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In television, cancellation (known as axing in Australia and the United Kingdom) refers to the termination of a program by the network, typically (but not always) because of low viewership and/or bad, critical reviews. Shows whose runs end due to a mutual creative decision by its producers and cast (such as Seinfeld or The Sopranos) are not considered to be "cancelled" but rather "concluded".

Contents

Overview

Commercial television is supported by advertising. Viewing figures are collected by ratings agencies (such as Nielsen in the United States), and the programs with the highest viewing figures command a higher advertising fee for the network. As such, shows with a low viewership are generally not as profitable. Other factors are considered as well, such as the cost to produce the show. For example, a game show costs less money to produce than a science fiction program, so even if the game show has lesser ratings it may survive cancellation because of the higher profit margin.

Very rarely are television programs cancelled for reasons other than ratings or profitability—two notable cases are Turn-On, which was cancelled in February 1969 after viewer and station outrage; and Megan Wants a Millionaire, which was cancelled in August 2009 following the arrest warrant (and later, suicide) of one of the finalists.

Saved from cancellation

Occasionally, a show may be brought back into production after being previously cancelled. Sometimes, one network may decide to air a series previously cancelled by another network. For example, Family Matters moved from ABC to CBS in its ninth season of production.

In other cases, overwhelming fan response may lead to a show's revival. The original series of Star Trek was given an additional season after a letter-writing campaign from fans. Another successful letter-writing campaign helped revive Cagney & Lacey.[1] In 2007, Jericho was given an additional seven-episode order after fans mailed thousands of tons of nuts to network executives (a reference to a pivotal line in the season finale).[2]

Strong DVD sales and viewership on cable have also helped revive a series. Firefly and Police Squad! were revived in the form of a theatrical films (an uncommon occurrence, since failed television series are usually not considered bankable movie material), Family Guy was returned to Fox,[3] and Futurama returned in the form of straight to video films and television episodes for Comedy Central.[4]

In some situations, a television series may be revived years after being cancelled. Often this is in the form of a spin-off show featuring new characters (such as Star Trek: The Next Generation which premiered eighteen years after the original series went off the air). Doctor Who, which was cancelled by the BBC in 1989, was brought back in 2005 as a continuation of the original run of shows. Both franchises also produced spin-off films in the periods they were cancelled.

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