Why Most TV Shows Premiere in Fall & End in May

Ever wondered why all your favorite network series and TV shows premiere in the fall and come to their season finales right before summer? (Netflix excluded, because who knows when or why their seasons premiere.) Turns out, it isn’t just happenstance that puts season premieres in September and season finales in May.

There are three primary reasons why this phenomenon occurs.

The first involves the history of the radio and TV industries.

The second is because this schedule works for just about everybody.

And the third is that more viewers stay inside and at home from September to May (TV producers like to catch ‘em while they’re inside).

The Sept-May Schedule Dates Back to Ye Olden Days

Sources say the current summers-off schedule was set by radio networks in the 1930’s, when radio networks broadcasted their programs through the fall, winter, and spring, then escaped the New York summer heat by vacationing away from the city. When the big radio networks became TV networks, they kept their schedules.

The fall-spring schedule also works with the upfront system of advertising, in which networks advertise their new fall TV shows during the season finales in May to test viewer interest and sell advertising spots in advance. The fall premiere schedule also aids car manufacturers who want to advertise their models coming in the new year.

Don’t Fix a TV Schedule That Isn’t Broken

The fall through spring TV programming schedule works for a large portion of people who aren’t involved in TV production, too. The September to May schedule happens to work for movie producers as well.

The movie industry releases its biggest movies twice a year: during the holidays and–you guessed it–summertime. With new TV shows premiering and running from fall to spring, TV networks don’t have to compete with summer blockbusters. And in exchange, summer blockbusters draw more viewers who are otherwise stuck watching reruns of their favorite shows.

Some critics think the current TV airing schedules are due for a change, and in some ways (we’re looking at you Netflix) they already have. Some networks have already started disregarding the tradition and airing new content while the other networks are at the beach.

Viewers View More When They’re Actually Inside

Kids might want to watch TV all summer while they don’t have homework to worry about, but many other summer activities take families away from home and out of the house. Between summer sports leagues, summer camps, family vacations, and good ol’ warm weather, there are fewer viewers watching TV than during the winter months. Turns out, TV networks aren’t the only ones who enjoy getting away during the summer.

And when winter rolls around, more people are prone to snuggle up in front of a warm fire indoors. What better way to spend a dreary winter evening than with the hottest new show everyone is raving about? It’s also harder for viewers to travel during the winter months, whether they are avoiding poor road conditions (for those of us who get snow and ice), are saving vacation days for the winter holidays, or have kids in school.  

TV Shows Ending This Year

Speaking of premieres and finales. Take a glance here to see some of the shows coming to a close in 2018 (and never coming back…most likely).

CMT’s Nashville — 6 Seasons

After six seasons, Nashville is ending, yet again. It was originally cancelled from ABC after four seasons, before being picked up by CMT for its final two.

TNT’s Major Crimes — 6 Seasons

Despite its popularity (averaging over 7 million viewers per episode), Major Crimes wrapped up in January of this year.

FOX’s New Girl — 7 Seasons

New Girl will air its final season this year, after a hiatus that left fans wondering if season six was the end, or merely a set up for a real goodbye. Spoiler: we are all getting our real goodbye after all with season seven.

CW’s The Originals — 5 Seasons

Since its debut in 2013, the Originals has performed pretty consistently. After five seasons it will end with a mid-year finale.

Freeform’s The Fosters — 5 Seasons

If you’re disappointed over the ending of The Fosters, take comfort in the fact that the show will go out with a THREE-part series finale. Plus, there’s a spin-off to look forward to.

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