CBS announced the fates of its two Summer sci fi shows the past week and a half with third year series Zoo getting cancelled while freshman entry Salvation got renewed. The interesting thing about the two decisions is that both shows had similarly low ratings, both shows were owned or co-owned by the network (meaning they keep all or part of the profits), and both had streaming deals that made them profitable on the front-end for CBS (Netflix for Zoo and Amazon for Salvation). So that obviously leaves fans for Zoo scratching their heads and asking why their show was cancelled when Salvation was rewarded with another season.
The Salvation announcement came first, and I considered the renewal rather surprising because of the show’s low ratings. But I decided that maybe the network had stopped trying to chase better ratings as it had done in previous years with the cancellations of Under the Dome, Extant, and Braindead even though they had profitable streaming deals as well. I figured the test for that would be a renewal nod for Zoo, but instead that show received the ax. Salvation did start out its Summer run with slightly higher ratings than Zoo, but within a few weeks its numbers were mostly comparable as the chart below shows (click to enlarge).
I do know from what I have read on the entertainment sites that Zoo is the is the more expensive of the two shows, and it’s possible that the actors were due a raise if the show went to a fourth season, which would escalate costs higher. But still, from what I understand, the financing arrangements and streaming deals make the show profitable out of the gate, whereas most first-run scripted shows typically lose money their first few years. Perhaps if costs were going up for Zoo, that would put it into the red since it certainly wasn’t making much on advertising revenue. And that is pretty much the only reason I can see that CBS would cancel that one and keep Salvation around (unless a particular exec liked the one better than the other).
The network apparently has a desire to have some original scripted programming on its schedule in the Summer amidst the reality shows and repeats that dominate its lineup during those months. But apparently the survival of those shows rests on a pretty fine line that is hard to gauge from outside the network boardrooms. CBS has had multiple genre entries on the air in Summer the last few years, going back to the premiere of Under the Dome in 2013. But none of those have survived beyond three seasons despite the fact that they make money for the network even when pulling low ratings.
Salvation is currently the only surviving entry among those genre shows heading into the Summer of 2018. And whether it manages to make it to a third season or beyond is really a complete toss-up because it is difficult to predict whether the network will keep it going. I wish I had a better answer for Zoo fans on the cancellation, but beyond bottom-line nitpicking, it doesn’t seem like it was doing much worse than Salvation. As for that latter show, I wouldn’t advise fans to get too attached to it. CBS could just as likely cancel it next season as renew it, and recent history would almost certainly suggest it will not last beyond a third season.