Commentary

Broadcasters Debate Value Of Fall Premieres

Maybe the key to gaining big marketing spin for broadcast TV networks is launching all its new shows in an intense week or two fall period.

For the week of Oct. 9, the CW will do this for the 2017-2018 TV season, a departure from recent years when its series launches were staggered across several weeks.

CW’s current schedule -- all hourlong series -- will also see a return of eight hourlong shows, adding in new series -- a military drama called “Valor” and a new version of the TV classic series “Dynasty.”

For some time now, there has been a debate among TV marketing executives about the value of launching, some, most, or all of their shows when the official TV season starts -- typically the third week of September. That's when Nielsen begins its broadcast TV season measurements.

CW sister network CBS also believes, for the most part, that the first week of the season is still important for marketing and attention. Seventeen of its shows, new and old, will air between Monday, September 25 through Sunday, October 1.

Other networks have yet to release specifics dates about fall shows. But the guess is most will attempt to push out shows in the late September/Early October two-week period.

In recent years, TV networks also looked to stagger their schedules -- not just in the fall -- but all year round, in large part to keep the buzz of new programming flowing nonstop.

Factor in this: TV shows still go into reruns -- and that complicates things. Those schedules can be all over the place -- though networks are getting better at telling viewers, with on-air promos, when shows will “return” with original episodes.

All this gets more complicated when factoring in those airings on ad-supported digital video platforms -- which also include previous seasons of network TV shows. Additionally, there are off-network airings of U.S. syndication shows -- mostly comedies -- that need to be considered.

Perhaps the biggest factor traditional TV network marketing executives grapple with are new digital video platforms -- mostly ad-free networks Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon -- and their original series.

Those launches -- as with traditional cable TV networks -- are also staggered throughout the year.

TV broadcast networks have done much work to boost their TV show awareness through social media. But traditional ratings are still down -- even factoring in time-shifted viewing.

Will the fall season premiere start periods continue to pull in sampling and longtime viewers?  Or does there need to be a new model?

1 comment about "Broadcasters Debate Value Of Fall Premieres".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, June 12, 2017 at 6:50 p.m.

    Wayne, I believe that the main reason for the mass unveiling of broadcast network and many new cable shows in the fall---usually within a few weeks of eachother----allows each player to develop a cohesive programming strategy in terms of genres and viewer targets, that would not be as well orchestrated if shows were merely slotted in more or less randomly throughout a season. Sure, many of the new series fail, but about 20% do well and another 20% perform up to reasonable expectations, creating a more stable framework for second and third season replacements. The same point is true of the time buying and selling aspect. Once a seller's new slate of shows is set for the fall and the results are in, this makes it less of a gamble in predicting what a full 12-month season might be like as the time slots which have hits and failures are now identified.Even if many shows are axed, the presence of newly enshrined winners as well as successful holdovers creates an element of near certainty that might be lacking if one never knew what shows were coming down the pike and when they might be aired.

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