Why some of your favorite TV shows are ending this year: ‘Young Sheldon’s not so young anymore’

After a year in which writers’ and actors’ strikes caused networks to reshuffle their plans for TV shows, an unusually high number of broadcast favorites are signing off in 2024.

From long-running shows like The Good Doctor and Blue Bloods to spin-offs of popular franchises, including Big Bang Theory prequel Young Sheldon and Grey’s Anatomy offshoot Station 19, at least nine broadcast mainstays won’t be returning after this year.

It’s a sign of significant change for broadcast television as ratings continue to trend downward, audiences flock to streaming, aging shows get more expensive to make and less attention is being paid to traditional networks.

“It feels like a real transitional year for TV and for the networks,” Michael Schneider, Variety’s TV editor, tells Yahoo Entertainment.

Is your favorite show ending?

Not counting the slew of cable and streaming series also saying goodbye this year — and there are plenty, including HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm (supposedly) and Paramount Network’s Yellowstone — the current number of broadcast shows leaving the air in 2024 is at nine.

A handful were announced prior to the dual Hollywood strikes, such as CBS’s S.W.A.T., which got a brief reprieve; the final season of NBC’s Magnum P.I., which aired its series finale on Jan. 4; and The CW’s shortened swan song for Superman & Lois. But the majority were announced after the actors’ strike was resolved on Nov. 8.

Less than one week after the strike ended, CBS announced that its Big Bang Theory prequel, Young Sheldon, which follows a young Sheldon Cooper (Iain Armitage) as he navigates childhood, would be wrapping up after the upcoming seventh season. On Nov. 20, CBS staple Blue Bloods officially set its final 18 episodes. The same day, it was made official that NBC’s sci-fi drama, La Brea, would bid farewell after three seasons.

CBS shared on Nov. 29 that Bob Hearts Abishola, which stars Billy Gardell and Folake Olowofoyeku, would sign off after five seasons, while ABC announced on Dec. 8 that the upcoming Season 7 of Grey’s Anatomy first-responder spin-off Station 19 would be its last.

On Jan. 11, ABC shared that long-running medical drama The Good Doctor, led by Freddie Highmore and Richard Schiff, would end with Season 7 too.

Why is this happening?

In the aftermath of the dual Hollywood strikes, broadcast networks have been tightening their finances as they strategize about where to cut costs and reprioritize where to invest money.

“We have to start by talking about the Hollywood strikes because clearly that did impact a lot of things,” Variety’s Schneider explains. “A lot of shows were put on hold. A lot of conversations began over cost-cutting measures. There is a factor of the networks and studios looking at their budgets and looking at their bottom line and looking at what they have, and deciding whether to cut bait on certain things.”

The majority of the shows that are ending have been on the air for quite some time, such as Blue Bloods, whose Season 14 premieres Feb. 16. It’s becoming increasingly rare for a TV series to go beyond a certain benchmark amid the current television landscape.

The cast of Blue Bloods gathers for the traditional Sunday dinner. (John Paul Filo/CBS via Getty Images)

“Deals are up and, in a lot of the cases, rather than have to negotiate huge new contractual deals with the stars of these shows, it was easier to say, ‘Let’s bring them back and give them a chance to say goodbye in a truncated season,’” Schneider says.

Which outgoing show will create the biggest void?

It remains to be seen. However, it’s safe to say many of these shows have helped define the networks they’re on — either through strong ratings or being culturally relevant.

Blue Bloods is a huge hit for CBS and it does really well in syndication too. That’s one that continues to be a real ratings grabber for CBS, so they’ll feel the loss of those ratings,” Schneider predicts. “When they looked at the budget line of something like Blue Bloods, they started to see diminishing returns. It was more expensive to produce but wasn’t getting quite the same results as it did, even though it’s a huge hit. That’s a good example of a business decision.”

In the case of Young Sheldon, Schneider believes it’s a classic combination of business and creative decisions converging – a show meeting “a natural end.”

Young Sheldon’s not so young anymore. It’s become so much more dramatic. [CBS is] definitely interested in staying in that world but they know that Young Sheldon is not the show it once was. So it made sense to end that show — even though, ironically, so many of these shows, in repeats, do well in streaming and probably could continue for a little while longer. Now they’re ready to move on to something else.”

Future of broadcast TV shows

“Where [broadcast TV] still matters is live events, sports, unscripted [shows]. That’s where you also see the networks spending more of their time focused on,” Schneider explains. “The strikes really changed the strategy for a lot of these companies, and you’re going to continue to see them spend less on programming for the broadcast networks because that money is being moved over to the streaming side.”

Not all hope is lost.

“The good news is all of these networks still have very strong franchises that they’re not turning their backs [on],” he says.

On NBC, there’s the Chicago franchise — Chicago Fire, Chicago Med and Chicago P.D. — as well as the Law & Order universe, which includes the original series, SVU and Organized Crime. Grey’s Anatomy and 9-1-1, the first-responder drama that moved from Fox, remain main focuses at ABC.

The NCIS and FBI franchises continue to be proven draws for CBS, along with a potentially expanding Fire Country universe through a proposed sheriff spin-off. Even with Young Sheldon hanging up his academic hat this year, CBS is aiming to stay in the Big Bang Theory universe with a possible new series centered on Sheldon’s older brother, Georgie (Montana Jordan), and his fiancée Mandy (Emily Osment).

Nevertheless, Schneider says, the spate of cancellations in 2024 is “a reminder that every time a big network hit goes away, there’s no guarantee that it’ll be replaced by anything else. It’s a sign that broadcast has continued to diminish in its importance.”

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