With an average lifespan of two seasons on a streaming service, 55-season soap Days of our Lives is very much the exception in today’s ruthless commissioning culture,according to Ampere Analysis.
We may be living through a golden era for content, but its also the age of big data audience analysis, empowering broadcasters with more information than ever before to make their renewal and cancellation decisions. Ampere’s analysis of renewals and cancellations between September 2018 and March 2019 reveals that the streamers have been the most ruthless, with their commissions struggling to make it beyond a second series. At four seasons, lifespan is longer on a cable network, while the longest-running shows exist on the free-to-air channels, where a series can expect an average of 6.5 seasons before getting the chop. So how are the different media players managing their content commissioning strategies?
VoD services posted the lowest number of seasons with cancellations coming after an average of 2.1 seasons. Netflix accounts for 68% of VO§D cancellations in the USA. 12 of Netflix’s 13 cancellations since September 2018 occurred at three seasons or lower, including four Marvel shows, as well as Originals comedies All About the Washingtons, The Good Cop and Friends from College. Over half of Netflix’s cancellations have been in the Sci-Fi genre. No streaming series was renewed or cancelled beyond a seventh season.
The Cable Networks account for nearly half of cancellations – 12 of their 29 cancelled titles were Comedy. Cancellations were spread out, occurring over 21 different networks, with no channel making more than three cancellations (AMC and Comedy Central).
The Broadcast Networks accounted for just 22% of cancellations and had by far the highest average cancellation season at 6.5. Long-running series reaching their conclusion include Supernatural (The CW) and Criminal Minds (CBS) at season 15, and Last Call with Carson Daly (NBC) ending after its 17th season. With half of broadcast networks’ cancellations occurring at season two or below, if a show leaps this hurdle, the potential to run and run is close to infinite.
Fred Black, Analyst at Ampere Analysis says: “The VOD services seem determined to drive subscriber growth through a continuous pipeline of new content, but this comes at the cost of missing out on long-running franchises like NBC’s Law & Order that keep customers coming back year after year, reducing churn.”
Reviewing renewals – Ampere tracked 197 renewed shows between September ’18 and March ‘19
VoD services renewed 2.2 times more content than they cancelled – by far the lowest of any commissioner group. At 62%, renewals were dominated by Netflix, which has focused on Comedy. This genre represents nine of their 26 renewed titles. Five titles were Animated Comedy, which enjoyed an average renewal rate of 3.4. Netflix allowed an eclectic set of hit shows to run longer than its competitors, including a seventh and final season for Orange is the New Black, and a sixth season for Bojack Horseman. No other show was renewed beyond a fourth outing.
At 89 titles, the Cable Networks were the largest renewers – that’s more than three times as many series as they cancelled. 78% of cable renewals were for a fifth season or less, although certain unscripted titles, such as HGTV’s Caribbean Life and Island Life franchises, have been going for 15 seasons or more. Cable networks had the smallest gap between average cancellation and renewal, with both hovering at around four seasons.
Running the longest, and the only commissioners to renew anything beyond 16th season are the Broadcast Networks. They renewed 4.7 times as many shows as they cancelled. Unscripted content accounted for five of the nine shows renewed beyond a 16th season, including ABC’s gameshows Wheel of Fortune (season 38) and Jeopardy (season 37). The longest running series of all is daytime soap Days of Our Lives (NBC), which is currently at season 55. NBC is also breaking records with a 21st season renewal for Law & Order: SVU – the longest running primetime Drama ever in the USA.
Fred Black, Analyst at Ampere Analysis says: “Cancellations for each commissioner group have been very focused; the cable networks’ cancellations at 43% Comedy, the VoD platforms at 47% Sci-Fi, and at the broadcast networks, Sci-Fi and Crime & Thriller at 31% each. We’ve seen certain genres having a specific tipping point, with Comedy more likely to be cancelled at three seasons than proceed to a fourth, and Sci-Fi just as likely to end at two seasons as it is to proceed to a third.
Beyond these thresholds both Comedy and Sci-Fi – the two most-cancelled genres – have a propensity to run long, with cancellation often as result of a creative decision rather than a commissioner swinging the axe. Examples include Modern Family, wrapping up after 11 seasons, and Supernatural, ending after a 15th and final season. Other popular genres like Reality face no such hurdles – 14 of 15 new reality titles made it to a second season, with only one title falling at the first season, and just three cancellations across the board.”