TV Upfronts: How the Studios Fared as Ownership Remains the Top Priority

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For the second year in a row, CBS Television Studios remained atop the studio pack this upfront season.

The David Stapf-led studio delivered four shows to CBS and boarded two at its home network from Universal Television and a few more from CW partner Warner Bros. TV.

Elsewhere, business largely remained the same with only CBS TV, Universal and Warners — the latter thanks in part to its co-productions with the former — were the only studios to post gains this year.

On the flipside, Sony TV had a challenging season with its new executive regime going 0-for-5 among its pilot crop that included former sure-thing L.A.’s Finest. The indie studio’s lone new series is ABC’s Schooled, which was redeveloped from last season and is a co-production with ABC Studios. 

Here’s a look at how all the studios fared this season, with only a small number of pilots remaining in contention. (Tallies do not include shows picked up for summer.)

*Designates straight-to-series order

CBS Television Studios: 12 series ordered (vs. 10 last year when it finished first)

Up two from a year ago, Stapf has been making a concerted push in the streaming space but still has the studio’s bread and butter at networks within the CBS family. What’s more, his studio has co-ownership on a Dick Wolf procedural on CBS. Let that idea sink in for a minute (or 10 seasons).  

New shows: CBS’ FBI* (co-pro with UTV), Happy Together, The Neighborhood, Fam, Magnum P.I. (co-pro with UTV), God Friended Me (co-pro with Warners),The Red Line (co-pro with Warners), The Code; CW’s Charmed, In the Dark (co-pro with Warners), Roswell, New Mexico (co-pro with Warners), Legacies (co-pro with Warners)

Returning shows (18): SEAL Team, SWAT (co-pro with Sony), Blue Bloods, Bull, Hawaii Five-0, Madam Secretary, MacGyver, NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles, NCIS: New Orleans, Elementary, Criminal Minds (co-pro with ABC), Instinct, Man With a Plan, Salvation; CW’s Dynasty, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Jane the Virgin

Total scripted on broadcast: 30
TBD: CBS’ Code Black (co-production with ABC Studios)

Universal Television: 11 series ordered (vs. nine last year when it finished second)

In her second season as president of Universal TV, Pearlena Igboke’s studio continued its upward momentum with a big off-network Dick Wolf sale at CBS plus a reboot of its old show Magnum P.I. Oh, and we’d be remiss not to mention rescuing Brooklyn Nine-Nine less than 40 hours after Fox’s surprising cancellation. Nine-nine!

New shows: CBS’ FBI* (co-pro with CBS TV), Magnum P.I. (co-pro with CBS TV); NBC’s New Amsterdam, The Enemy Within, The Village, The Gilded Age, Abby’s, I Feel Bad, The InBetween, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Manifest (co-pro with Warners)

Returning shows (11): NBC’s Good Girls, Will and Grace, Law & Order: SVU, Chicago Fire, Chicago Med, Chicago P.D., The Good Place, Superstore, AP Bio, The Blacklist (co-pro with Sony) and Midnight, Texas

Total scripted on broadcast: 21
TBD: NBC’s Timeless, which is a 50-50 co-production with Sony; Champions and Law & Order True Crime (an anthology that could return)

Warner Bros. Television: nine (vs. eight last year when it tied for third)

Peter Roth’s indie studio has full ownership over the biggest swing of the 2018-19: the Murphy Brown revival at CBS, where it joins a Thursday lineup that includes three shows from studio-based mega producer Chuck Lorre (Big Bang Theory, Young Sheldon and Mom). Meanwhile, Warners continues to give up a piece of its ownership pie to get shows on outside networks — which has become part of the new world order in the vertical integration era.

New shows: ABC’s Whiskey Cavalier (co-pro with ABC Studios); CBS’ Murphy Brown*, God Friended Me (co-pro with CBS TV), The Red Line (co-pro with CBS TV); NBC’s Manifest (co-pro with Universal; CW’s All American (co-pro with CBS TV), Legacies (co-pro with CBS TV), In the Dark (co-pro with CBS TV), Roswell, New Mexico (co-pro with CBS TV)

Returning shows (19): Fox’s Lethal Weapon, Gotham; CBS’ The Big Bang Theory, Young Sheldon, Mom; ABC’s Splitting Up Together; NBC’s Blindspot, Trial and Error; CW’s Black Lightning, Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Riverdale, Supergirl, Supernatural, The 100, iZombie, Jane the Virgin (co-pro with CBS), Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (co-pro with CBS)

Total scripted on broadcast: 28

ABC Studios: nine (eight last year when it finished tied for third)

In its first season without a new show exec produced by Shonda Rhimes, Patrick Moran’s studio held its own as it looks to Nathan Fillion and an Irish Catholic family to help fill holes on his vertically aligned network as all eight of the studio’s sales were in-house save for boarding Warners’ Whiskey Cavalier.

New shows: ABC’s The Rookie* (with eOne), Take Two*, Schooled* (co-pro with Sony), A Million Little Things, Single Parents (co-pro with 20th), The Kids Are Alright, Grand Hotel, The Fix, Whiskey Cavalier (co-pro with Warners)

Returning series (10): ABC’s American Housewife, Agents of SHIELD, Black-ish, Station 19, For the People, How to Get Away With Murder, Grey’s Anatomy, Criminal Minds (co-pro with CBS TV), The Good Doctor (co-pro with Sony), Speechless (co-production with 20th TV)

Total scripted on broadcast: 18
TBD: CBS’ Code Black (co-production with CBS TV)

20th Century Fox Television: six (six last year when it finished fourth)

A year after posting the biggest declines among the six major studios, the Jonnie Davis- and Howard Kurtzman-led 20th held steady — a big feat when considering its network counterpart had 30 hours less to program after landing Thursday Night Football.

New shows: ABC’s Single Parents (co-pro with ABC Studios); Fox’s The Passage, The Cool Kids, Proven Innocent, Last Man Standing, Rel

Returning shows (14): ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat, Speechless (co-production with ABC Studios), Modern Family; Fox’s 911, The Gifted, The Orville, The Resident, Bob’s Burgers, Family Guy, Empire, Star, The Simpsons; NBC’s This Is Us; CBS’ Life in Pieces

Total scripted on broadcast: 20
TBD: Fox’s Ghosted and L.A. to Vegas

Sony Pictures Television Studios: 1 (three last year, when it finished fifth)

In their first upfront, new Sony TV chiefs Jeff Frost, Jason Clodfelter and Chris Parnell technically went 0-for-5 on its pilot orders this season, with passes at NBC for Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba starrer L.A.’s Finest and Norman Lear’s passion project Guess Who Died among them. Its lone pickup was Schooled, a 1990s-set spinoff of The Goldbergs, which was originally developed by their predecessors last season. What’s more, the cable- and streaming-focused service set it up as a co-production with ABC, meaning all four of its shows on broadcast are co-pros.  

New shows: ABC’s Schooled* (co-pro with ABC Studios)

Returning shows: ABC’s The Good Doctor (co-production with ABC Studios), The Goldbergs, CBS’ SWAT (co-pro with CBS TV); NBC’s Blacklist (co-pro with UTV)

Total scripted on broadcast: four

Keep track of all the renewals, cancellations and new show orders with THR’s scorecards for ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and The CW and with all the latest pilot pickups and passes with our handy guide. For complete coverage, bookmark THR.com/upfronts.



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