Building a strategy on reruns

In another attempt to squeeze profit from the golden goose, the New York Times is reporting that the TV networks are building rerun strategies into their weekly offerings as a way to get more bang from their production costs.

“Now, with reality shows costing more, I think networks have to find a way to repeat them,” said Kelly Kahl, the executive vice president for program planning at CBS.

For years CBS tried to stand out on Saturdays by sticking with scripted dramas, fare that might have run on any other night, like “The District” and “Hack.”

Now CBS has shifted to a less expensive reality series, “Amazing Race,” and a newsmagazine, “48 Hours” to go with its crime series repeats.

“CBS tried the original series strategy for five years,” Mr. (Jeff of NBC) Zucker said, “Tell me, did it work?” He predicted that by relying more on repeats, CBS would turn a money-losing night into a money-maker.

Mr. Kahl of CBS said the network would be able to deliver a more attractive audience to advertisers next fall, “and for one-tenth the cost.”

I’m tempted to call this another pathetic attempt to ignore the realities of what’s really happening, but it’s actually a pretty smart delaying tactic. However, the only way I’ll give it my blessing is if there is evidence the networks are doing other things in the realm of Video On Demand that will serve the marketplace downstream. Otherwise, it’s just another move away from quality content that will eventually doom the whole industry.

Network programming is a Wooly Mammoth headed for the scent of food offered by the tar pits. The network upfront brought in $9 billion and for what? This? I continue to maintain that 2005 will be the year of greatest stress for broadcast television and that preparation must be made today. Growth and profitability will exist only in a multimedia marketplace, and those who put their faith in the good old days are going to be hurt the most.

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