Chapter XI: "So, What Have You Been Up To?"
Part III, Chapter XI: "So, What Have You Been Up To?"
The successes of both the Doctor Who and Star Trek franchises on television sparked something of a craze for science fiction among the television executives of the time. Both NBC (which broadcast Doctor Who) and UPN (which broadcast the Star Trek shows) were experiencing booms in popularity, especially among the young adult and family audiences. These were successes that the other major networks desperately wanted to replicate.
The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles was, in short, a failure. The stories did little to bring in audiences, and they were very expensive to produce. The show was cancelled after two seasons, though a series of television films followed that continued the story. The show did win many awards, but the writing was widely criticised as ‘clunky’.
But George Lucas was not done with television just yet. He had long been working on a prequel trilogy of films to his Star Wars trilogy, and had been planning on releasing them as films. However, he had little interest in directing them himself, and all three directors he had approached (Ron Howard, Robert Zemeckis, Steven Spielberg) had turned down the offer. However, long time collaborator Spielberg suggested to him that he pitch the prequels to a television network as a new show for them.
Spielberg had been heavily involved with the trilogy of Doctor Who films in the mid-1980s, but had been somewhat disappointed with their inability to tell a large story. Since his time with the franchise, it had become a staple of American television, consistently finishing in the top 20 programs of the season, though it had declined over the past few years, only properly recovering with Season 30. He had seen how the show was able to properly flesh out characters and settings as it was far less limited in time than a feature film was.
Lucas took some convincing, but eventually came around to the concept in early 1995, pitching it to ABC. Lucasfilm and Amblin would foot the majority of the costs, and ABC would distribute the show. ABC were, initially, uninterested in a Star Wars show, having seen The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles fail. They did come around after they were shown evidence that there was a real interest among the fans for more Star Wars content, however, they were not convinced that a prequel story was the right way to go.
Most of the media that had sated fans since the original films was set after them, expanding on what happened following the events of the films. ABC were interested in making a show, especially once Lucas put pre-production of the films on hold, but they wanted to take some of the “expanded universe” media, and adapt it, rather than set it prior to the films, especially as it could allow for some of the original cast to reprise their roles for special appearances.
Again, it took some time to convince Lucas, but he did agree after he was told that he would have a large amount of creative control over the show, and would be able to tell the story that he wanted to. A deal was struck, and in early 1996, Star Wars: The New Republic would be announced for ABC’s 1998-99 season. 
CBS was not in a good position. It had lost the rights to broadcast the NFL to Fox, who also outbid them for the rights to the NHL. This left CBS with many holes in their broadcast schedule, which they had great difficulty in filling. With this, CBS’s viewership dropped massively, leading to many shows being cut from their schedule. This, coupled with many affiliates switching over to Fox, meant that CBS were not in a great position.
To bring viewers back, they announced that in the 1997-98 season, they would be broadcasting “CBS Block Party” on a Friday night, in an attempt to bring in family audiences.
Fox had firmly established itself as the “fourth network” to counter the Big Three (ABC, NBC, CBS) with its acquisition of the NFL and NHL rights. Many of the affiliated channels of the Big Three would strike deals with Fox, briefly making it the largest network in American television by amount of affiliates.
Fox would have some issues with its Saturday night slot around this time, though they would be sorted out by the 1997-98 season, as they began to debut more animated comedy shows, following on from The Simpsons. 
The launch of The WB was always going to be compared to that of UPN, especially as they we both “fifth network” attempts launching in January 1995. Unlike UPN, however, The WB did not have a set “flagship” show from the get-go, and struggled to find its feet until 1997.
March 1997 would bring Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a mid-season replacement show that would prove to be greatly successful. Finally, The WB had found its market, the teen/young adult market. They began to steal viewers away from Fox, and started making new shows specifically aimed for the teenage market, particularly teenage girls. 
 We're not seeing modern day levels of "cinematic" television yet, but that push is happening earlier.
 Alright, I'll admit that there's a lot more OTL stuff here than I initially thought there would be, especially with CBS, Fox and the WB. There's some other stuff related to them on the way, but I felt that I needed to do this update now.
 Buffy is a little different, and it will get its own update soon. '97 is going to be a bumper year for updates.