NBC will be the first broadcast network to unveil its fall 2021 schedule this Friday, ahead of the May 17 NBCUniversal virtual upfront presentation. There is one non-bubble series left for the network to pick up, Law & Order: Organized Crime starring Chris Meloni, which likely will get a second-season order this week as NBC is firming up its fall slate. (With the recently picked up Law & Order: For the Defense set to join Law & Order: SVU and Law & Order: Organized Crime, the network has a chance to create a Thursday Law & Order night in the mold of its One Chicago Wednesday lineup in fall or midseason 2021-22.)
The four NBC scripted series on the bubble are all midseason entries that still are airing their current seasons. Because of the pandemic-delayed Season 2020-21 start, that also shifted the traditional midseason window, some — if not all — of NBC’s four bubble series, Good Girls, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, Manifest and Debris, might not learn their fates until after the upfronts. And, if chatter is to be believed, there is at least a possibility for some of the shows, including Good Girls and Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, to become streaming series on Netflix and Peacock, respectively. (For our CBS and Fox Bubble Show Watch stories, click here and here.)
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Now in its fourth season, Good Girls, the only one of the four fully owned by NBCUniversal, had not been a true bubble show before this year in part because of its lucrative co-production/international distribution deal with Netflix, which was signed at the pilot stage. It brings in substantial revenue to NBC sibling Universal Television. And while it is a middling Live+Same Day linear performer at best, Good Girls excels on digital. Last season, it was NBC’s No. 2 show on digital platforms.
But this time around, linear performance appears to weigh in more heavily on NBC’s renewal decisions, with Good Girls truly in limbo. I hear the series could still get a Season 5 pickup at NBC but, as a contingency, Universal TV has been looking at alternatives, drawing up potential budgets if the series continues on NBC and if it doesn’t, crunching the numbers to see if the series can sustain itself on Netflix only under the existing deal structure.
Netflix could step in and make Good Girls a Netflix original should the show be canceled by NBC the way it did with Lifetime’s You, which also started under the co-production model. Good Girls has flourished on Netflix from the start and remains among the streamer’s most popular series, recently topping Nielsen’s weekly Top 10 rankings.
A co-production between Lionsgate TV and Universal TV, sophomore Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist also is heavily on the bubble with middling linear Live+Same Day ratings and outsized digital footprint. It has a passionate following and recently topped USA Today’s annual Save Our Shows poll for a second consecutive year.
In addition to being a digital phenom, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist also has gotten awards recognition. Last year NBC, Lionsgate TV and Universal TV worked hard to find a business framework to make a renewal on the linear network feasible, including pursuing a full-season streaming pact.
All episodes of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist are available on NBCUniversal’s new streaming service, Peacock, whose premium tier offers next-day episodes of the show.
Things are very much in flux, but I hear that NBCU is exploring taking the next step and possibly moving Zoey’s to Peacock — something that has been happening more and more, from A.P. Bio to Langdon.
Third-season hourlong series Manifest, from Warner Bros. TV and Uni TV, is the highest-rated on linear among the four bubble shows by a wide margin, especially in total viewers. The missing-plane drama also has the most intriguing pedigree of the four — it was developed at Warner Bros. TV by Susan Rovner, who sold it to NBC and guided it creatively at the studio until she joined NBCU as content chief last fall and now will make the ultimate call on the show’s future.
Manifest was conceived and sold to NBC with a six-season plan that has been mapped out. While fulfilling it might prove to be a stretch, WBTV’s previous regime was able, with a lot of negotiations and some financial concessions, to bring another high-concept NBC drama that started strong before fading on linear, Blindspot, to five seasons.
A similar tough conversation between NBC and WBTV will be needed to get Manifest to Season 4. The studio is very incentivized to increase the series’ episode count for future downstream sales after deficit-financing it for three seasons.
Debris, from Legendary TV and Uni TV, is a broadcast unicorn, a dense sci-fi drama that has drawn comparisons to some of the classics in the genre. Well-received by critics for a genre series, with a 72% Rotten Tomatoes score, Debris too is a soft linear performer whose ratings are in the same low range as Good Girls and Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist’s and it too has done significantly better online.
A big swing and the first NBC 2020 pilot to get a series order and premiere on the network, Debris has not been looking very promising for a second season, but negotiations still are in their early stages. Like with the others on the list, the decision might not come before the upfronts, with all four shows once again looking at a midseason return if they are renewed.
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