Hey, Networks! We've Got Your (Lower) Number!

What's the right number for a cable network?


TNT says that would be six original programs. It runs two one-hour dramas each on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

USA Network likewise has six original shows: "Burn Notice," "Royal Pains," "Monk," "Psych," "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" and  "In Plain Sight."  ("Monk" won't be returning next year, but "White Collar" is coming on instead).

If you are CW, that number is 10 -- as in 10 hours of original programming a week. Fox's lucky number is 15. ABC, CBS, and NBC have had the same number for years: 22.

I'm sure others networks -- History, ESPN, HGTV, A&E -- have other digits in mind.

Cable, of course, has had a variety of networks and programming types for years. But many traditional national TV advertisers -- still with big media pockets -- go shopping with a more direct comparison vis-a-vis the broadcast networks.



These days that means drama -- higher-rated shows like TNT's "The Closer" and USA Network's "Burn Notice." Less in demand are second and third airings of original cable dramas, broadcast network program reruns, and daytime cable programming.

The interesting thing is Michael Wright, executive VP of programming for TNT, TBS and Turner Classic Movies, believes six is enough for TNT, its high-rated drama network -- even with all that extra prime-time inventory available.

Maybe TNT realizes it is not immune from the natural life expectancies of TV programming: shows that don't "open," fading two- and three-year-old shows, and TV producers who don't like their numbers (see TNT's "Saving Grace" and its producer Fox Television Studios). Overall, Wright realizes the odds are better when you have fewer slots to fill -- meaning fewer than the broadcast networks, for example.

NBC is probably learning some of this from its sister USA Network cable channel, with its move to run a Monday to Friday strip of television programming in the form of "The Jay Leno Show." NBC takes five hours of mostly drama out of its lineup.  Some experts believe NBC's number is now 17.

With TV shows looking down the barrel of less than one in 10 making it, it becomes more a business of closely monitoring, if not lowering, your specific number.

1 comment about "Hey, Networks! We've Got Your (Lower) Number! ".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Stanford Crane from NewGuard Entertainment Corp, September 8, 2009 at 10:11 p.m.

    As for the networks, I guess that's their story and they're sticking to it. Amazing, but true. Also of note was that many of the highest ranked cable shows were launched in the network abandoned summer season. It's easy pickings for them.

Next story loading loading..