TV is the sport of creative-minded businessmen--so make the networks' upfront program presentation business run like the NFL draft.
Take the poorest-performing network and give it the advantage for next year, getting to pick the best TV show for its needs.
"As the first pick in the TV draft, NBC selects 'Grey's Anatomy,'" could be the somber words from future TV commissioner Garth Ancier at Radio City Music Hall.
The TV ratings network race already goes in cycles; this just quickens the pace. ABC, CBS and Fox are already separated by just three-tenths of a rating point in 18-49. Viewers don't see much difference in the networks. And, if we are to believe the old saw, "nobody watches TV networks; people watch TV shows."
This could also play out during this week's program presentations. Why indeed does NBC go first, ABC second, CBS, third, and Fox last? Since NBC is in trouble, the network should go last in figuring out its schedule, having the advantage to see what the other guys are up to.
Capitalism rules, of course. So one would need a commissioner like Ancier. This would stop some networks from taking away reality show ideas. (See ABC's "Supernanny" and Fox's "Nanny 911," for example, or the boxing show wars of Fox and NBC). This would stop networks from overpaying talent and production.
Trading could occur. Fox could call ABC and say: "I give you 'Bones' and 'The O.C.' for 'American Inventor' and 'Boston Legal.' plus an 8 p.m. sitcom to be named later."
Most of all, TV could have a formalized playoff system--which the networks kind of have already with the November, February and May sweeps.
But with this new approach, TV could truly pit season finales against each other: have "CSI" versus "Grey's Anatomy," with every other network sitting on the sidelines for one night. The next night, younger-targeted shows would go after each other: Fox's "The O.C." versus, say, WB's (soon The CW's) "Supernatural" or "Everwood."
TV is sport. Let's recognize it and give it more rules and competition to play by.