Fifteen years ago, Fox tried to cancel its signature series America’s Most Wanted, but ended up reinstating it after protests from viewers, law enforcement, and 37 governors across the nation.  Today, Fox announced its new schedule for next season, and AMW won’t be on it.  Instead, Fox wants the space for, er, reruns:

Good news for criminals: Fox is cancelling its long-running crime-stopping series America’s Most Wanted.

The series profiling men and women wanted by law enforcement agencies has been on the air since 1988 and consistently wins its time period. A few years ago it announced the capture of its 1,000th criminal. …

Another factor, Reilly noted, is needing an open time period where the network can re-air episodes of other shows.

“We’re going to be in originals across our schedule,” Reilly says. “We want to be able to play repeats to give the audience a chance to catch up and that’s one of the few places we can do that.”

Is that really a big problem?  In the age of DVRs and on-demand programming, why does a network need to keep its prime-time real estate open for reruns?  Even if one missed the original airing of an episode, they could simply record a rerun in the middle of the night rather than offering up rewarmed content on Saturday evenings.

The real reason appears to be cost.  One might think that the granddaddy of reality shows — and the only one with any redeeming value to the community — would have a lower cost than fiction with casts of actors to pay, but apparently not.  The problem on AMW is probably that they have to pay actors for all those recreations they use in featuring stories, eliminating at least some of the cost advantage of most reality shows.

John Walsh has hosted the show for its entire 23-year run, and he’s working to move it to another network, according to Fox.  Let’s hope he succeeds.