In a clear sign of broadcast’s evolving business realities, Fox has opted not to renew its highest rated scripted series, 9-1-1, produced by 20th Television. The upcoming Season 6 finale on May 15 will be its last episode on Fox. But it will not be a series finale for the first responder drama, from creators Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Tim Minear, which has been picked up by 20th TV sibling ABC and will join the Disney network’s lineup next season, making for one of the highest-profile series moves ever.
This is not a sudden development and was not done in a vacuum. Deadline reported in March that, while spinoff 9-1-1: Lone Star was a lock for a Season 5 pickup, 9-1-1 may not get renewed by Fox and that ABC could pick the show up if that happened. (9-1-1: Lone Star was just officially renewed for a fifth season by Fox.)
“It has been an honor to be the founding network of 9-1-1 and we are grateful to Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Tim Minear, together with Angela Bassett, Peter Krause, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Oliver Stark, Aisha Hinds, Kenneth Choi, Ryan Guzman and the rest of the cast and crew, and 20th Television for delivering such an impactful series to Fox,” Fox said in a statement. “We wish them well after 9-1-1’s final Fox season concludes.”
9-1-1 should have a relatively smooth transition to ABC, which has been focusing on drama procedurals lately and already has a series on the air that previously had had a long run on Fox before getting canceled because of financial reasons, American Idol. Now it is adding Monday’s No. 1 entertainment series, which ties as the season’s No. 1 broadcast drama in Adults 18-49 and as the No. 2 entertainment series in the demo. 9-1-1 also is a top performing drama series on Disney-controlled Hulu.
“Thanks to the creative drive of Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Tim Minear, as well as the talented cast, 9-1-1 has been one of the most defining and original dramas on network television over the last six seasons and we are honored to bring it to the esteemed group of series on ABC,” said Craig Erwich, president, Disney Television Group. “It’s a privilege to keep 9-1-1 in the family with 20th Television producing, and we look forward to telling more heart-racing and uplifting stories about these beloved characters on our air.”
For Fox, this was a financial decision. Six seasons in, 9-1-1 remains the network’s top-rated scripted series in adults 18-49 and its most watched series overall, but it is also its most expensive at about $9 million-$10 million an episode, I hear. It is a six-year-old high-end drama with big-name cast, led by Oscar nominee Bassett and Krause, and storylines featuring major disasters that involve elaborate visual effects and stunts.
9-1-1 was developed and picked up to series under a different economic model when the Fox network and then-20th Century Fox TV were part of the same company, before Disney acquired key Fox assets, including the TV studio. (Lone Star was ordered after 20th TV had gone to Disney.)
It is harder for networks like Fox to make numbers work on series from outside studios. Fox has no ownership in 9-1-1 and, while it remains Fox’s flagship scripted shows, its ratings — along with those for most other shows on linear television — have slipped.
Fox recently also canceled another six-year 20th TV drama, which had launched alongside 9-1-1, The Resident. Last year, both 9-1-1 and The Resident went down to the wire, only closing renewals an hour or so before Fox’s upfront presentation.
Instead, the network has been investing in scripted series it owns or co-owns, like the just picked up new lifeguard drama for next season, HI-Surf, from producer John Wells, which is co-produced by Warner Bros. TV and Fox Entertainment and envisioned by the network as a potential franchise in the vein of 9-1-1.
HI-Surf was ordered in part to fill the void that will be left by 9-1-1. It’s one of two new hourlong scripted series already picked up for next season, along with medical drama Doc.
Meanwhile, Fox remains in business with 20th TV. In addition to Lone Star, the network also recently gave two-season renewals to animated stalwarts The Simpsons, Family Guy and Bob’s Burgers, which have been cornerstones of Fox’s Sunday lineup for decades and by now an indelible part of the network’s brand. Fox Entertainment also recently signed a new streaming deal with Hulu.
Besides 9-1-1‘s strong performance across linear and streaming, also likely helping the show’s case for a seventh season on ABC was the fact that the lead cast have at least one more year on their contracts, I hear, eliminating the need for separate talent negotiations. The drama stars Angela Bassett, Peter Krause, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Oliver Stark, Kenneth Choi, Aisha Hinds, Ryan Guzman, Corinne Massiah, Marcanthonee Jon Reis and Gavin McHugh as Christopher Diaz.
In Season 7 on ABC, 9-1-1 will continue to explore the high-pressure experiences of first responders – including police officers, firefighters and dispatchers – who are thrust into the most frightening, shocking and heart-stopping situations. The series was created by Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Tim Minear. Alexis Martin Woodall, Angela Bassett, Peter Krause, John J. Gray, Kristen Reidel and Juan Carlos Coto also serve as executive producers.
This would mark the latest scripted series to be rescued by its production studio’s sister network after cancellation because producing more episodes is beneficial for the studio and its parent company, joining such shows as Medium, which moved from NBC to CBS, Scrubs (NBC-ABC), Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox-NBC) and most recently Magnum P.I. last year (CBS-NBC).
In addition to Lone Star, Fox’s roster of returning scripted series includes renewed The Cleaning Lady, Accused, Alert: Missing Persons Unit — all co-productions. New series for next season also include animated comedies Krapopolis, Grimsburg, and Universal Basic Guys/Hoagie Bros., which are fully owned or co-productions.