Tag Archives: Television Programming

Big Risks, Bigger Rewards?

What huge sports rights deals mean for the networks that obtain them.

Estimates vary, but it is reported that ESPN will spend over $600 million a year for the rights to the brand new college football playoff, which will guarantee the network seven post season games when it starts in 2014.

Given the fact that they pay just $125 million annually for the current Bowl Championship Series games (Rose, Fiesta, Orange and Sugar Bowls), one might think that ESPN has made bad business decision. Recent history would go against that school of thought, however. In this post, I will outline two notable examples of large, and, some would say, risky sports rights deals that paid dividends for the companies that acquired them.

NFL on FoxIn 1987, a small network with quirky shows, known as Fox, made what most considered to be an insane offer.  The rights to the NFL’s Monday night game were up, and Fox bid against long time Monday Night Football stalwart ABC to get the rights. Their offer of $1.3 billion was rejected because, among other reasons, Fox hadn’t established itself as a major network. In 1993, six years after Fox’s Monday night bid was rejected, the contract for CBS’s rights to the NFL’s National Football Conference ran out, and Fox was poised to make a bid yet again. Fox’s bid of $1.58 billion was $100 million more than CBS’s bid, and gave Fox the rights to the NFL for the first time in the network’s existence.

The real genius of the move, however, was in the way the network used it to expand their sphere of influence within the television industry. Because they were literally the only game in town for those who wanted to watch their favorite NFC team, they could use this rights deal to advertise and promote the other shows they had on their station. This led to audience flow from those NFL games to shows like Married… With Children and The Simpsons, among others. The effect of having the NFL rights was that Fox gained a firm foothold as the fourth major network, a spot which they still hold to this day.

London 2012Moving forward to a more recent example, in 2012, NBC bought the rights to the London Olympics. Critics claimed that the deal was going to result in a $200 million loss for the network, but NBC broke even. And, like Fox, they leveraged a captive Olympic audience to promote new programs such as Go On, Revolution and Chicago Fire. Because, where else are you going to watch the Olympics when it’s only on one family of networks?  Despite the fact that Go On didn’t have much success (the show was cancelled after just one season), Revolution and Chicago Fire have gotten solid ratings and were renewed for second seasons.  Revolution, in particular, got huge numbers in the series premier, with nearly 12 million viewers tuning in. Even though the network just barely broke even on the Olympic Games, it is paying dividends for them in the long run.

It is within this broader context that we need to evaluate the large amount that ESPN paid for the rights to the college football playoffs. As history has shown us, it is actually a pretty safe bet. Deals like these, no matter how huge, may make complete sense. There are a lot of people who watch sporting events, and this creates a captive audience, that is very likely to flow from the sporting events to regular programming, thus making the network that much more money. So, what do you think?  Are the amounts that the networks are paying for sports rights getting out of hand, or will they pay off in the end?

Matt Bless

Original Content Opens Doors for Netflix

The 65th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards Show was different from all the previous shows.  Of course, nothing seem out of the ordinary. Neil Patrick Harris did a fine job hosting. There was some controversy over the “In Memoriam” video for Corey Monteith, but there wasn’t much controversy elsewhere. The revolutionary difference between this year’s Emmy’s and the Emmy’s of the past are that this year, for the first time, shows released exclusively online were nominated for the awards.  These shows were, of course, release by the industry’s online streaming giant, Netflix.  The question I’d like to ask of Netflix is: “Is it worth it?”

orange is the new blackNetflix has been around since 1997 and has provided online distribution as early as 1999, so it’s kind of surprising that it took until 2013 for Netflix to release its first batch of exclusively original content.  Maybe it was their patience that paid off for them, as their four major releases this year, which cost hundreds of millions of dollars to produce, were heavily praised by critics and literally consumed by Netflix subscribers’ binge watching.

The releases from Netflix include the following titles: House of Cards, Hemlock Grove, Arrested Development, and Orange is the New Black.  All but Orange is the new Black landed an Emmy Nomination, because the release date of Orange did not qualify it for a nomination, it was widely praised by critics landing a 79 score on Metacritic.com, the highest rating of all four shows.  Even with the critical praise and heavy coverage among pop culture media, the amount of viewers who have watched any of these shows is unknown.

Promo video for Netflix Originals and their celebrated Emmy Nominations

No one is sure why Netflix won’t release the viewing numbers, but it appears that Netflix simply doesn’t want anyone to know, though they’d like us to believe the numbers are huge.  Regardless, it doesn’t appear to be hurting the company as their third quarter earnings are up 10%.  So not only is Netflix Original content critically successful, it is proving to be financially successful.   For you skeptics, the addition of original content is, at the very least, correlating with an increase in quarterly earnings.

