Network TV viewership has been declining for years -- and now, apparently, so has the wherewithal to produce high quality TV shows.
Network ratings have been sinking for a long time -- but growing advertising sales, big DVR revenues, and international sales, seemingly took care of this financial unbalance.
A growing recession has put a big squeeze on next year's big network TV projects -- now numbering around 70, according to Variety, down from 82 in 2007. (Last year's TV development season, shortened by the writer's strike, isn't a good model for comparison.)
Studios have been using more price-efficient production locations, like Vancouver, for years. Now Fox's "Fringe" TV series, produced by Warner Bros., is leaving New York for the West Coast Canadian market -- because of the tax credits producers can get.
But that's not all. High-concept TV shows are less of an attraction unless they have a big-name actor or other talent attached. Why? In an age where the marketing of TV show become more expensive, more difficult, instant awareness of some well-known talent -- like Kelsey Grammer in ABC's new pilot "Pryors" -- makes for an easier sell.
In keeping with the temperature of the times, expect TV network to mirror the current economic mess -- especially the very wealthy who are handed major financial setbacks. There are also pilots like ABC's "Canned," about a group of young friends who all get pink slips on the same day. Blue-collar themed shows will be another trend.
So it'll be interesting to see which networks continue to tout themselves as catering to high-income, $100,000 or more, aged 18-49, viewers.
One wonders whether TV advertisers will support these kinds of shows in future years -- especially when there are other digital video options to consider.
Marketers always seem to be groaning about something -- the lack of family-oriented programs, too many cheap reality shows at high network prices, or a glut of graphic crime dramas. Now they can complain about proletarian-looking network shows.
This will go down easier if they can buy those shows at Wal-Mart pricing.