TV Networks Hope To Grow Big While Looking Small
A TV niche only takes you so far. Peter Roth, president of Warner Bros. Television, believes that's the case for CW.
The highly targeted network for young women -- women 18-34, specifically -- perhaps needs to grow up a bit. To that end, there's the new WB action-adventure show, "Nikita," picked up by the CW -- an update of "La Femme Nikita" kind of like ABC's "Alias" of a few years ago, about a young woman in the spy game.
Here's what Roth told Broadcasting & Cable about the show: "I think [it] is very, very important to the future fate of the network. That is because it expands the reach of the network. It's not a typical 18-34 female-oriented show; it's a show designed to expand the brand."
Expanding a TV brand. For many established cable networks, this is always the rub: Executives can mine every area of, say, the men 18-34 demo (G4, Spike), or women 25-54 (Lifetime), or persons 12-24 (MTV). But once that happens, advertising sales quotas can plateau, and then you need to grow -- to attract different viewers and new advertisers.
Roth didn't say in what direction the network should grow. That's left up to executives of CW, a network co-owned by Roth's parent company Warner Bros. and CBS.
CW, still a broadcast network -- though smaller than many cable networks in a number of areas -- had a good year, thanks to the stability of "Gossip Girl," "America's Next Top Model," and the new hit "Vampire Diaries." Even though the network had gone a bit spinoff-crazy -- first with "90210" and then "Melrose Place" -- it was able to maintain its 18-34 numbers, versus other broadcast networks that lost their respective key viewers year to year.
All this brings up an important question for TV programmers in a growing digital media world: how do they get big while being small -- otherwise known as being targeted? Fox seems to have had this little problem a couple of decades ago, as a young-skewing network looking for more. That was a different marketplace. But TV programmers have no choice these days; they need to keep trying.