The issue here is that Netflix needs to worry about whether or not this early success will continue.  Netflix prides itself on accommodating its subscribers by allowing them to binge watch all of their original content.  This can lead to consumers subscribing to Netflix for one month, binge watching Netflix Originals, and then simply leaving the service.  This kind of consumer behavior will not allow Netflix original content to continue to be profitable.

A spokesperson for Netflix commented in a Variety article saying this behavior “would create potential for price swings, given that this is a volatile stock, and accounting for content costs is a hot button issue.”  This suggests that the Netflix “Binge Watch” business model for their original content may not be financially viable, and that they may need to try a different strategy, more along the lines of cable, with its one episode per week approach.

The irony behind this is that Netflix was believed to be the “cable killer,” and yet not only is Netflix talking about mirroring cable’s business strategy, but it is also in talks with Comcast to join as a possible service in a cable package.  In this case, Netflix would be an add-on to the cable service you subscribe to, similar to HBO and Showtime.  I think there is absolutely a demand for this, as Netflix’s 30 million subscribers are still subscribing to cable, making Netflix more of a complement to cable as opposed to a competitor.

If Netflix joins cable, however, it will become known as a just another premium cable channel, handing over all of its potential power to the cable companies.  Personally, I’d find this incredibly disappointing.  Netflix has an opportunity to change the way we view and pay for media content and I’m counting on them to make the right decision.  Do you think Netflix should join cable or try to compete with them?  Post your comments below.

– Mitch Ingstad

The Future of the CW

Mark Pedowitz is the newest addition to The CW network, and he has a new vision for the network. Pedowitz wants to bring comedy back to The CW, claiming that this will widen the viewership of the network, and bringing more success overall. But the CW’s troubled history with comedy makes this a risky plan for success.

A Spotty History with Comedy

In 2011, Mark Pedowitz succeeded the former president of The CW, Dawn Ostroff. Right off the bat, Ostroff called Pedowitz out, predicting the difficulty and failure of doing comedies on The CW. Ostroff claimed that this idea would not go far because of her past experience.  When The CW originally launched its network back in 2006, shows such as Everybody Hates Chris and The Game were two comedy series that aired for three years on The CW…but these were the longest comedy series running on The CW.

In 2011, Aliens in America and 18 to Life launched with little success, with neither running more than a season or two. Thereafter, comedies took a backseat on the network, and hour-long vampire and superhero dramas took over, catering to an 18-34, young women demographic.

Current Demographic

On the other hand, Pedowitz doesn’t seem to want to diminish supernatural dramas from the network.  In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Pedowitz  fully supports these dramas, “Not only do Arrow, Supernatural and The Vampire Diaries perform well on-air, they’re also extremely successful for us both digitally and socially. I’m thrilled to have all three shows returning to our schedule in upcoming seasons.”


When it comes down to the numbers, Pedowitz should be proud.  The Vampire Diaries has up to 2.5 million viewers on average per episode, not to mention that Arrow holds the record for the best premiere viewership for The CW, coming in at 4.5 million viewers. According to tv.com, The CW’s top popular shows are their fictional hour-long drama series. Supernatural is the most popular series on The CW, The Vampire Diaries snags second, and Arrow comes in at number three. These numbers speak volumes when it comes to the content and the genre that The CW viewers are demanding: they want drama. So where does that leave comedy?

New Target Demographic

whose-line-is-it-anywayThe first big step that Pedowitz took to catch attention of viewers was bringing back Whose Line is it Anyways? to The CW. Whose Line premiered in Summer of 2013, and in the Fall it is drawing about 2.4 million viewers on Tuesday nights. This improv comedy series was a smart move to draw the older spectrum of the 18-34 demographic, and pull the focus to both men and women.

Also in September 2013, The CW announced it would broadcast a Canadian comedy series called Seed. Seed centers on a sperm donor who reluctantly begins a relationship with three unique and separate recipient families. According to IMBD, Seed was rated the highest original comedy series to date in Canada. This series would seem to target a different audience.  I think this strategy will pull in loyal viewers of the show, while attracting interest from new viewers to see what this highly rated comedy series is about.

These latest programming decisions raise questions about the future of The CW. Do you think Mark Pedowitz is overpromising viewership, trying to please both drama and comedy viewers? Since The CW has been unsuccessful with comedy, do you think it will affect the viewership of Whose Line is it Anyways and Seed? What do you think about the decision to bring a Canadian series, such as Seed, to the U.S.? Do you think it will change the demographics of The CW?

