Give Viewers What They Really Want: Much Less
Less programming usually means more viewers -- especially for sports and reality shows.
ESPN is reporting that, through 14 NBA games, its total viewers are up 21%, to 2.1 million. And its numbers are 31% higher among 18-49ers -- a 1.7 average rating so far. The NBA, in the midst of a shortened season, seems to have pushed viewers to climb on board for what has been called a "sprint" finish.
All of which reminds us of other stuff that may run longer than it should. "The Biggest Loser" has been holding down the fort for NBC over the last few years, doing all kinds of work with multiple programs and nights, and with many two-hour episodes. All that has meant some wear and tear on the show.
Mind you, some networks have gone this route before. Think back a decade or more when ABC ran "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" almost every weekday night, giving the network a sharp short-term spike in which it won a rare 18-49 viewer crown. Then it came crashing down to earth, bringing the network down with it.
It was too much, too long, and created viewer fatigue.
In some ways, you can understand why the NFL works so well opposed to other sports -- especially ones with extensive numbers of post-season games. Just 16 NFL regular season games means more value for viewers and fans.
Years ago, there was much talk that "American Idol" should try to run two seasons a year -- especially in what seemed to be the much more important big fall premiere period. Turns out Fox made the right decision, keeping it just to the spring, making it seem more special.
Of course, this doesn't work for everything. The scarcity of, say, AMC's "Mad Men" over the last few seasons didn’t really give it a sizable bump in viewership when it returned to the air. If "Men" were more consistent -- as well as running a broadcast network-sized schedule of 22 episodes a year, rather than the typical cable slate of 13 -- that would be worse.
In general, networks should give viewers what they want -- which usually means a lot less.