Update: July 17, 2007
Thanks for visiting this site, but it is no longer being updated. I've moved on over to http://www.mediapundit.net/
and I invite you to join me over there from now on. Thanks for your understanding.
Are Webisides and TV Downloads Killing Reruns?
Monday, April 09, 2007 - reddit
Webisodes are what the industry has nicknamed short video clips that run a few minutes in length, and typically introduce new story content to an existing television series as an unobtrusive way of teasing more viewers into watching the shows on television. A more recent trend however has been for several studios such as NBC to allow people to watch entire first-run episodes of hit series on their websites just after they've aired on broadcast television, and I suppose it was only a matter of time before some started to question whether such a move was going to act as a form of direct competition to the network broadcast, rather than serve as a supplement to bring in new viewers.
Industry mag Variety's Jeff Adalian seems to think so, in his article on 'TV rerun ratings eroding' that came out on Thursday.
"There are some shows I don't even bother TiVo-ing because I know I can just watch the episodes on the website," one network exec admits. "At some point it has to have an impact on the ratings. ... You're training the audience to watch these shows on other platforms."
This really should be a frightening prospect to TiVo and the like, but I really don't think it's something to get bent out of shape about. There isn't a single network or company for that matter that can stream video that can equal or somehow surpass the quality of broadcast television -- and we're only talking about standard definition NTSC video here, don't even think about high definition ATSC.
If the lack of quality wasn't bad enough, the networks are ultimately the ones who control the online distribution of their material. They can make those episodes available a week after they have aired, or minutes later. It wouldn't be unreasonable for those episodes to disappear just as quickly, meaning you can't beat the experience a DVR can provide. Mine has the entire second half of this seasons Battlestar Galactica on it, as well as every episode of Heros that has aired since the break.
Still, if precautions aren't taken and I have seen places like ABC that I think lets you stream every episode of Lost from this season for free, then you've got a real problem.
Some observers predict that nets will soon have to choose between charging less money to advertisers for lower-rated repeats or shelling out more coin to develop new programs to replace the reruns. Either way, nets figure to lose money.
TV's repeat equation has changed dramatically in just a few years.
As recently as three seasons ago, nets could count on a repeat broadcast of a hit drama to retain as much as 80 percent of its original audience. Comedies did even better.
Now, even procedural skeins like "CSI" and "Law & Order: SVU" -- with chief selling points being their repeatability -- sometimes hold on to less than 60% of their audience when it comes to repeats.
It's a pretty good read with insight into how the studios see the world and the problems they are currently dealing with that are essentially of their own creation to some degree. For instance there is a note where an exec admits that reruns of CSI just don't do as well as they might have in years past, precisely because they have milked the franchise to death in an effort to squeeze every last drop of revenue out of it in order to avoid having to face the inevitable: eventually people will tire of it and want a new show, which means having to go back to taking risks.
Studios hate that, and so do the networks, but it's a fact of life. You should check it out though, it's good stuff.
Other posts from this blog: Entertainment, Television, CSI, Webisodes, Streaming Video, TV, Variety
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