Too good for TV? A look at this year’s upfronts

May 21, 2015 | Blog | By Lightbox

From “Empire” to “How To Get Away With Murder,” it’s been an intense year for TV. But nothing beats the drama of the upfronts!  

As major TV Networks were presenting their new programming to advertisers last week, this time of year also marks cancellation season. Beyond Shonda Rhimes’ successful Thursday night block on ABC and critically acclaimed new shows such as “Jane The Virgin,” networks are struggling to keep up with Netflix, Hulu and HBO.

CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox and the CW just went on a cancellation binge that indicates how network television is trying to stay relevant.  The most shocking news was probably the cancellation of Fox’s iconic “American Idol.” After 15 years of ardent competition, the once top-rated music reality show is coming to an end due to a drastic decrease in viewers. Only 11.6 million tuned in this year, including DVR playback, which was deemed too low to justify Idol’s high production cost.

I was particularly upset to hear about the cancellation of “The Mindy Project” by Fox, but thankfully the flirty sitcom is moving to a different platform! A week after Mindy Kaling received the bad news, Hulu ordered 26 new episodes of her beloved show. This makes perfect sense since the streaming platform already has the SVOD rights to “The Mindy Project.” It’s hard to believe how the 3rd season’s finale suffered such low ratings while the hashtag #HuluSaveMindy was trending all week on Twitter. Not to mention every influential millennial online publication has been campaigning for “The Mindy Project” to live on. There is obviously an audience for Mindy’s irreplaceable sass and neo wardrobe: it’s just not on network TV.

The sitcom might have a small audience, but it’s upscale and highly engaged on social media, which should be a strategic choice for advertisers: “While ratings certainly matter, if the ratings are smaller but they capture 95 percent of that audience that I’m looking for, then that’s the right group for me,” Dan Cohn, client director of investment at Initiative told Adweek.

“CSI” was another classic show to be killed (with a twist) during the upfronts: after 15 seasons, the CBS crime drama series is headed to the big screen. Each year, cancelled shows are said to join the so-called “TV graveyard,” but these examples make me wonder: is network television becoming its own graveyard? Will it soon be the place where shows go to die? Judging by the collapse in ratings and the creativity of premium channels and streaming services, I want to say…

Despite a cult following, “Community” was also granted a second life on Yahoo! Screen after the sitcom was cancelled by NBC last year. Meanwhile, Netflix just announced it will be reviving 90s favorite “Full House.” The trend of this year’s upfront couldn’t be more clear: some shows are just too good for TV. Innovation and viewers don’t meet at primetime anymore and advertisers can no longer count on network TV to reach the young, connected and upscale consumers they are going after.