[Update: History Changes!!! Timeless is not Cancelled!!!] NBC crushed the hearts of many fans this evening with a late announcement that their time travel series Timeless has been cancelled after one season. That series debuted in Fall in the Monday 10 PM EST post-The Voice timeslot, a highly coveted hour for a series launch. But its numbers were not great despite the strong lead-in as it pulled lower ratings than Blindspot the prior season and The Blacklist the year before that. In fact, Timeless regularly lost a fair amount of its lead-in audience, and its numbers slipped even further when it returned from Winter break in January behind Celebrity Apprentice. Based on the show’s linear viewing numbers (which are the stats the broadcast networks pay the post attention to), I moved it to Cancellation Likely status back in February. The show did regularly improve its numbers when delayed viewing was factored, but the broadcast nets have typically just given those stats lip-service and have failed to renew other shows with strong delayed viewing such as Constantine, Forever, and Limitless.
Despite all this, I thought Timeless might have a chance because of an extremely dedicated fanbase that got behind the show and became very active on the social networks to support it. Its fans have been staging episode re-watch parties for weeks now when they would watch a designated episode on Mondays at 10 PM EST and use the #RenewTimeless hashtag to get it trending on the social networks. NBC should have paid closer attention to this and it may come back to bite them hard because they continue to live in the old paradigm where overnight ratings dictate the fate of a show. But the fact is that Timeless had a very active and engaged fanbase that the network should have partnered with to keep ahead of the Peak TV crunch. In the current uber-competitive television market, the networks that ignore the fans of their shows, especially those that are very vocal and active, will find themselves continuing to lose ground. Surprisingly, NBC renewed lower-rated Taken (the network owns that one) and Blindspot, and neither of those have the fan support of Timeless. But those active fans are an asset that networks will ignore at their own peril in the current market with so many viewing options.
Fans will almost certainly campaign for another network to pick up the show, and their efforts would be best directed at Hulu. That streaming service currently has the entire first season available, so they could continue their re-watch parties but focus on streaming the episodes on Hulu so that the service sees the viewership numbers. It has not been as active in original programming as Netflix and Amazon, but that means that is also does not have a ton of money tied up in existing development commitments. While Timeless may be stretching the limits of Hulu’s finances, it would also be a high profile win to pick up the show from one of the broadcast networks. Netflix and Amazon are highly focused on their own original programming and have shown little interest in saving cancelled shows (even obvious grabs like Agent Carter or Constantine). But Hulu just might consider it for the attention the show brings to its original programming lineup. And for those who think Syfy might be a good landing spot, they shouldn’t waste their energy there. Timeless would be far too expensive for that cable channel and Syfy already has a lot of money tied up in upcoming development projects.
For now, though, Timeless is another one-season and done fatality of the Peak TV era and a clear indication that the broadcast networks are living in the past and not making the proper strategic adjustments to remain viable in the ever-evolving television landscape.
Next week the broadcast networks will have their Upfront presentations when they unveil their schedules for the 2017-18 season which means the we can expect plenty more renewal and cancellation announcements over the next few days (you can see the full rundown of this season’s cancellations and renewals at this link). Be sure to stay tuned to this site and the Cancelled Sci Fi Twitter Site for updates and breaking news.