“Cops,” Fox’s low-budget celebration of car chases, naughty-word obfuscation and private-part pixelation, is moving to guy-centric Spike TV in the fall.
For continuity’s sake, Spike will keep the franchise in the Saturday-at-8 p.m. time slot that has been home for more than two decades, the Viacom-owned cable network said Monday. Fox was a “netlet,” as the trade papers called it, when “Cops” launched in 1989.
“The rawest and . . . most realistic of all reality shows” (Spike TV’s description) will begin its 26th season in September on its new network.
“As we continue to grow and expand our audience, new episodes of ‘Cops,’ with its loyal audience of adults 18-49, is the perfect addition to our primetime lineup on Saturday nights,” Spike TV President Kevin Kay explained in Monday’s news.
Sure enough, this past Saturday’s finale of an abbreviated 25th season won its hour among 18-to-49-year-old viewers in competition with the other major English-language broadcast networks. Of the show’s 2.94 million overall viewers, 1.1 million fell into that age bracket. (An additional 1.64 million of them were 50 and older; 92,000 were 12 to 17 years old; and 118,000 were 2 to 11 years old.)
This season on Fox, the median age for “Cops” at 8 p.m. was 50.5 years. Although that sounds pretty old for a network that has an overall prime-time median age of 46.4 years, it’s not so terribly old for Saturday night on broadcast TV. Fox’s “Following” reruns, for instance, have a median age of 51.4 years; ABC’s Saturday edition of “20/20” has a median age of 57.9 years; and CBS’s Saturday repeats of its crime dramas have a median age of just over 62.
On the bright side, the “Cops” crowd skews roughly 51 percent female and 49 percent male among 18-to-49-year-old viewers. In an era in which a show with a 50-50 split is considered pretty guy-skewing — because chicks watch more TV — this is a good thing.
But the “Cops” crowd is also pretty downscale.
These days, “Cops” has the lowest concentration of young adults living in homes with an income of $100,000-plus of any prime-time series on a Big Four broadcast network. Downscale shows generally command lower ad rates than so-called “upscale” programs — ones watched in homes making $100K+.
As part of the deal, Spike TV has licensed some older “Cops” repeats for rotation. Initially, Spike will air back-to-back original episodes of “Cops” to make some noise. But, eventually, Spike will return the franchise to the Fox format, pairing an original episode with a repeat for a full hour of “Cops.”
Spike, which runs movies on Saturday night, will initially run repeats of original series behind “Cops,” but plans to use the franchise to launch original series, Kay explained of the thinking behind the deal.
Little more than a year ago, Fox announced plans to jam its Saturday nights with about 100 hours of major-league baseball, college football, the NFL, NASCAR and UFC programming — slashing the number of Saturdays available for “Cops” for the rest of the calendar year 2012.
TV-industry navel-lint pickers saw it as the death knell for the Fox staple, which was then in its 24th season, though Fox reps insisted that the order for “Cops” going forward would only be slightly smaller than its usual order of 22 episodes.
Here’s a good place to note that a 22-episode order was a pale shadow of the 46 episodes Fox ordered for, say, the sixth season of “Cops.” As recently as five seasons back, it wasn’t unheard of for Fox to order at least 36 episodes.
Sure enough, “Cops” debuted its 25th season Dec. 15, 2012, and had its finale this past Saturday — a 16-episode season.
The “Cops” migration was not a surprise: In May 2011, Fox announced that it had canceled “Cops’” longtime companion show, “America’s Most Wanted,” as a weekly series.
“AMW” migrated to Lifetime network; it has since been canceled.