Variety Runs With The Cable Fable, The Reporter Proves More Able

We're not getting the full TV picture, and you can finger cable TV spinmeisters for this.

In a story the Daily Variety ran Wednesday, a report by a Turner Broadcasting research executive said that despite all the networks' efforts this summer to schedule new programming - including NBC's Olympics -- the big four networks still witnessed a primetime viewing share of 35.7, the worst summer ever. Cable posted its best share - 57.3.

Cable's greatest marketing job is to convince the world they are a force to be dealt with. But as we all know, the top established networks - TBS, USA, Lifetime, and Discovery -- now go through the same ups and downs as the broadcast networks. It's the new networks that are making viewership gains.

And by the way, where is syndication in this picture? Yes, the syndicated shows don't have near the marketing muscle as the cable networks, but journalists should know better. I'm sure "Oprah" and "Entertainment Tonight" are factors in any TV story on share of market.



Credit The Hollywood Reporter today for clearing up some of this static. In the a story on cable shares, it included analysis done by veteran stock market analyst Tom Wolzien of Sanford C. Bernstein showing cable networks ratings gains slowing down or stopping altogether as cable distribution peaks in three years.

Many cable network stories still point to cable as the main reason for broadcast erosion. But we all know that the Internet, TiVo, and video games are growing major factors.

And while we always have stories on individual show ratings, we hardly ever see how actual cable shows are performing - you know, the stuff that advertisers' buy on cable?

Is that because ratings are too low? Some cable shows definitely are tiny -- much lower than virtually any average network or syndicated show.

Still, I'm sure "SportsCenter" picked up some points this summer. USA Network's "The Dead Zone" must have done well. FX's "Rescue Me" debuted to good ratings in the summer, yet I don't see it in these stories.

Please rescue us.

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