How shows fare this week will go a long way toward determining the winners and losers of prime-time timeslots, and how the tens of billions of dollars bet on television’s upfront this past summer will pay off. A record number of new shows are vying for your attention. Some will be hits. Some shows will be dogs. Many will be cancelled. That is why television networks spend more than $8 billion each year, including the value of in-house inventory and marketing their shows.
With many new shows costing well over a million dollar per episode to produce and audiences being pulled in every different direction from VOD to original programming coming from everyone from Netflix to premium cable from basic cable to webisodes, the stakes have never been higher. So the networks are trying new approaches to get your attention, from audience-buying tune-in ads to such bizarre stunts as parading a headless horseman around Times Square.
Earlier this week, the New York Times quoted Fox’s president of marketing Joe Early saying networks are leaving “no stone unturned,” buying ads on every medium available, and testing anything and everything. Testing is key, because many of the assumptions about luring audiences to sample new shows are flawed at best and broken at worst. Flooding your own network shows with promos runs the risk of overexposing the same viewers with the same spots, often not reaching the optimal mix of prospective viewers.
And, as we learned from The Wall Street Journal, the networks are doing everything they can to leverage social media. Twitter can have a dramatically positive impact on television ratings and advertising, and is actively developing offerings to help networks drive more tweeting, and more viewing.
With new media, new platforms and the specter of a growing number of young adult cord-cutters throwing a shadow over the annual fall preview season, it’s no wonder broadcast and cable networks are trying anything and everything to maintain and grow their audiences so their shows deliver the reach promised to advertisers. Higher ratings translate into more dollars. But we see cracks in the traditional fall preview 22-espiode season model, with many new shows being introduced at other points on the calendar and a mix of episode strategies, from the mini-series-like four or five to the binge-on-all-episodes at once. Clearly, the process of bringing television shows to market is changing rapidly.
How much longer will we have a fall premiere week? What do you think?