The broadcast networks are beginning to make the tough calls regarding their rosters of shows. In what is becoming a tradition, The CW (a subsidiary of CBS (NYSE:CBS)) last week was the first to make commitments to returning series, which should give audiences and analysts an idea of what the network is looking to do with its fall schedule.
The CW's decision to renew Arrow, Supernatural, and The Vampire Diaries are not big surprises. In fact all three were also among last year's early renewals and there's a reason for that -- they perform extremely well.
The network's slate by nature isn't comprised of ratings-grabbing shows; it is more concerned with the women and teen demo than the overall 18-49 frame that most others covet. The trio listed above are the ones that have truly crossed to the mainstream and don't see all of their audience come from niche demos.
The other two series getting the early pickups are freshman series The Originals and Reign. Of the pair, Originals represents the bigger win as this is the spin-off of Vampire Diaries and was a project The CW was really hopeful would take off. While ratings haven't been to the level of Diaries, they've been respectable and the pickup makes sense.
Reign still gives critics a little bit of a pause from a creative standpoint. However, from a business side, it makes sense given that it's co-owned by CBS, and because it's made in-house it will automatically get additional consideration, despite lower ratings.
So that leaves four series still on the hook: Hart of Dixie, Beauty & the Beast, The Tomorrow People, and The Carrie Diaries. Of the four Dixie has the best chance as it's currently in its third season and needs a fourth for a realistic chance at syndication. It doesn't make financial sense for The CW to have nurtured this show for three years and then kill it right as it nears that magic mark that ensures a new level of revenue for the studio. The network's decision to move Dixie to Friday nights starting next month is also a sign it's trying to find any way to boost its numbers.
The other three are toss-ups -- Beast should have been slayed after season one and Carrie just never caught on the way executives had hoped. Remember though The CW didn't go axe-happy last year, which means it's probably going to get bloodier this year to clear room for new shows. Still Tomorrow People has upside for the network so it could sneak by and earn a second season.
The wild cards
The wild card here is The CW still has yet to premiere Star Crossed and The 100, which were the other two series it picked up last May. While teen romance drama Crossed could run into some rough ratings when bit bows next week, The 100 could be a sleeper hit as it channels The Hunger Games. The series debuts in March and takes place 97 years after humanity flees from a now uninhabitable Earth and then years later decides to send 100 juvenile delinquents back to see if the planet has course-corrected itself. It has action and of course a unrealistically hot cast, which are two network staples.
The success of those two series will help decide which other series get the green light and which ones will be cut to make way for the net's new freshman class, which looks to be full of promising concepts. With spinoffs of Arrow (The Flash) and Supernatural (Supernatural: Tribes) seemingly locks to make the schedule, it's going to get very tight for some shows very fast.
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Brett Gold owns shares of CBS. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.