 Bridgett Reidy

Not So Fast, Fox Sports

There has been a lot of hype around the new Fox Sports 1 station being the second best sports broadcasting company lately, but are people overlooking other sports broadcasting companies? CBS Sports would be the first to say that people are jumping on the Fox Sports bandwagon too soon.

CBS Facts

CBS broadcasts more than 25 men’s and women’s collegiate sports. They broadcast more than 400 live sporting events in a calendar year. CBS Sports is focused on collegiate athletics, as it will broadcast over 50 college football games and over 200 college basketball games this season.

CBS Sports Radio

CBS Sports RadioJust a little over a year ago, CBS created the largest major market sports radio network in the nation. The station debuted on January 2nd of this year.

“In this era of growing multimedia platforms, the addition of a national radio network to CBS Sports’ broadcast, cable and digital properties allows us to extend the storied CBS Sports brand to radio listeners across the country,” said Sean McManus, Chairman, CBS Sports. “We are pleased CBS Sports Radio will allow fans to consume CBS Sports content on a different platform from some of the most recognizable and respected broadcasters in the industry.” To read more about this, click here.

CBS Strategy

CBS has a very different strategy than that of its competitors, and that will not change with the launching of Fox Sports 1. “We’re not directly responding to what they’re doing by changing or altering our strategy,” Said McManus.

CBS is taking a very different route, instead of putting in hundreds of millions of dollars towards sports rights. CBS is playing it a little more conservative and not taking the big risks that Fox is. “We are trying to build our company more slowly and more strategically,” said McManus.

Let’s Compare the Two

FOX-Sports-1-LogoCBS has the advantage when it comes to college football as they have a contract with the SEC, which has won the last seven national championships and is known as the powerhouse conference.

FOX has the advantage when it comes to MLB, NASCAR, and UFC, as CBS doesn’t have live coverage of those sports. CBS has the advantage in Golf and Tennis as FOX doesn’t have coverage of that, until 2015 when they will cover the US Open.

CBS has a huge advantage in college basketball. They have a partnership with Turner Sports (TNT, TBS) for March Madness. CBS hosts the Final Four every year and that brings in a lot of viewership and boosts their ratings.

The two are essentially equal when it comes to NFL as FOX covers the NFC and CBS covers the AFC. They alternate the Super Bowl between each other. Here is a video of Chairman, Sean McManus, talking about the preparations of and details of covering a Superbowl.

So…Who’s Better?

Fox Sports has definitely done the most lately to make it seem like they are the apparent leader of the two, but I think it depends on the person and their taste of sports. I like the way that CBS has taken the lower route and played it slow. They already have a lock down on College Basketball and Golf. They’re equal when it comes to NFL, so it’s all up for debate.

What does the ‘Fox’ say to that? And what do you think—is CBS a contender?

Acie Glassford

Who’s Running the Show? Television’s Writer-Producers

Showrunners have a huge impact on television shows and how everything happens, hence the name showrunner. In fact, a showrunner outranks the television show director in all respects. What does a showrunner do? That is a good question! An article in The Hollywood Reporter The Top 50 Showrunners of 2012 gives a great breakdown of what the best showrunners do, and how their strategies lead to some of the best shows on television!

The Hollywood Reporter article discusses how a showrunner has direct responsibility for the day-to-day creative output of a scripted TV show that has aired for at least one full season. The showrunner also has to think about the show’s Nielsen ratings, especially relative to other shows on the same network, and to Emmy attention and critical praise. 

New GirlThe New Girl airs on FOX on Tuesday’s at 8pm. The showrunners discussed changes in casting, beginning with the pilot episode. In the pilot, there was a character named Coach who was the third roommate. In the next episode, however, he was replaced by a new character named Winston. The show changed as a result.

For the AMC hit The Walking Dead, a previous showrunner, Glen Marazza, wanted to make some major changes to the show, by killing off the infant child of a main character. The network did not like that idea, nor did the show’s producers, and he was soon released from the show. The new showrunner Scott Gimple, has done a great job in pleasing the network, the producers and the audience, which continues to grow.

Walking Dead

Showrunners are literally running the show. They take care of all aspects of the show and work to make that show successful. What are your favorite shows, and what do you know about who’s actually running the show?

– Sammy Kaster

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Starts off Strong, but will it Last?

