To Profit From Baseball And 8 p.m. Shows: Pump Up The Volume?

TV executives are turning up the volume about faltering 8 p.m. scripted shows. But what about faltering ratings of the World Series--also sometimes an 8 p.m. show? What to do? Look for volume of a different sort.

NBC may have issues with expensive $2.7 million an episode, 8 p.m. shows failing, but what about the even more expensive World Series? On the surface, it seems like an incredible loss leader. But as we all know, it's not about games one through four. It's the fifth, sixth, and seventh game that's an issue.

It's in those extra games where--in terms of advertising dollars-- the network makes money, much the same way Starbucks does with $5.35 Iced Latte Fox-achinos: "Volume is what I want," says Ed Goren, the president of Fox Sports.

Volume is what NBC and other networks are looking for as well. Seven years ago, ABC went with volume with "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" For ABC, it was like printing money. Game-show budgets then were like the wholesale costs of an iced latte--one small shot of espresso and lots of cheap milk. Can you blame ABC for running "Millionaire" so often, as if the network were stealing something?



NBC's Jeff Zucker says when viewers like the $1-million-an-episode shows the same or better than the $2.7-million-an-episode shows, that's something that a network has to consider. For NBC it all points to those half-hour three-camera sitcoms, or one-camera comedies, to be on the chopping block--if not some 700 NBC jobs.

Interestingly, it's now the cable industry that wants to make those $1-million-an-episode shows. Turner Broadcasting's TBS is looking at the price tag for its next wave of original shows--comedies.

Still, we all know what happens when networks take things too far. ABC burned up "Millionaire"--as well as its development slate of new shows back in 1999. The network only recovered from that setback in 2004.

No doubt in future years Fox will push for the World Series to return back to its original format of the early 20th century--the best five of nine games. Volume: One shot of a quality TV sports brand and a gallon of questionable-quality baseball.

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