Commentary

Should Broadcast Networks Follow Cable's Rerun Model?

TV's got a new name for cable networks whose strategy is to rerun original programming throughout the week--call them "Auto-TiVo."

At least that's what Ted Harbert, president/CEO of Comcast Entertainment Group. called the cable networks he oversees--E! Entertainment Television, Style Network, G4, and Versus--during a NATPE programming session in Las Vegas yesterday.

He said that it was silly of the networks to keep filling 22 hours a season with expensive programming. Better do what cable networks do, and run and rerun programming again and again throughout the week.  Harbert's contention is that, for viewers, it really doesn't really cheapen their viewing experience.

The problem for broadcasting networks is that this approach won't bring in the level of advertising dollars they are used to. For the broadcast networks to match their revenue coffers, they would have to run five or six mini-networks each.

You can then call the broadcast networks  "Always TiVo."

NBC must be thinking along the same lines--sort of. On the same day, at the same event, NBC Universal Television West Coast President Marc Graboff said the network was looking at cheaper scripted programming during the 8 p.m. hour, not unscripted shows.

This move was something that he said was misconstrued by the press last year, when NBC came out with its NBC 2.0 cost-cutting initiative.

While Graboff talked about lower production costs--a la cable--he didn't say whether NBC would be rerunning "Heroes" four times a week.

No matter. Some on the panel said NBC wouldn't make it work with cheaper fare.

"You are a dreamer," said Touchstone TV President Mark Pedowitz. Gary Newman, president of 20th Century Fox Television, also chimed in:  "There isn't a network around who has legitimately attempted to put on low-cost scripted programming."

If NBC went ahead with its projected low-cost programming plan, those competing executives would probably call NBC "Must See TiVo."

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