PAULO'S QUESTION: Do shows ever hop from cable to broadcast?

Today’s question comes from Paulo in Rio, Brazil… which just may win the award for Question Asked From Farthest Away!

Paulo works in film financing and is developing some new models for Brazilian TV production.  He asks two questions about the US TV market…
Question #1:  “As the cable channels are gaining muscles, have you ever noticed a show that was showed first in cable and after that on a network?”
Question #2:  “If a typical show lasts 25 weeks a year in a given day and time, we assume another show run for the rest of the year in the same spot, right?”

First of all, Paulo, thanks so much for sending these in… they’re both great questions, and I’m honored and excited to help somebody in Brazil!  Here are the answers…

Answer #1:  Yes, in a few very rare cases, shows have begun on cable and then moved to a network.  Last spring, NBC and CBS both transferred cable shows to their networks.  NBC aired reruns of “Monk” and “Psych,” both hit shows on USA, NBC-Universal’s #1 cable channel, and both shows landed in fourth place in their time slots.  “Monk” drew 5.65 million viewers and got a weak 1.5 rating in A18-49… although its A18-49 audience also grew 23% from the first half-hour to the next.  (“Psych” performed similarly.)  Still, both shows were yanked from NBC, and the experiment wasn’t tried again.

(Last summer, NBC also moved its USA reality show, “Nashville Star,” over to the network as part of its “All American Summer campaign, where it performed better than it had on USA, but not strong enough to survive on broadcast television.)

Over at CBS, they transplanted the first season of “Dexter” (re-edited and toned down) from Showtime to the network, where it performed much better than NBC’s “Psych” and “Monk” trials.  In its network premiere, “Dexter” garnered 8.1 million viewers… more than 8 times the 733,000 it averaged on cable.

Answer #2:  It depends.  Traditionally, broadcast networks have filled the hiatus between TV seasons (which, for broadcasters, is usually the summer) with reruns, movies, specials, the Olympics… whatever.  But that’s slowly changing.

First of all, cable networks have started filling the summer with quality scripted programming like “Burn Notice” and “Royal Pains,” proving those “dead months” can be valuable.  So broadcast nets are now starting to experiment with those timeslots as well.  Many are showing big summer reality shows, like “America’s Got Talent” or “So You Think You Can Dance.”  But this year, NBC also aired “Merlin,” a British fantasy show it acquired from the BBC.  Thus, the rules are changing, and different channels and networks are all playing with ways to use the time between series.

Networks are also toying with non-traditional scheduling and seasons.  Some networks have tried breaking shows into two “seasons,” a fall season and spring season, like FOX did with last year’s “Prison Break” season.

Of course, now matter how a network schedules its air, it won’t hesitate to yank a show if it’s losing money– meaning, usually, that the ad dollars it’s bringing in are less than its license fee.  So networks may attempt to fill the space between seasons with hot new reality series are foreign acquisitions, but if these shows fail to hold their own, financially, they’ll replace them with something else: another new show, reruns of a hit like “CSI” or “Grey’s Anatomy,” or whatever else it can use to fill its air and– hopefully– stay afloat.

Anyway, Paulo– I hope these answers help.  Thanks a million for the questions… and drop me a line if you have more!

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