Crime Won't Pay For NBC's Sleuth Network

This is the arresting programming we all need: Another generic back-library-based cable channel full of exhaustively rerun shows such as "The A Team," "Miami Vice" and "Knight Rider," and crime-based movies.

Someone should be questioned.

We here at TV Watch are thinking NBC must be poised to lose another $800 million in the upfront market 2006. Why else would NBC Universal start a new network called Sleuth, that will run on a whopping 5 million digital homes? Surely, all this will throw journalists off the scent.

You want advice in this area? Go ask Court TV. It's been hard enough for Court TV to evolve out of the real-life world of lurid courtroom television, with a tougher time attracting daytime advertisers. Court TV's prime time, while improving, has been struggling as well. The only saving grace to all this is that NBC will be scheduling scripted programming, which should in theory do a bit better than live courtroom cases.



Forget about seeing any big-ticket sleuthing/crime shows on Sleuth. NBC's own "Law & Order" franchise won't be ending up on the network, at least for the next several years--not if executives don't want to shoot themselves in the foot and lose big license fees and advertising dollars generated from airings on TNT and NBC Universal's own USA Network.

Forget sleuth; think couth. What NBC needs is to develop some high-quality brand association for the general interest entertainment cable channels it already owns--USA and Bravo--the same high-quality stuff NBC talks about when referring to its own prime-time shows.

But an asset lying around is just a lazy asset. Library product needs to run somewhere--especially when existing TV stations or retro-TV programming networks like TV Land offer up collective yawns.

Considering all the procedural crime dramas on the air (CBS, hello), NBC might well think it has something. Too bad real broad-based distribution of cable networks--where these shows would have a fighting chance--is probably a thing of the past.

Real niche is in. Crime only pays if you hit the biggest bank in the city--not the 7-Eleven ATM.

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