‘Dallas’s’ Renewal Likely Depends on the Summer Ratings

Dallas, Josh Henderson, Linda Gray, Michael Wright, Patrick Duffy, TNT

Michael Wright and the “Dallas” cast last week. (Getty Images)

“Dallas” could fit nicely with TNT’s new strategy to draw younger viewers by airing edgier programming, but the show’s future depends mostly on the strength of its ratings, industry observers say.

For years, TNT focused on shows that appeal to older audiences, such as “Major Crimes” and “Rizzoli & Isles.” Last week, the cable network’s executives said they’re shifting strategy because advertisers are increasingly interested in series like AMC’s “The Walking Dead” and “Breaking Bad,” which generate media buzz and draw younger consumers.

“To help draw more advertising dollars, having a breakout, buzz-worthy show is key. ‘Dallas’ is probably the closest [TNT has] to that now,” said David Campanelli, senior vice president and director for national broadcast at media-buying firm Horizon Media.

“Dallas” boasts TNT’s biggest presence on social media, with 1.6 million Facebook fans and 89,000 Twitter followers, but the show has struggled where it matters most: the ratings. “Dallas” is averaging 1.9 million viewers on Mondays this season, down about 25 percent from last year.

The series is on hiatus until mid-August, when its third season will resume. TNT has not announced if “Dallas” will return next year or a timetable for making a decision; the conventional wisdom is the network will wait to see how the show performs during the summer run before deciding whether to renew it.

Campanelli’s take: “Renewal will depend on strength of ratings, because it still is on strategy. But the audience still needs to show up.”

“Dallas” averaged 4.2 million viewers when TNT aired the first season during the summer of 2012. The show has since lost longtime star Larry Hagman, who died during the middle of production on Season 2, and moved to TNT’s winter schedule, where the competition is tougher.

Overall, TNT’s prime-time audience has declined 13 percent during the past five years, from 2.2 million to 1.9 million viewers.

Last week, the network pitched advertisers on the shows it’s developing for next season, including time-travel drama “Fix-It Men” and “The Shop,” a sequel to Stephen King’s “Firestarter.” TNT also unveiled a new slogan: “Boom,” which programming chief Michael Wright said is meant to evoke the network’s new emphasis on surprising storytelling.

“Dallas” cast members Patrick Duffy, Linda Gray and Josh Henderson were among the TNT stars who attended the network’s presentation to advertisers. This could be a sign the network sees a future for the show, said Marc Berman, editor of the industry news site TV Media Insights. “I’m still hopeful it will be renewed,” he said.

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