Commentary

No More Soup For You: Which Cable Network Will Next Stretch Programming Broth?

With ESPN making cutbacks of high-priced talent -- not renewing contracts for Keith Olbermann, Bill Simmons, and Colin Cowherd -- the question becomes, what networks and TV shows are next on the hit list?  

ESPN has had a target on its back for some time, especially from the likes of pay TV companies --- cable, satellite and telco -- who are upset by its scary-high $6 a month per subscribers fees. In that regard, through cord-cutting and other activities, the number of ESPN’s subscribers is slightly down.

But one wonders about other cutbacks  to general-interest entertainment cable networks and channels. Potential pullbacks here won’t come because of apathy among pay TV companies, but will be more of a result of network viewership erosion.

All this means a softening of advertising revenues -- dollars that seem to be drifting to digital video platforms.  Down the road, we wonder if higher-profile cuts might occur to cable networks. More and cheaper reality shows? Creative financial arrangements for TV production/distribution content?

Consider two recent changes in business dynamics: Last October Turner Broadcasting furloughed 10% of its employees --around 1,500.

More recently, a report from the Wall Street Journal showed a handful of cable TV networks coming up with unusual ways to place more TV commercials in TV shows -- all to glean more ad dollars. The report said TBS did this with repeats of “Seinfeld” as well as an airing of “The Wizard of Oz.”  How? More TV spots were placed by “speeding” up the action technologically.  TV Land also worked the same approach for “Friends” reruns, according to the story.

Cable networks already repeat/repurpose much of their original programming -- as well as running lots of reruns from other networks. How much more can they water down the programming soup?

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