High Prices Mean Fewer Unscripted TV Shows On Cable Networks

Can you imagine fewer unscripted/reality TV shows on cable networks in a few years?

MoffettNathanson Research says producers of unscripted TV programs -- a major piece, if not the biggest -- of many cable networks prime-time schedules are getting more expensive.

“Producers of nonfiction content -- which makes up the bulk of programming for many cable networks -- are getting squeezed with margins reaching unattractive levels,” writes Michael Nathanson.

Where will those shows go? The belief is subscription video on demand networks -- like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, which have already dipped their toes in the waters -- will continue to pursue this content “along with everything else.”

For sure, many like TBS, USA Network, FX and others also run expensive, well-known off-broadcast network rerun programming -- like “The Big Bang Theory,” “Modern Family” and “The Simpsons.” Increasingly, SVODs are also in this marketplace, as well.



Looking to perhaps stabilize its big reality programming slate, MTV recently made a deal for long time stalwart off-network sitcom, “Friends.” Already, it has become the network’s number one acquired TV show.

This is just a Band-aid. In recent years, it has been original programming of all kinds that is key to cable network growth -- from advertiser revenues, as well as higher carriage fees from traditional pay TV providers. For years, unscripted TV content has been a good deal -- in particular because of its relative smaller expense to that of acquired programming.

Should this work up into a meaningful trend, it will probably hurt small- to mid-size cable networks -- networks already feeling the pinch when it comes to carriage fees on traditional linear pay TV services -- or worst.

Recently, NBCUniversal had to make the decision to abandoned Esquire TV as a traditional linear TV network; opting to continue it as a digital/Internet enterprise.

Other analysts also worry small/midsize cable networks will also feel the effect of not making the cut for new digital providers of cable networks, like Sling TV or DirecTV Now.

Right now, this isn’t a make-or-break decision. But new programming and business models for some cable networks will need to surface. That’s the reality.

7 comments about "High Prices Mean Fewer Unscripted TV Shows On Cable Networks".
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  1. charles bachrach from BCCLTD, January 25, 2017 at 11:51 a.m.

    And the viewers wonder why there is so much "crap" on the televsion right now.  NBCUniversal, being one of the worst is more conserned (like the others) about their "bottom" line and stock
    prices.  Srew the viewers....just make money!!!!

  2. Jerry Gibbons from Gibbons Advice, January 25, 2017 at 12:36 p.m.

    There is nothing intrinsically wrong with unscripted programs it is just that when they are done to save money the quality suffers and you end up with less than good programing.  You have to focus on the quality of product doing otherwise is short term thinking.

  3. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, January 25, 2017 at 12:45 p.m.

    Of course, everyone realizes that many of the so-called unscripted "reality" shows are, in fact, well orchestrated and sometimes actually scripted after a fashion. The plain fact is that program production costs for dramas and sitcoms have risen to the point where reality and talking head programming is becoming the new "normal" not only for cable channels but now, it seems, for Netflix and other non traditional programmers. I wonder whether this is such a good idea for those competing with "linear TV", however as many of their sucscribers may want more challenging fare rather than more of the same.

  4. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, January 25, 2017 at 1:58 p.m.

    Sigh! Of course I meant "are" becoming the new "normal" not "is" and "subcsribers", not "sucscribers". Joe, is it ever going to be possible to add an editing function so guys that type too fast, like me, and proof read too dast----also like me--- can correct our errors?

  5. John Grono from GAP Research replied, January 25, 2017 at 3:59 p.m.

    I second that Joe.

    Yesterday I omitted an apostrophe in "it's" in a comment I made - quelle horreur!

    But I have to ask Ed, was the correction "subcsribers" to prove your point?

  6. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, January 25, 2017 at 4:12 p.m.

    John, actually it was another "typo". I have a new computer program on my PC that's designed for gamers and is hyper sensitive to the touch. This causes about half of my typos, as I go very fast and sometimes the darn thing gets confused or fails to delete a letter I thought I got rid of----or repeats a letter that shouldn't be repeated. Anyway, Joe, I believe that many of us posters---including those who are less skilled at typing than I, would much appreciate an editing option.

  7. Debbie PATTERSON from Independent , February 20, 2017 at 4:06 p.m.

    There was a time when USA and Syfy there other cable or satellite network had a show worth watching every night.thats around the time White Collar was on they had Covert affairs Rush with the actor playing Lucifer on Fox and I thought it was original.They dropped it and come up with complications Which seriously No licensed Dr.would go that far.On Syfy they had being human all available on Netflix.Lostgirl and others that kept you paying for a provider.Now they put on Incorporated for 8-9 episodes switching between both USA and Syfy and gone. USA had eyewitnesses 8weeks falling Waters and Shooter all with very short schedules.Do they honestly think we will keep paying for reruns of SVU available on almost all channels? If they knew how to advertise this wouldn't be all about viewing on a DVR within a day or so for the little chip in your DVR to monitor are viewing they realize that no one sits threw commercials even my 80 yr old mother jump's up to get coffee or make a phone call switch the clothes out.The best way to market is though education I did it for yrs till my car and I hit the overpass.People need to see how it works what it does.Best show that Incorporated this was Leverage it shows Nate Loading directions onto Genesis It show's Hardison using facial recognition using att and he states I also got the DirecTV sport's package so we can watch hockey.There he explained showed what it does and how you can benefit! No commercial can do this.And because the TV is on for those 6min doesn't mean anybodys there.

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