The current wave of reality TV shows, and their frightening success, is leading many in the industry to talk of new business paradigms, grand new vistas of cheaper programming, a no-repeat program calendar (that part’s fine with me), and the return of many prodigal young viewers from cable and the like.
All I can say is that viewer taste looks a lot more like a cycle than a straight line to me – I’m glad to see some of the less giddy realizing this:
- Since CBS’s “Survivor” rushed to the top of the Nielsen ratings three years ago, network executives have known that reality shows can be enormously popular. This week convinced them that the shows will drastically alter the economics of the business itself.
Executives from all four major networks watched in awe as reality shows won 15 of 18 half-hour time periods on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights, and finished second in the other three time slots. “American Idol,” on the Fox network, led the way, drawing 25 million viewers two nights running and becoming the most-watched nonsports shows in the network’s history.
The success of shows like “American Idol,” “The Bachelorette” on ABC and “Joe Millionaire” on Fox was so impressive that numerous executives said they were now ready to embrace plans for a radical restructuring of the network business, which previously had been talked about only as dimly possible, long-term adjustments.
Not only will reality shows continue to flood network’s schedules next fall, but television executives are also predicting such developments as an end to the traditional television season. Instead of the time-honored formula of introducing shows en masse in September and ending them in May, broadcast networks want to stagger the shows’ debuts and banish repeats from the schedule almost entirely. [NY Times]
- Many of the executives emphasized that they were far from abandoning the scripted series as the backbone of network schedules. Several network executives said they would not consider cutting back on budgets for developing scripted shows, citing ABC’s calamitous decision to do that when it had “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” showing as many as four nights a week. When that show tumbled in the ratings, the network did not have promising shows in the pipeline to replace it.
“It’s going to be about balance,” Mr. Zucker said, emphasizing the advantage NBC has enjoyed with higher-quality scripted shows that play especially well with upper-income well-educated viewers, whom advertisers pay a premium to reach.
….Even as the networks revel in the success of the reality wave, however, a quiet minority expressed some reservations.
“It feels a little like the stock market,” said Lloyd Braun, the chairman of ABC Entertainment. “Those who put all their money into this might end up looking foolish in the end.”
Listen to the quiet minority.