Networks Should Program And Schedule As If Entering A 'Spartan' Race

Maybe networks need a little more cross-training: more “spartan” racing thinking.

Obstacle course racing, in general, is on the rise. Why? Because runners and other athletes can get bored. Some 3 million people participated last year -- up from 50,000 in 2010. If only networks and programs could get the same results.

NBCSN, the NBC Sports Network, will show six races of the Reebok Spartan Race series starting July 22. Dirt, grime, sweat, warrior-paint -- and thinking out of the box -- is optional.

Viewers already have had a taste of this, mostly in the summer, with NBC/Esquire Network’s “American Ninja Warrior” and ABC’s “Wipeout.”

Not just real-life, real-world athletes can get bored, but TV viewers as well. Anything to spice up their predictable drama, comedy, or reality shows is always welcome. How about adding some mud?



Trouble is that a huge part of the viewing audience likes predictability. Thus, a steady flow of viewers will head to such programming as CBS’ “procedurals” or ABC’s “serials.” Viewers know where the finish line is -- and that’s not always bad.

But speaking of “bad,” you also need the “Breaking Bad”s of the world -- those shows where even actors might believe the heightened dramatic scripts might end after only one season of around 13 episodes or so.

Year-long series will be the bread-and-butter of all networks for sometime -- despite executives’ efforts to ramp up special one-time-only live musicals and limited-episode programming. A change will also occur as more viewers move to time-shifted and video-on-demand programming.

So what’s next?

Will the possible demise of pilot season mean anything?

This is where producers, talent and writers would ready shows in anticipation of network upfront presentations -- with some 80 comedy and drama projects getting cast, shot and edited in around three months.

Networks are increasingly poised to upset this apple cart with more mid-season, spring-season, summer season, and post-season launches. But it all takes the strength and stamina that only cross-training can brings.

Ratings are high on the climbing wall. But that also means the chance of falling badly, from a great height and with bigger network wipeouts!

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