Have you ever wondered why a television show has gotten renewed when all signs say that it shouldn’t? In the realm of television, at least in the United States, there is a rule that is almost never broken. This unspoken rule is that once a show has had three seasons, it is almost guaranteed that it will have four. The rule is called the “Three Season Rule” and is in place just to make money. Fans sometimes benefit from it too.
Once a show hits the third season, between 88-100 episodes, it is going to get a fourth season unless it manages to totally flop or there are other circumstances of the like. Once this milestone is hit, then the show can be syndicated. Syndication means that other channels can air reruns and makes it possible for the “powers that be” to make more money.
Shows made by the bigger companies and run on the bigger networks are more likely to receive syndication. If it is on NBC, Fox, CBS, ABC, or anything like that, it is more likely to continue into a fourth season despite terrible ratings. Hannibal did not get a fourth season, but there were special circumstances. The show was funded by the American branch of France’s Gaumont Film Company. NBC paid a per episode deal for an already finished show. That is why the three season rule did not apply to it and it could be cancelled at any time, which it was after three seasons. NBC would not profit from any syndication and it paid around $185,000.00 per episode. It had no other fees it had to pay, really.
So, for those who wonder why terrible shows have gotten renewed, such as Sleepy Hollow, take a look at the number of seasons it has had so far. Sleepy Hollow had a great first season, the second was so-so, the third was awful by the end, and everyone expected that to be it! However, Fox renewed it, and chances are it is because of the three season rule. After this season, there is a good chance it will be cancelled, but it can be put into syndication.
There are other ways to have a show syndicated, but that article is for a later date.
Have you ever heard of the “Three Season Rule”?