The reports are unrelenting: Network shows continue to have lower ratings. Where will it all end? One sign could be studios taking a more active role in marketing their shows.
Bruce Rosenblum, president of Warner Bros. Television Group, leaves no doubt that the current network/cable/syndication system will continue for some time.
That’s because, as a business, Warner still wants its high-rated comedies to run on a broadcast network, which works best for promoting other shows via promos.
But part of the financial model could change drastically. Currently, each network allots specific and valuable promotional time to marketing its own shows. But continued ratings erosion could put Warner Television “in a position where we have to pay the marketing expense -- much like the theatrical side of the business,” Rosenblum said at NAB, as reported in TVNewsCheck.
With theatrical movies, studios spend tens of millions to market films. Since TV networks essentially “pay” for the marketing of studios’ shows through on-air promo time, Rosenblum said, “that's why our margins are so much higher [in TV] than the theatrical model.”
Just like consumer product companies that these days look for additional marketing impressions through alternative media platforms -- cable, syndication, local TV, or digital areas -- those who own TV shows, like the studios, might need to do the same.
That said, Warner Bros. is a different kind of studio. For one thing, it produces a tremendous amount of network and cable programming for all type of networks. Unlike Paramount, Universal, Fox and Disney, Warner doesn’t have a major broadcast network in its overall corporate portfolio. Other studios, with lesser TV production slates -- such as Sony and Lionsgate -- will need to do the same promotion-wise if Rosenblum’s projections come true.
Does that mean studios will advertise their shows on competing broadcast networks and other platforms? Better still, will some of these marketing dollars represent a new source of ongoing ad revenue for the networks?
Social media and digital airing have been credited with pushing the marketing envelope for broadcast and cable shows. But network TV marketing time is still perhaps the most valuable medium for nearly all consumer product and service marketers.
We may see ratings continue to drop for sometime, with little change in the TV economic system. But an early sign that things are really changing could be witnessing, say, a “Two and a Half Men” spot running on NBC or ABC.