NEW YORK — As stars of Nashville — including Clare Bowen, Charles Esten and Jonathan Jackson — performed songs from the ABC drama at a New York theater this week, they remained hopeful that rabid fans weren’t the only ones watching.
It is a nerve-jangling time for actors and creators of TV shows, as broadcast networks begin to reveal plans for next season.
The wait is particularly intense for series such as Nashville that are thought to be “on the bubble” between returning and having the plug pulled.
The decisions get more complicated every year.
Broadcast executives have more than just ratings to consider, and Nashville offers a good example. A thumbs-down from ABC ends not only a televised soap opera but also a growing music franchise.
“I’m a combination of optimistic and emotionally vulnerable,” Esten — who portrays Deacon Claybourne, the musical and former romantic partner to fictional country star Rayna James (Connie Britton) — said before the concert on Tuesday. “Everyone seems to be coming to a nice peak right now.”
Under the old rules, Nashville would probably be toast by now. It was on the bubble last year, too, and in its second season averaged 4.5 million viewers, the Nielsen company said.
That’s down 9 percent from the show’s rookie season and 18 percent among the youthful demographic about which ABC cares most.
Fortunately, “Next-day ratings don’t really mean as much as they used to,” said Brad Adgate, a television analyst for Horizon Media.
Networks also look at how many people stream the show online or digitally record it to watch later. Delayed viewing isn’t as valuable to a network as people who watch live, but it counts for something, and Nashville adds to its audience more this way than most ABC shows, said Kevin Beggs, chairman of Lionsgate Television Group, the show’s producer.
“More than ever, it’s about finding fan bases that are more than casual, who are obsessed with a show,” Beggs said.
ABC parent Walt Disney Co. shares in ancillary revenue from CDs of music featured on Nashville (the fourth collection was released on Tuesday) and the concert tour.
More than 600,000 soundtrack CDs have been sold, according to Big Machine Label Group. A special collection of tunes from the show’s April 23 performance special was immediately made available on iTunes and was among the top five country albums two weeks later.
ABC executives aren’t tipping their hand on the chances of a Nashville return.
The closely watched TV by the Numbers website lists it as a show in doubt but predicted that it has more than a 70 percent chance of returning to the ABC schedule next year.
Among the shows that the website also considers on the bubble are NBC’s Community, Growing Up Fisher and Hannibal along with CBS’ Friends With Better Lives.Tags: actor, concert, music, producer, release, television, tour, tv