But maybe a better question needs to be asked: To what extent will the network promote your show? How many times will promos appear? On how many sister cable networks? And how many GRPs a week? 50? 100? 10?
Unless producers get this key information, they will reside in the wishful-thinking department. That's where Paul Reiser's recently axed, very-low-rated show, lived its short life.
Supposedly Reiser had said he really wasn't very interested in a new show. He was happy in retirement well after his successful "Mad About You" on NBC ended about a decade ago. But NBC asked Reiser to make another show. The network missed him.
"Sure," he told Jay Leno on "The Tonight Show," relating his response to NBC "As long as you have time to promote it. Are you sure you [NBC] are going to promote it? 'Yes, we are going to promote it.'"
I'm guessing NBC did -- but to what extent? There was also a little matter of the competition: Reiser's new show was put up against "American Idol," akin for some to being thrown to the wolves.
Still, how much did NBC really believe it would work? We don't have the details of NBC's marketing plan for "The Paul Reiser Show." But we have some results. The show started weakly, with a 1.1 rating among 18-49 viewers in its premiere, the lowest debut EVER for an NBC comedy. The next week, it received a grimmer 0.9 rating. And we know what that trend means. As in movie marketing land, the show didn't open .
But Reiser was still assured by NBC -- at least after the first airing -- that the network would build the series.
Really? Long gone are the days when TV shows -- like "Cheers" -- could build. Hardly any shows "build" anymore. They open to a certain level and stay around that level -- pretty much forever - save the very rare exception like veteran CBS drama "NCIS," which, years after its debut, suddenly increased its viewership last year.
So the question going forward for producers and talent of new TV series is how much can on-air marketing help a show out the door these days? One example might be NBC's "The Voice." A mountain of promos for the "Idol" wannabe show ran on every possible NBC Universal network, from Versus to USA Network to Bravo. That's the kind of marketing many shows need these days -- just to have a chance.
Traditionally no marketing guarantees are made to TV producers. Network executives feel its their domain, not open for discussion. But, increasingly, business dynamics need to change -- and perhaps some marketing frankness needs to be added. Otherwise, shows will elicit the kind of sentiment Reiser described to Leno: "Turns out we enjoyed missing you, more than we enjoyed having you."