So CBS has decided not to renew freshman series Limitless, but claims they are “shopping it around” to other networks or to the streaming services (though for some reason their own digital service CBS All Access is “not an option”). Sure, that show pulled rather mediocre ratings based on the overnights in its first season, but the network’s boss Les Moonves previously said those numbers are “virtually meaningless” and Limitless has actually seen very good gains based on Live+7 delayed viewing. As a matter of fact, TV by the Numbers had it as the network’s eighth most watched show for the season based on those statistics. But CBS has done little to help it out, having preempted it or aired repeats nine times since November. I know they do that with all of their shows, but it is especially hard on a new show trying to build an audience when it doesn’t air more than two or three new episodes at a time without interruptions (and not surprisingly, the numbers dropped off notably during the second half of the season). Moonves had previously suggested that “all five” of the network’s new shows would be renewed, despite the fact that CBS had seven new shows and Angel from Hell had already been cancelled. Also cancelled since then is Rush Hour and Supergirl was shuffled off to The CW with Limitless currently very much in limbo. So the lesson learned there is that whatever network executives tell you, just like with politicians, is worthless.
Last season, ABC decided not to renew the well-liked Forever which also aired in the Tuesday 10 PM EST timeslot to mediocre ratings but which also saw decent gains from delayed viewing. Like Limitless, that show was subjected to frequent preemptions which caused its numbers to drop further during the second half of the year. I have to think that ABC regretted that decision because that hour turned into a disaster this season. CBS may also find themselves re-thinking their choice not to stand behind Limitless and instead leave it off their schedule, especially considering the fact that it was well-loved by its fans and has been receiving some decent buzz in its first season. That network is known for a particular aversion to genre shows (the closest thing it has to sci fi next season if the MacGyver reboot), and perhaps Limitless is much better off moving to another location. But that move is not assured yet and a lot of times the “shopping around” turns up no buyers. And if Limitless does end up getting limited to one season, the show’s network takes a large part of the blame for their lack of support and empty promises, just like ABC last season with Forever. And as viewership continues to decline in the current fractured television environment, the lack of support that the broadcast networks give to their shows hastens the departure of the audience to other options such as the streaming services and the cable channels.