Now is the time of year all broadcast networks focus on program renewals, cancellations, or those TV shows they can't figure out what to do with.
Mostly we are talking about all those broadcast network shows only doing say two million or four million viewers in a particular episode -- leaving out specific demographics aside for just a moment.
If you are a cable network you might be salivating for such viewer data of soon-to-be-cancelled shows -- that is if the production costs are in line which might include craft services deal that comes with a McDonalds rider.
One may like to say TV programming is all the same these days. But digging deeper you get a different result. For example, CW's "Ringer" is doing only 1.3 million viewers with modest young women ratings -- and that might not sound like a success for many TV network programmers looking for the next big thing. And yet say a "Mad Men" episode of just over 2 million viewers may be deemed big news -- a cable programming star.
For all we make about the new battle over the future of digital TV, a lot of old business bias and realities remain.
Virtually all top 20 cable networks, average over a million viewers in primetime. As such these cable networks would tell you at this level you can have a thriving business. Broadcast networks would tell you a different story. They can't make a living this way -- even if they are getting into the dual-revenue game they have so long envied of the cable networks -- that with retransmission revenues.
NBC's "The Firm"? Not a whole lot of people liked that one. But many more thought NBC's "Prime Suspect" was pretty good. What cable network wouldn't give for a high quality broadcast network TV show -- even dropping to 4.5 million viewers from 6.0 million viewers. USA Network? TNT? Hallmark? TruTV?
Transition is few and far between. "Southland" did some sad numbers on NBC. But found better luck as a cable show at TNT.
Now we have Fox's highly heralded, and no doubt costly, "Terra Nova", from Steven Spielberg, cancelled on the network and possibly looking for a new home. It's an expansive and expensive affair. Could it go to another broadcast network? They might be able to pay the freight. But someone like HBO would probably have more wherewithal.
A cable network would love to have some of "Terra Nova"s' 7 million viewers it grabbed for one episode. But viewers don't always transition completely from one network to another -- especially from a broadcast to cable network.
Even then the business math doesn't work. The Fox show has some fast moving dinosaurs. Pet trainers alone will set you back something awful.