On the eight returning scripted series renewed by CBS today, one, Person of Interest, was not owned by the network. (It comes from Warner Bros. TV) It was the one series to get a partial order, which I hear is for 13 episodes. That is exactly what happened last May, with a last-minute 13-episode order to another Warner Bros. drama procedural, The Mentalist. Just like last year with The Mentalist, CBS would not say whether the upcoming fifth season of POI would be its last. (The Mentalist announcement came a few months later.)
POI was a breakout when it launched in September 2011 as CBS’ new Thursday anchor. But while fellow WBTV-produced CBS dramas Without a Trace and The Mentalist got to spend four seasons on Thursday before they were moved to another night, POI was transplanted after only two seasons. It has done OK in its new Wednesday 10 PM slot, performing in line with other CBS bubble dramas, which were picked up for full seasons, like NCIS: LA and Hawaii Five-0. The difference is that the other shows are owned by the network and make millions for the company via off-network syndication deals. POI also has an off-network deal with WGN America, but that is money for WBTV, which would be hit financially if POI is cancelled prematurely.
This is just one of the harsh realities of vertical integration that independent studios have to deal with these days, with money-making series assured a long life if they are owned by a network but if they are not, they face an uncertain fate.