Off-network sales are becoming a relic as outside studios are forced to give up a piece of ownership in TV’s new vertically aligned world.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s surprising move to NBC and Fox’s Last Man Standing revival are the latest examples of the broadcast networks’ push to own their their programming.
Andy Samberg’s Brooklyn is produced by NBC’s studio counterpart Universal Television and its original sale to Fox was considered a big win for the studio when it originally landed at the network back in 2013 after an intense bidding war. Like Brooklyn, the former ABC comedy Last Man Standing moved to the network (Fox) whose studio (20th Century Fox Television) owns the show. ABC said last year that its decision to cancel Last Man Standing was based purely on its ownership structure — it ranked as the network’s No. 2 comedy behind only Modern Family — and had nothing to do with conservative star Tim Allen.
As things currently sit, Fox’s entire 2018-19 lineup will be produced by its studio counterpart, 20th Century Fox Television. (Warner Bros. TV’s Lethal Weapon and Gotham, however,both remain in contention). The network’s decision to cancel Brooklyn and revive Last Man Standing not only speaks to its new (post-Disney deal) direction but also broadcasters’ greater emphasis on owning their content in an era of dwindling viewership where the barometer between a hit and a failure is becoming increasingly blurred. When crunching the numbers of the newly ordered series, all of the Big 4 bought almost exclusively from their vertically aligned studio counterparts.
At ABC, the network picked up nine total series, with six of them coming from ABC Studios. ABC Studios has no new shows on any other network — and earned half ownership of the network’s Single Parents, from 20th TV, and Schooled, from Sony TV. Of ABC’s 13 returning shows so far, seven of them are owned or co-owned by its studio counterpart. Its lone remaining bubble show, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, is produced in-house, too.
Over at CBS, the network picked up nine new series for the 2018-19 season. Six of them are owned or co-owned by its vertically aligned counterpart CBS Television Studios. What’s more, NBC’s Universal Television owns two of them (Dick Wolf’s straight-to-series FBI and the Magnum P.I. reboot) and had to give up half of its ownership to get the series set up on the outside network. Of CBS’ returning shows, the network owns or co-owns 11 of 14 of them with Sony’s SWAT also a co-production with CBS TV Studios and indie studio Warner Bros. TV behind Big Bang Theory and Young Sheldon. Remaining on the bubble is Code Black (a co-production with CBS from ABC Studios) after the network canceled Sony TV’s Kevin Can Wait. CBS TV Studios’ Elementary and9JKL are also awaiting word but neither are expected to return. The studio had eight total pickups (so far) with two at The CW, which it co-owns with Warners.
Then there’s NBC, which ordered nine new series — including Brooklyn — with the network owning eight of them via Universal TV. (Warners’ Manifest is its lone new series from an outside studio.) Of NBC’s returning shows, 10 of 12 are from Universal with only This Is Us (20th TV) and Blindspot (Warners) from outside studios. Still on the bubble are Sony’s The Blacklist and Timeless. It’s too soon to tell on Warners’ Trial and Error and UTV’s Marlon, with the latter studio’s Champions still on the bubble. Universal TV’s lone outside sales are both to CBS (FBI and Magnum P.I.).
As for 20th TV, which is poised to become a Disney property should regulators approve the Mouse House’s $52.4 billion Fox deal that would include assets including FX, the studio and more, the studio has only one outside sale — ABC’s Liz Meriwether comedy Single Parents — which is, naturally, now a co-production with ABC Studios.
Of course, there are still decisions to be made on bubble shows and pilots remaining in contention — and an even greater number of comedies and dramas that are being shopped elsewhere after getting the pass call at their original networks. Given what happened with Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Last Man Standing, it’s increasingly hard to rule out some of the season’s buzzy pilots — like Sony’s Bad Boys II spinoff, L.A.’s Finest with Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba — finding new homes.
Meanwhile, the broadcast networks aren’t the only ones putting an emphasis on ownership. Netflix recently inked nine-figure deals with Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy as part of the streaming giant’s push to own more of its content. Both Rhimes and Murphy were courted away from their longtime homes at ABC Studios and 20th TV, respectively.
Keep track of all the renewals, cancellations and new show orders with THR’s scorecards for ABC, CBS, Fox, NBCand The CWand with all the latest pilot pickups and passes with our handy guide. For complete coverage, bookmark THR.com/upfronts.