U.S. TV Station Syndication Outlook: Cheaper Shows To Come Amid Rising CTV?

What is on the horizon for the U.S. syndication business in this massive moment of change -- with all things moving to streaming and digital? Can TV stations keep up?

At a recent event, Mort Marcus, co-president of Lionsgate's Debmar-Mercury, said things may not be so bad.

For example, in November 2022, ratings for the 9 AM - 5 PM period were down just 2% versus national TV prime-time, which was off 17%.

Local TV stations still depend on the nationally available syndicated programming to an extent -- talk shows, court shows and the like -- in getting some value.

But many are taking nothing for chance, looking to expand their locally produced TV news content -- programming where they can control all the ad inventory versus national syndicated programming, where stations must share ad inventory/revenue with major TV-studio based media companies.



Always rising political advertising works better with all that TV news content for many outlets.

Still, dependency on political advertising might leave them in a quandary about only having a narrower programming direction.

So what does this mean for syndication producers now?

Perhaps only to look at cutbacks, for example, on very expensive $20 million-a-year talk shows in favor of $5 million- or $6 million-a-year productions.

Right now, syndication looks stagnant. Ad revenue for syndication was estimated to be $2.384 billion in 2021, according to media agency Zenith Media, with revenue projected to be flat for 2022 and 2023.

TV stations are also looking to push out more of this content in favor of returning sports programming to broadcast. Gray Television and E.W. Scripps, among others, have been heading in this direction. 

This comes as local TV sports consumers have been slowly abandoning high-priced regional cable TV sports network content.

At best, those RSNs may be looking at a smaller pool of TV consumers who have no problem paying $25 a month to watch their favorite local sports teams.

Much of the still highly rated TV content on syndication remains with off-network sitcoms. At the same time, that content continues to see more viewers being siphoned off  to premium streaming platforms such as Paramount+, Peacock, and now Max for those shows.

TV station executives know this drill -- but they still want to offer viewers some choice and variety on their programming schedule.

Wall-to-wall TV news coverage may not seem a good way to go -- your wheel of fortune is mostly in name only.

3 comments about "U.S. TV Station Syndication Outlook: Cheaper Shows To Come Amid Rising CTV?".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, May 23, 2023 at 10:03 a.m.

    Wayne, as a rule the highest rated syndicated shows are in Prime Access with game shows like "Wheel Of Fortune", "Jeopardy", etc. as well as celebrity newsmags. These are also threatened as some stations are expanding their early evening local news ---where they get to sell all of the commercial time, not only portions of it as in many syndicated programs. The problem for the stations is that there is a growing glut of local news content---with much of it redundant in nature----and eventully this will have a negative effect on their audience attainment as well as demographics. Local news already has a pronounced older  viewing signature and this will probably get even more evident if  more adults under 50---already light viewers--- are driven away by too much of the same thing on a daily basis.

  2. Ben B from Retired, May 23, 2023 at 8:04 p.m.

    WXMI Fox17 only airs one syndication show in the mornings We The People at 10AM which I thought would go to WXSP or CW7 news 4:30AM to 9AM, Morning Mix 9AM to 10AM pay-to-play type show, Fox17 Midday 11AM to 12PM. And then syndication from 12PM to 4PM, news from 4PM to 7PM, another play-to-pay show Fox17 Unfitler, You Bet Your Life at 7:30PM. I wish Fox17 would've kept Raw Travel on Sat 12PM than Mon at 3:30AM.

    West Michigan can't have news all day since not a lot happens in this area since it isn't a big city market there will always be a need for syndication content.

  3. Ben B from Retired replied, May 23, 2023 at 8:08 p.m.

    Oops the only newsmags in early access prime is ET at 7PM WZZM been there forever since 94 & Inside Edition 7:30PM WOODTV, Accss Hollywood use to be in early access prime until the fall of 2019 moved to 5:30PM and this past fall 4PM on WOTV.

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