Yet another "classic" TV network is starting up. This one from Tribune Broadcasting is called Antenna TV, a network based on the carriage from the local TV digital TV signals that TV stations currently own -- but don't know what to do with.
This 'digi-net' will air "Three's Company," "All in the Family," "Sanford and Son," "Benny Hill," "Maude," "The Nanny," "Married with Children," "Too Close for Comfort," "The Partridge Family," "Dennis the Menace," "The Donna Reed Show" and "The Three Stooges."
Haven't we seen this business story before?
It happened around 40 years ago in the then-new TV syndication business. Then, around 30 years ago with nascent cable television networks (TV Land, and early TBS and USA Network). More recently, Internet TV businesses, such as AOL and Warner Bros.' TheWB.com, have been looking at the oldies.
Now, local digital TV stations get a shot. Why? Programming is cheap for the TV distributor, and program license deals for TV stations groups are also inexpensive -- if not virtually free. Antenna TV is an all-barter network. It keeps half the inventory, hopefully for national TV advertisers; TV stations get the other half to sell locally.
The aim hasn't change with using old TV shows. Start small, grab an audience and revenue and move up TV's entropy line with newer "classics" and then perhaps, an original show.
Much of this comes down to old TV libraries sitting around collecting dust -- and TV studio executives looking to squeeze out a buck. On the other side, you have stations with empty store shelves.
But how many times you can play this trick to consumers. How many times can viewers go through the same door? And where is the growth from all the recycling?
Are new audiences discovering all these shows? Forgive me. I don't see the 18-34 demographic watching much "Dennis The Menace." I'm not too sure 50 plus or 65 plus demos will be desperate for "The Partridge Family," either.
Of course, Antenna TV isn't even the first in new local digital TV business. Networks such as Retro Television Network, This TV and others have already started.
Marketing chores here seem to be a bigger hurdle. Taglines, such as "Watch all your classic TV shows!" with retro art work doesn't work. Better have TV shows surrounded by cobwebs, funerals, dead-looking characters and lots of black-and-white images.
Call it Goth and get all the kids.