airings. (The network and studio will sometimes split the ad revenue, but let's keep this simple for now). Because the network isn't directly paying production costs, a huge hit can be a real moneymaker,” St. James adds.
This is how both parties earn their cut. Unfortunately for the studios, they take a loss in revenue if ratings do not meet the expectations. Additionally, some streaming networks have different viewership guidelines than others to proceed with another season. It can get pretty complicated.
“Even cheap TV shows are pretty expensive to produce,” St. James said.
While some shows are flat-out mediocre, other cancellations such as “1899” or “Santa Clarita Diet” are not victims due to lack of fanbase. “The Take” compiled a group of shows that ended too soon for fans and explained how beloved these shows were becoming right before Netflix decided to pull the plug due to expenses.
“Netflix is becoming a graveyard stacked with dead series with unfinished conclusions,” Paul Tassi from Forbes said.
Whether it’s due to budget models or special effects costs, audiences are often left on a cliffhanger even if a show has regular viewers. “1899” was the “most expensive German television series of all time, with a budget of at least $62.2 million, with Netflix investing over $50 million in the project,” according to The Take. “Santa Clarita Diet” also ran into similar issues.
“The company pays for a show’s production costs upfront, in addition to a premium of 30% or more of the complete overall costs. With each new season the series earns, the budget increases. Even in traditional television production, by a show's third season, the cost increase is significant. The top talent can see their pay or bonuses increase from the ‘hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars.’ Along with pay bumps for writers, actors and the crew, the studio has to pay off the show's backend costs, which are paid to everyone from vendors to the cast and producers. For the studios that make the series, they ‘breakeven’ the day the series is greenlit, even after Netflix recoups some of their budget as a ‘distribution fee,’” CBR explains.
Sadly for viewers, these decisions are out of their hands. Good ratings or even online fan bases with petitions just don’t cut it like they used to.