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been dominating the 8 p.m. EST slot for the Adult 18-49 year old demographic for the last three weeks (for an explanation of TV ratings click on this link). The series has been especially strong with men in this demographic, as 54.1% of the audience was male. In the season premiere of AOS (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) the show got an 18-49 rating of 4.7/14. The season premieres’ rating was outstanding as it reached 16,024,000 Viewers 2+, which was a higher total than any premiere telecast of a one hour show on ABC last season.


The show saw its ratings drop about 8% after week 2, with a rating of 3.3/10 and finished second behind NCIS in the 18-49 demographic. The third episode of AOS saw its ratings drop once again, but this time it beat out NCIS to reclaim its number one spot in the 18-49 demographic with ratings of 2.9/9. Despite AOS losing viewers each week it still has destroyed the ratings of current and previous superhero shows.

The final season premiere of Smallville only brought in a rating of 1.3/5; while its CW counterpart Arrow only brought in a rating of 1.3/4 in the shows episode premiere; and NBC’s Heroes final season premiere brought in a rating of 2.8/7. None of these three shows had close to as many viewers as AOS and were all near the middle or bottom of their time slots.

Surprisingly critic scores for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. have actually been higher than user scores. On Metacritic.com the average score of the show based on 33 critic reviews is currently 74/100; while out of 171 users thus far the average score is 6.1/10. When reading what users were giving the show for a rating I realized that there are a lot of outliers; in other words a lot of the reviews weren’t taken seriously and people just gave the show a 0, 1, or 10 without any reason. Unfortunately there is no to measure user ratings perfectly/accurately.

IMDB gave the show a rating of 7.5/10 thus far, and their rating consists of both the critics and users, so together that’s the shows average.

On the website www.ign.com their critics review each episode individually. For the pilot episode they gave it a rating of 8.5 out of 10 and rightfully so; especially considering the fact that Josh Whedon (director of the Avengers) directed the episode. Episode 2: 0-8-4 was given a score of 7.5 out of 10 and episode 3: The Asset was given a score of 7.7 out of 10.

Based on what I have seen so far, I would say that I agree with IGN’s rating the most. The first episode is clearly the best episode and like I mentioned before, it should be the best because Whedon directed it. I felt like the second episode started to show how inexperienced all the actors are, except for Coulson. It also seemed like in both episode two and three that there was too much comic relief and I felt as though it is really taking away from the show.

Don’t get me wrong, I love how funny some of the lines are, but the show is leaning too much on the comedy right now and needs to slow down and develop the characters in a more emotional way. I have to say the best part about episode three was the very end when they revealed the shows first Marvel Universe enemy.

Please comment below and let me know what you think about the ratings, reviews and opinions in this blog.

Tyler Bradley

Saving The American Soap Opera

The good old soap opera.  It has been a pastime for your mothers and grandmothers.  If you were anything like me, you were sitting right there at the kitchen table, at the tender age of 9, mystified by the Luke and Laura story.  Those were the days!  But over the years all of the greats have slowly faded away.  “Guiding Light” was cancelled in 2009, “One Life To Live” was cancelled in 2012, “Passions” was cancelled in 2007, “Another World” was cancelled in 1999, and “All My Children” was cancelled in 2011.  What happened…and where did we go wrong?

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Why have soaps only been able to draw in a fraction of the audience they once did?  For starters, more women are going to work now.  They are no longer stay-at-home moms and homemakers.  In some cases they are the breadwinner for the household, and must put their career as a priority.

Cable is a threat.  It offers a variety of viewing options, and consumer’s choices are endless with the DVR, DVD, the Internet, video games all at their fingertips.  Soap opera ratings have consistently declined since the 1970’s, and now soaps are considered a genre of the past.  Fans are falling out of love with the storylines.  These shows are personal to viewers, and once your favorite show is killed off—like a discarded character—who wants to put time and energy into another? It’s just like relationships—they take lots of time to build.

The focus for soaps has become narrower, and the target audience is now shifting to the young adult women.  Producers need a new approach aimed at the boomer audience.  They are too concerned with putting out quick fix content that will be sure to spark ratings, instead of taking their time to develop content made to last.  And let’s not forget about our fathers and sons.  They too should be considered and are an important part of the fan base that needs to be reached.

Ratings are the air that soap operas breathe and these days they’re not breathing much of them.  The Nielsen Ratings System is a setup for failure for daytime TV.  Daytime TV must be watched on the same day it aired to be counted for their ratings. Primetime TV however can be watched in a 7-day period to be counted.  This leaves a big chunk of uncounted viewers, including me.

