Skip to main content

Why Did Three Popular CBS Series Get Axed? Execs Have Their Reasons

Several media buyers at the CBS upfront presentation
after-party on Wednesday night were curious as to why the network cancelled
three shows -- Unforgettable, CSI: Miami and ¡Rob! -- that were among the most-watched on television last season.

It's a good question. Unforgettable
has averaged 10.2 million viewers this season, placing it eighth among the
season's most-viewed primetime dramas, CSI:
averaged 9.4 million -- ranking 13th among the 38 broadcast network
dramas still on in spring -- and ¡Rob!
brought in 11 million viewers: the third-most watched comedy during its short
midseason run.

¡Rob! also
averaged a 3.2 18-49 rating, also third among sitcoms. And while CSI: Miami and CSI: NY each averaged only a 2.0 in the advertiser-desired 18-49
demo, that was still good enough for 18th among those 38 broadcast dramas, and
most dramas skew older than sitcoms.

Coincidentally, earlier in the day, MBPT had raised this
same question to Kelly Kahl, CBS senior executive VP, who oversees scheduling,
and Dave Poltrack, chief research officer.

"There was just no room to bring all of our shows back,"
Kahl said. "We have new programming in development each year and we have to
find room for some of those new shows in order to stay fresh. You have to bring
some new product to the network every year and our success with our current
programming raises the bar of what it takes to stay on the air.

"Beyond the ratings, we have to look at whether a series is
maxing out its performance in its time period or do we think we can do better
in the time period with another series," Kahl continued. "Every hour counts and
on a 22-hour schedule each week, there's no place to hide. And we felt we
needed to do something different in those 10 p.m. time periods."

Poltrack echoed Kahl's logic and also said that in today's
competitive environment, CBS continues to look for long-term hits. Regarding Unforgettable, it was decided that
replacing it might result in a series that has more potential to grow down the
road. In the case of CSI: Miami, the
goal was to replace an aging show with a new one that could become a hit for
years to come.

"We have such strength on our schedule and had a full
development slate of new shows," Poltrack said. "Our goal with a limited number
of slots is to want to create hit shows to replace aging shows."

Of Unforgettable,
Poltrack added, "We gave it a plum time period leading out of NCIS: Los Angeles and while it did well
and was a solid show, we had to decide if it was maximizing its lead-in enough
where it could become a hit."

while averaging 10.2 million viewers, lost about 4 million viewers from its
formidable lead-in each week and averaged a much lower 18-49 rating (2.8 vs.
2.0). CBS replaced it with a new drama, Vegas,
starring Dennis Quaid as a 1960s Las Vegas sheriff who's battling infiltration
in the city by the mob, led by Michael Chiklis.

"It wasn't as much as what went wrong [with Unforgettable] but what went right with
other shows in development," said CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler. "We
had a very strong crop of new pilots. Unforgettable
did very well, but it didn't break out as a hit."

While CSI: Miami
averaged a slightly better 18-49 rating than lead-in The Good Wife on Sunday nights (2.0 to 1.9), and their viewer
averages weren't too far off (The Good
averaged 10 million viewers while CSI:
averaged 9.4 million), it was decided to cancel the longer-running
series and bring in a newer entry to replace it. CBS moved The Mentalist from Thursday at 10 to Sunday at 10 to replace CSI: Miami in that time slot, and put
quirky new drama Elementary in on
Thursdays at 10.

So, what's the logic in keeping CSI: NY, which averaged less viewers (9.2 million total) and had a
lower 18-49 rating (1.5) than CSI: Miami?
Tassler admitted, "It was a jump ball between CSI: NY and CSI: Miami.
In the end it was what worked best on the schedule."

To which Kahl added, "We liked moving The Mentalist to 10 p.m. Sunday leading out of The Good Wife," meaning CSI:
was expendable.

Poltrack said CBS' goal is to look at every show it puts on
the air as a potential franchise show. "In addition to bringing in viewers and
ad revenue, franchise shows can be sold in domestic syndication and
internationally, maximizing their value," Poltrack said. "If it was a different
year, maybe these shows would have been renewed. But our development was strong
and we had to create a couple of new slots to try to come up with some new
franchise shows."

In the case of ¡Rob!,
while the series drew 11 million viewers and an enviable 3.2 18-49 rating in
its short midseason run, it was leading out of the most-watch sitcom on
television -- The Big Bang Theory -- which
averaged 14.1 viewers and a 4.5 18-49 rating. One can assume that almost any
show occupying that lead-out time period will perform above the average. Rules of Engagement, which CBS is still
thinking about renewing for midseason, succeeded ¡Rob! in the Big Bang
lead-out slot and averaged 9.2 million and a 2.8 18-49.

CBS ultimately decided to move Two and a Half Men to Thursday nights at 8:30 leading out of Big Bang. Men averaged 12.9 million viewers and a 4.3 18-49 demo rating in a
much more competitive environment on Mondays than it will face on Thursdays. On
Mondays it was up against ABC's Dancing
With the Stars
and NBC's The Voice.
On Thursday night it will face off against Fox's X Factor, but not much else in the fall.