How about à la carte for local stations?

Variety carries an interesting story today about how the networks are reducing their obligations to original programming by giving up on either dayparts or whole days. This is serious business for local TV stations, who need prime time lead-in numbers to sustain late news viability (and in which to promote other offerings, much less sell local advertising).

Desperate to contain costs, networks have found that one way to reduce their overhead is simply to vacate hours previously earmarked for original fare. As a consequence, Saturday has essentially disappeared from the week, as ABC, CBS and NBC use the night either for prime time sports or as Rerun Theater.

…Based on the networks’ body language, Friday could be the next parcel of real estate in jeopardy of foreclosure. CBS research guru David Poltrack has pointed to the high volume of DVR playback occurring that night, and depressed ratings could lead to more reruns there, as ABC did most of last season with encore plays of “Grey’s Anatomy.”

…Networks have been even more aggressive in finding ways to reduce their investment in other dayparts by stretching “Today” to occupy a fourth hour or brokering their entire Saturday-morning lineups to outside suppliers„,

This is both sad and fascinating to watch, and I find my own viewing has almost entirely shifted to cable channels for original programming. HBO and Showtime lead the way, but for advertiser-supported drama, there’s nothing like USA, TNT (We Know Drama) or FX. Then, there’s a whole list of other interesting and entertaining things to watch on scores of other cable channels.

The networks suffer from big overheads and investor expectations, and I’m afraid they’re going to drag local stations down with them. Perhaps we’ll get to the day when local stations can cherry pick programs from multiple cable nets and create their own line-ups, paying appropriate fees or sharing advertising with them.

It would certainly be better than following the nets to the tar pits.


  1. Mark Shepherd says


    The writing is on the wall for local broadcasters: you can’t depend on a network. Control your own destiny. Create your own local programs.

    It means you’ll spend more on people and equipment, but you’ll stop giving up commercial time to networks and syndicators and stop paying others for your programs.

    Do it soon and you’ll have the edge in your market.


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