The executive initiative also needs to change.  Studio executives are so concerned with ratings and money that they have lost concentration on what really matters – the story, the characters, and the development of a soap opera.  Sets were once live and made the viewer feel personally involved.  Now they resemble that of primetime TV shows.  The idea is that you have to spend money to make money, and execs have got to cut the quick gimmicks and get back to the basics.


But, don’t shed tears just yet.  There may be hope for our beloved soaps after all!  Prospect Park – The Online Network, has agreed to take on “All My Children” and “One Life To Live” via onlinenetwork.com. This new soap opera venture is highly dependent on the intensely loyal fan base.  The hope is that due to the success of Internet-enabled TVs and iPods, web soaps will exceed expectations.  New episodes will premiere this spring on Hulu, Hulu Plus, and iTunes.  Fans will be able to stream 30-minute episodes each weekday via their computers, connected TVs, mobile phones and tablets.  This service is currently free though Hulu.com and Hulu Plus subscriptions but it is not clear if iTunes will provide free version.

Yes, soaps may not be what they used to but every little effort toward keeping them afloat is a positive step and I for one am excited to see what the future holds for this veteran genre.

Brandi Fields

What’s REAL About Reality Shows?

They are dominating networks everywhere and viewers just can’t get enough.  From dating shows, talent competitions, and personal exposure, reality TV has definitely proven over the years that it is here to stay.  But, have reality shows gone too far, taking parody and satire to the extreme?  And more importantly, are we wrong for watching?

Reality shows continue to stay relevant because they provide an endless amount of questions such as: “Are we what we watch?” “Are these shows abusive?” and “Is it ok because it’s not us who are the ones looking crazy?” These shows allow viewers to escape the issues in their everyday lives such as the failure of the economy and problems within their own homes.  Viewers enjoy feeling better about their own lives watching others live destructively.  Reality shows let the viewer know that things are not so bad and that there is somebody who is always worse off.

blog2“The Best Funeral Ever” is one of TLC’s newest money-makers on their Sunday night lineup.  This show glorifies the home-going celebrations of the deceased by putting together themed funerals, such as baby back ribs BBQ shindig where an oversized grill serves as a casket.  It’s quite obvious why this show might raise a few eyebrows.  It has even been known to have carnival themed funerals where the ashes even ride the rides.  Other controversial shows are “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” “Teen Mom,” and a Viewer’s Choice favorite “Toddlers & Tiaras,” which routinely pulls in more than 1 million viewers.  In the summer 2010, “Toddlers & Tiaras” premiered with an audience of 1.2 million. During the 2011 season, “Teen Mom” reached their season high in January with 4 million viewers.  3 million of those were in MTV’s target demographic of 12-34 years old. 

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TLC says when producing content for their network they are only interested in one thing, will people watch.  When people watch, ads are bought and shows stay on the air, simple as that.  The irony of all this is that the same executive producer of these over-the-top, non-educational programs is the same executive producer for “Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?”  Hey, at least they covered all their bases.

The manipulation of these shows can be so deceiving that it can make the viewer questions their own values and beliefs.  The amount of heavy editing creates programs that are sometimes more artificial than the scripted primetime shows.  Here are the Five Biggest Lies that we are fed by our beloved reality shows courtesy of one critic.

  1. They have No Social Message – These people should be looked at as pure entertainers for our viewing pleasure and nothing more.  Women are constantly told ‘how to get a man’ (i.e. The Bachelor) and how to be submissive.  These shows play into the many social biases that surround us and we eat it right up.
  2. They Liberate People from stereotypes and bigotry – It’s like taking one step forward, only to move 3 steps back.  Fascinating drama and humor comes at a price and we watch it every day.
  3. They Dominate TV because viewers want them – What you probably don’t know is that many poorly rated reality shows only exist because they can cost 50-75% less than scripted programs and benefit from revenue streams such as product placement and endorsement deals.  They are merely filling airtime and money has been made long before shows reach our living rooms.
  4. Today’s audience is too sophisticated for manipulation by producers – Producers like to think that content is acceptable because the consumer “knows better”.  The term ‘frankenbiting’ is defined in media as stitching together bits of conversations over time to create scenes which may be partly or completely fabricated.  Pure deception at its finest.
  5. Critical thinking about reality shows means rejecting them – Let’s not be afraid to get educated!  We are human and need our daily dose of entertainment just as much as the next man and that is ok.  Knowing the facts and differentiating between fiction and non-fiction is key here and producers are preying on the weak.

Will I stop watching reality shows? Heck no! The fascination is undeniable however, they are not for everyone and what’s REAL must be understood.

Brandi Fields