What happens when the star of a mega-hit police procedural decides to call it quits after seven very successful seasons?
Do the creators and producers panic as they witness a rich oil field dry up before their eyes?
They just create a spin-off, keeping in place the entire cast and slipping in one of the ensemble players to lead the action.
And that, of course, is exactly what happened when TNT lost their award-winning star, Kyra Sedgwick, who played the junk-food eating, no-holds-barred, Brenda Leigh Johnson, whose success in closing cases (i.e., making the bad guys confess) informed the title of the entire series, “The Closer.”
TNT didn’t miss a beat.
They “promoted” Captain Sharon Raydor (played by Mary McDonnell) to head up the LAPD Major Crimes Unit, thus the name of the successor show, “Major Crimes”.
I don’t think the schedulers at TNT were leaving anything to chance. Season 7 of “The Closer” started in July of 2011 and finished the day after Christmas — in total, 15 episodes (the same number as in past seasons). But, then, TNT extended Season 7, and half a year later they aired six more episodes, finally bringing to an end the entire series.
But not quite exactly ending it.
The very last episode of “The Closer” aired on August 13th, 2012, and was immediately followed that evening with the premiere episode of ‘Major Crimes.” In other words, “Major Crimes” came out of the blocks with a significant audience surge from “The Closer” which gave it a tail wind through its entire first season:
From its successful Season One debut, “Major Crimes” raised its viewing levels even higher in Seasons Two & Three (2013/14 & 2014/15), and that was with nearly twice the number of episodes (than in Season One.) Moreover, both Seasons Two & Three were split into two parts by a 3-month hiatus, which depressed ratings for the second half of each season. Still, the ratings were higher:
Local Cable Advertising Demand
Like several other high profile cable shows that we have written about in this space, “Major Crimes” has attracted significant attention from local advertisers. Over the past two years, three-quarters of all Viamedia markets have seen advertising investments in the show. In all, 275 advertisers have invested 2,250 30-second spots across 100+ local cable zones. (Source: B.I.G.SM database — Copyright © 2015 by Viamedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved)
And when we confine our analysis to only those Viamedia markets that exhibited advertising in “Major Crimes” over the past two years, we find an 8% growth in total ad investments driven entirely by an increase 30-second commercial unit pricing. (Source: B.I.G.SM database — Copyright © 2015 by Viamedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved)
Automotive is almost always the number one local cable ad investment category, but when it comes to highly popular cable programs (such as “Major Crimes”) the tune-in category is often not far behind given that competing cable (and broadcast) networks seek to reach the desirable audience attracted to the show. In tandem, automotive and tune-in captured 60% of all ad dollars over the past two seasons, with the next four categories (entertainment/travel, restaurants, retail and financial services) capturing 22%:
On to Season Four
Last summer it was announced that “Major Crimes” would return for its 4th season next month (June 8th) with a 15-episode run. Some would argue that – despite many of the same ensemble actors still present since “The Closer” – “Major Crimes” has a different “feel” to it ever since the switch from Deputy Chief, Brenda Leigh Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick) to Captain Sharon Raydor (Mary McDonnell.)
That could be.
But that sure hasn’t diminished interest in the show. Fans are flocking to “Major Crimes” in near-record numbers as the start of Season 4 kicks off an exciting summer of cable viewing just as the broadcast networks go into re-run mode.
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– Written by Jonathan Sims, VP Media Research, Viamedia