Cancellation Watch: Almost Half the Summer Sci Fi / Fantasy Shows Were Cancelled, Is This the Leading Indicator of the Bubble Bursting?

By | October 21, 2015

Defiance_Syfy_CancelledThere are a lot of scripted shows currently on television and a lot of those are sci fi / fantasy entries.  As of this writing, there are around seventy (!) active/returning/upcoming genre shows through the Fall season and that doesn’t include the mid-season entries or the many, many shows now in development.  I have written previously about this bubble environment, and we know that it has to burst at some point.  Looking back at this past Summer’s sci fi / fantasy shows suggests that we may be on the leading edge of that.  There were twenty one genre entries that debuted in the months of May through August that I am counting as Summer shows.  Of those, nine have been cancelled or are certain to be cancelled (the networks have been dragging their heals on making announcements), and there is still one (FOX’s Wayward Pines) which is up in the air.  If we assume a renewal for Wayward Pines (which is in no way a foregone conclusion), that’s a cancellation rate of 43%.  If that show does end up getting the ax, it bumps the rate up to 48%.  Last Summer, there were fifteen sci fi entries that debuted between the months of May and August and only two of them were sent to the Network Executioner (Lifetimes Witches of East End and The Lottery).  That was a cancellation rate of only 13%.  For the 2014-15 season, there were thirty five genre shows that bowed during the September to April timeframe (excluding imports not as heavily influenced by U.S. ratings like Bitten and Orphan Black) and ten of those ended up at the chopping block (that includes Syfy’s Olympus and USA’s Dig which I am assuming have been cancelled even though we have received official notice).  That’s a 29% cancellation rate.  For the current season, the ratings are in the toilet, especially for sci fi shows, and I expect the networks to start making some desperation moves over the next few months.  Not many shows are safe at the moment except those that I have in the Unassailable category in the Power Rankings as they continue to perform well in the ratings slump environment.  I don’t know that the bubble is quite bursting yet, especially considering all the development currently in the pipeline.  But it could be shrinking or at least self-correcting to a degree, and some of the projects currently in queue could get cancelled before they even begin.

Below is the rundown of the Summer shows with their final status (note that Falling Skies did not factor into the calculation because it entered the season in its final year).  And keep an eye of the current situation because I believe the cancellation rate at the end of the 2015-16 season will be higher than what we saw for the 2014-15 and possibly even higher than this last Summer’s rate.

(Update 10/22/15: The Whispers has been officially cancelled)

Summer 2015 (Sci Fi / Fantasy Shows that Debuted May through August):

Series Network Avg Live+SD Avg Live+7 Status
Beauty and the Beast CW 0.2 0.3 Ending after 4th Season
Dark Matter Syfy 0.2 0.5 Renewed
Defiance Syfy 0.3 0.6 Cancelled
Dominion Syfy 0.3 0.5 Cancelled
Falling Skies TNT 0.5 1.0 Final Season
Fear the Walking Dead AMC 3.9 6.2 Renewed
Extant CBS 0.7 1.1 Cancelled
Golan the Insatiable FOX 0.0 0.0 Likely Cancelled
Hannibal NBC 0.4 0.6 Cancelled
Humans AMC 0.4 0.7 Renewed
Killjoys Syfy 0.2 0.4 Renewed
The Last Ship TNT 0.7 1.3 Renewed
Penny Dreadful SHOW 0.2 0.5 Renewed
Proof TNT 0.3 0.6 Cancelled
Scream MTV 0.3 0.6 Renewed
The Strain FX 0.6 1.2 Renewed
Stitchers ABCF 0.0 0.0 Renewed
Teen Wolf MTV 0.5 0.9 Renewed
Under the Dome CBS 0.9 1.7 Cancelled
Wayward Pines FOX 1.1 2.2 Uncertain
The Whispers ABC 0.8 1.4 Cancelled
Zoo CBS 1.1 1.7 Renewed


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