Is “Cops” — Fox’s low-budget celebration of car chases, naughty-word obfuscation and private-part pixelation — about to meet the same sad fate as its former Saturday companion, “America’s Most Wanted”?
Fox announced Monday that it will jam its Saturday nights with about 100 hours of major league baseball, college football, the NFL, NASCAR and UFC programming from now through December. That leaves, as best we can tell, about 10 Saturdays available to “Cops” for the rest of this calendar year.
TV industry navel-lint pickers see it as the death knell for the Fox staple, now in its 24th season. Fox reps, however, insist that the order for “Cops” next season will only be slightly smaller than this season’s order of 22 episodes.
Here’s a good place to note that this season’s 22-episode order is a pale shadow of the 46 episodes that Fox ordered for “Cops’s” sixth season. As recently as four seasons ago, it wasn’t unheard of for Fox to order at least 36 episodes.
Adding weight to the forecast of those navel-lint pickers, Fox says “Cops” will not be rescheduled for another night of the week. This suggests that all the episodes ordered next season will have to air on Saturdays in the calendar year 2013. (A broadcast TV “season” runs from mid-September through late May.)
But in Monday’s announcement, Eric Shanks, the Fox Sports Media Group co-president and COO, says that Fox Sports sees Saturday nights “as the perfect home for quality sports programming, especially in spring and fall.” Which presumably means that spring and fall of ’13 are out for “Cops.” Which leaves “Cops” with what? Mid- to late December, January, and the dog days of summer?
Shanks insists Fox Sports has been working “hand-in-hand” with the Fox entertainment division on this plan to pack Saturdays with sports — which, Shanks says, “gives us a consistent Saturday-night franchise for the first time ever.”
Actually, Fox had two consistent Saturday-night franchises for ages. One was called “Cops,” which is in its 24th season as we write, and the other was “America’s Most Wanted,” which lasted as a series for 25 seasons.
This past Saturday, “Cops,” was the No. 1-ranked broadcast program among 18- to 34-year-old viewers. It averaged 3.3 million viewers of all ages, behind only the first hour of ABC’s bajillionth rerun of the Charlton Heston flick “The Ten Commandments” (5.9 million viewers).
The problem with “Cops,” and “AMW” on Fox is that they skew “downscale,” as the industry calls it. That translates to viewers “of less interest to advertisers,” which, in turn translates to “lower rate paid per thousand pairs of eyeballs watching” (CPM).
In unveiling its plan for this TV season to advertisers, Fox suits announced last May that they had canceled “America’s Most Wanted” as a weekly series, explaining that in today’s world, a broadcast TV network needed one night of Rerun Theatre — and that, like other broadcasters, Fox had elected Saturday for the honor. Fox, however, had ordered quarterly two-hour specials of the show, in which host John Walsh would continue to profile “dirtbags” on the lam.
“AMW” as a series was allowed to migrate to Lifetime network, where it’s generating about 3 million viewers a week for the cable network, and where it’s been picked up for a second season.
But when Fox unveils next season’s schedule to advertisers next month, no more “AMW” quarterly specials will be mentioned.
Bye, bye “AMW.”