Don't Give Away The Family TV Jewels Too Fast

For Netflix viewers, watching a season worth of episodes of a TV series in a weekend is no problem. For AMC viewers, watching a season worth of episodes of a TV series in two years also doesn’t appear to be a problem.

AMC is stretching the soup. The TV soup is actually the prized TV series,  the iconic “Mad Men,” which started in 2007. AMC is ending its prized “Mad Men” series -- the first in a series of TV shows that received critically positive and then viewer positive results, such as “Breaking Bad,” “The Walking Dead” and others. For its last two seasons, AMC will runs seven episodes in 2014 and then another seven episodes of the show’s final season in 2015.

Why? It’s valuable stuff. AMC might say otherwise, but you never know when the next hit or culturally timed series will arrive.

All this is a far cry from the 26-episode season TV networks use to hang their hats on for a TV show -- which is now a 22-episode season for the best performing network shows, or a lessor nine to 15 episodes for more modest program fare. Cable networks have long produced 13 episode seasons for shows. (To be fair, some cable network series get two 13 episode orders per season.



Right now, AMC’s decision seems unique. One can’t project any sort of trend yet.

But long-term, you wonder whether shifting the number of TV episodes may alter how TV advertisers will make their buys for clients in a TV season. Other factors at work: Continued broadcast erosion is now coupled with some creeping cable network viewing erosion.

That means TV cancellations and media agencies trying to figured out whether they want to buy into new offerings. Where are TV marketers supposed to get the necessary gross ratings points? Digitally, of course.

Ultimately, there is good news for AMC. Each of those episodes will surely command big pricing to hungry, upscale, older-targeted TV advertisers. Brad Adgate, senior vice president and corporate media director for Horizon Media, says: ”A quality show like ‘Mad Men’ can command premium ad rates regardless.”

On the other end, we have Netflix, (no advertising here, of course) which can produce “House of Cards” -- a 13-episode a season series, where viewers can watch it in a month, a week or a weekend. The consumption rate comes at a different level. Netflix subscribers may now ask: “OK, now what do you have for me?”

Netflix isn’t an network like AMC. Entertainment consumers, presently, expect different things from each company. But Netflix, according to one analyst, already has a problem -- trying to figure out how to speed up their TV development process to appease hungry entertainment consumers.

Conversely, TV shows in the U.K. can be as little as six original episodes a season. When “I Love Lucy” was going strong in the 1950s, you could see 35 original episodes in a given season.

Should any lessons be learned here from AMC -- or maybe CBS, USA, NBC, TNT, ABC or others. Slow down and stretch out your valuable content. Perhaps use that valued program to promote another show or two.  Perhaps have time to figure out what TV viewers want.

Trouble is, in the fast-moving world of TV programming and production, the business waits for no one.

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