Running Scared: Network TV in the Streaming Age

Running Scared: Network TV in the Streaming Age


That’s reassuring for ABC and its parent, Disney. The network recently renewed the show — created by Shonda Rhimes, who left ABC for a nine-figure, multiyear deal at Netflix — for two more seasons. “Grey’s Anatomy” has surpassed “ER,” which ended its run on NBC in 2009, as the prime-time medical show with the most episodes, and in the fall it will beat “ER” in the number of seasons as well. Ellen Pompeo, who earns more than $20 million a year, will continue on as Dr. Meredith Grey.

Krista Vernoff, the “Grey’s Anatomy” showrunner, signed a new overall contract with the network this year and has been charged with the task of breathing new life into the “Grey’s Anatomy” spinoff “Station 19,” which has struggled. At the recent upfronts presentation, Karey Burke, ABC’s entertainment president, promised a “crossover event between these series every week.”

“Grey’s Anatomy” is not the only network stalwart that has continued to score. NBC’s “Law & Order: SVU” is moving into its 21st season, and NBCUniversal spotlighted the show’s star, Mariska Hargitay, during its presentation at Radio City Music Hall. There was a reason for that: The show has real drawing power among younger viewers. The median age of the audience when the show airs is 57.5 — but that number is closer to 43 when people who stream or recorded the program are factored in, according to the NBC Entertainment co-president George Cheeks.

And speaking of “Law & Order” …

It needs to be said each year, but with increasing emphasis: Dick Wolf, the creator of the “Law & Order” franchise, is helping to keep broadcast television alive.

Let’s start with the much-maligned Chicago shows the 72-year-old producer makes for NBC. The median age of their viewers isn’t exactly young, at around 61, but the audiences are remarkably stable. The total audience for “Chicago Fire” jumped 20 percent. There was no change for “Chicago Med,” and a 7 percent boost for “Chicago P.D.” These are among the only shows in network television that did not lose viewers during the 2018-19 season.

And Mr. Wolf — and his legion of baby boomer fans — isn’t just a boon to NBC. CBS has Mr. Wolf’s “FBI,” one of the most-viewed shows on TV, and it will add a spinoff. Fox has an unscripted Wolf show, “First Responders Live,” coming next month.

The late-night wars are not what they were in the 1990s, in the days of David Letterman and Jay Leno. The viewership figures aren’t what they were back then, for one thing. And the acrimony among the stars of the 11:30 time slot isn’t what it used to be, either.



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