The Value Of Reruns: When Will It Shift From Syndication To Digital Video Platforms?

 Repeats of off-network programming -- or, more recently, off-cable-network shows -- used to be a sure thing for TV producers financially. But that may be changing.

One example: Broadcasting & Cable says the HBO shows "Entourage" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" aren't cutting it in syndication and have been pulled -- a rare business flub. Both have been playing in late-night time periods, and heading towards even later night time periods. Ratings? A Nielsen 0.6 -- that's household rating, mind you! Around 600,000 homes. (Yikes!)

So a three-year deal with stations for those shows has been cut short -- way short. The inference here is that all barter syndication shows already have a tough time, and that late-night time periods make matters worst. But ratings hit so low for these two shows that the national advertising barter time didn't cover the distribution and technical costs.

Getting to 70, 80 or 100 episodes used to all but guarantee a big payday in syndication or in cable reruns. No longer. More than ever, shows need to find a back-end, a front-end, or some sort of end.

No doubt "Entourage" and "Curb" sold some DVDs. But now perhaps TV money is spread amongst too many TV platforms. Not everything wins.

The "Entourage" and "Curb" moves might still be an aberration. TV stations and cable networks are in continuous need of content -- and though the push is always to upgrade quality with first-run/original programming -- both broadcast stations and cable nets still need to rely on previously aired programming to fill in the gaps. Indeed, perhaps the broadcast networks' own increase in airing reruns is also having an effect on the syndication market.

Syndication is still a decent deal for advertisers -- something on the order of 15% to 20% CPM savings versus broadcast networks for specific demographics. Syndication also has a great story to tell when it comes to time shifting since 85% of its shows are seen live.

But a bigger question is looming: when does the real value of TV repeats shift to digital platforms -- and what will that mean for the syndication business? Something's gotta give.

Tags: television, tv
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5 comments about "The Value Of Reruns: When Will It Shift From Syndication To Digital Video Platforms? ".
  1. Doug Garnett from Atomic Direct , May 16, 2011 at 4:17 p.m.

    I wonder if this might be the classified ads of broadcast TV. Newspapers were only mildly threatened by loss of readership and subsequent loss of general ad dollars. But they were shoved over the brink by loss of classified revenue.

    So, too, the general fundamentals for networks seem pretty solid and subject to small threat. But if the funding network that creates programming is unable to get the syndication dollars that are critical to profitability, we could see a similar brinksmanship.

    It would be sad. The third-world like chaos that comes with the replacement distribution of news would be a sad end to the value of TV in our economy and culture.

  2. Mark Aitken from Sinclair Broadcast Group , May 16, 2011 at 5:35 p.m.

    Actually, if you talk to folks who know a lot about programming, they will tell you that is was fully expected given the fringe time nature of the programs HBO yanked. This is no more an indicator of a 'trend' than the man in the moon indicates life on Mars.

  3. Robert Dahill from ADWEEK , May 16, 2011 at 6:47 p.m.

    Wayne -- great piece -- now you have to finish the thought -- and your head line. We know what happens when the syndication model comes under stress i.e. late night but what happens when 'video content' establishes a projectionable revenue 'window in "digital"?

  4. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , May 17, 2011 at 5:45 p.m.

    When? When people can very easily see the programs on a big screen.

  5. David Libby from MSLGROUP , May 18, 2011 at 11:13 a.m.

    Here's one way HBO GO will be a success. Other online video networks to appear soon. Look at The Meredith Video Network too.