Commentary

TV Networks Pursue More Live TV Programming

Live TV programming seems to be a continued benefit for TV networks -- especially with sports. But can TV networks make it a regular thing -- with standard entertainment series?

Now we learn Fox is working on a live, multi-camera comedy, currently titled “The Great Unknown.” It follows siblings whose parents force them to grow up, find their own place to live, and discover careers and relationships.

Gail Berman, former senior executive at the Fox network, is executive producing the show, along with Joe Earley, a former Fox executive who is president of Berman’s Jackal Group. Variety first broke the news.

This move has been tried before -- selective episodes -- mostly with comedies: a “30 Rock” episode (in 2010); “Will & Grace” (2005); "The Drew Carey Show" (1999); and “ER” (1997).

There is big value with live TV programming, since many TV advertisers pay “premium” advertising rates. Major live sports programming -- NFL, NBA, and Major League Baseball -- has been gaining on broadcast TV network schedules, especially in prime time.  

On the fringes, there has always been NBC “Saturday Night Live,”  the long-time late Saturday night comedy skit series, a network staple for years.

The benefits of live are obvious: TV viewers can’t skip through commercials -- a boon to marketers.

Actual “live” entertainment performing TV shows have been focused around holiday musicals. Titles here include “Hairspray,” “Grease: Live,” “Dirty Dancing,” “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “The Passion,” “The Wiz Live!” and the original NBC effort that started it all: “The Sound of Music Live!”

More are coming: Fox’s “A Christmas Story,” Fox’s “Rent,” NBC’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” and NBC’s “Bye Bye Birdie Live!"

(Exclamation marks at the end of these live show titles are an obvious marketing ingredient -- all to make the impression of seeming more immediate!)

But is this enough? The rise of on-demand programming by a plethora of ad-supported and non-ad supported platforms -- as well as the now-traditional DVR home player -- is well documented.

Will TV consumers take notice of new live TV shows -- or care?  Better still, are you shrugging your shoulders over the term “live TV”? Maybe new digital media’s “real-time” speaks to you.

3 comments about "TV Networks Pursue More Live TV Programming".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, October 26, 2017 at 10:07 a.m.

    I love live TV. Everything seems so fresh and spontaneous when I watch it the next day.

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, October 26, 2017 at 10:25 a.m.

    "Live TV works fine for sports but advertisers pay premium CPMs only because its sports. Doing a "live" entertainment series, as was typical in the early 1950s, is simply not going to work unless you come up with some sort of magical "Wow?" factor that makes the show a "must see" favorite of lots of people. Even then, it's likely that the novelty will soon wear off and that, coupled with the unavoidable snafus, performance lapses, etc. that would prevail if the show was truly presented "live", without editing, would soon cause viewers to seek other forms of TV entertainment. Also, is a "live" entertainment series, without  editing, even viable as a syndicated entry in the rerun market---which is where the real profits for many TV shows are made?

  3. John Grono from GAP Research, October 26, 2017 at 5:37 p.m.

    I think that the financials of such a strategy would be dubious.

    The TV networks make their profit from worldwide sales and content deals, rather than domestic ad sales. 'Live' tends to be more closely aligned to 'local' and I doubt that such content would suit the world market.

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