Drubbing the DVRProgrammers see growing importance of event TV as time-shifting and competition increase 1/07/2013 12:01:00 AM Eastern
It was a jarring moment for broadcast last year when, for
the first time, not one major network entry was nominated for an
outstanding drama series Emmy. But don’t expect them to go down
without a fight. With broadcast trying to emulate the scary-good success
of cable entries like AMC’s The Walking Dead, NBC fighting to maintain its
momentum and everyone dealing with the effects of time-shifted viewing,
this year is sure to bring some big programming
swings. Here’s what to look for in 2013.
More Buzzy Dramas
(Not Just on Cable)
Time-shifted viewing continually eroded
broadcast overnight ratings in 2012, highlighting
the importance of event programming, driven
by the success of attention-grabbing cable dramas
like The Walking Dead, FX’s American Horror
Story and Showtime’s Homeland. And despite
their risky content, the shows’ growing success
over multiple seasons should encourage other
networks to try things they haven’t before.
Fox will do that in January
with The Following, a serial killer
drama starring Kevin Bacon that
is cable-like both in its content
and its scheduling of 15 consecutive
episodes. If the big swing
works, expect other broadcasters
to follow its lead.
Tackling 10 P.M.
While the last hour of primetime,
10-11 p.m. (ET), still sees
the highest DVR playback, timeshifted
viewing at 9 p.m. is just
behind that, which means putting
on programming that raises eyebrows
is really the case anywhere on the schedule, says one broadcast exec.
But the competition from cable at 10 p.m. is fierce, when shows like
FX’s Sons of Anarchy, A&E’s Duck Dynasty and History’s Pawn Stars draw
sizeable audiences. And since 10 p.m. is a crucial time period for stations,
encouraging live viewing at that hour is critical for leading into late news.
While event programming like The Voice and American Idol helps
drive live viewing in the earlier hours, don’t expect to see those tentpoles
move later to shore up ratings. Last fall broadcast launched
promising newcomers at 10 p.m. like NBC’s Revolution and CBS’ Elementary
by using strong lead-ins—a strategy they will look to repeat
in 2013 with ABC’s Red Widow and NBC’s Deception.
Sustaining Momentum at NBC
It turns out one show is still all it takes to turn around a network, which
had NBC brass breathing a collective sigh of relief after The Voice helped
the network shoot from fourth place to first last fall. Its rivals are less convinced
of a sustained comeback in 2013,
however, when NBC’s year-over-year comps
will include last winter’s cycle of The Voice.
The first few months of 2013 are likely
to be tough for the Peacock without Sunday
Night Football, The Voice or the season’s
top new series, Revolution, which will take a
risky four-month hiatus. And with the network
already committing to another cycle
of The Voice in fall 2013, there are continued
fears that the exposure will wear out
the franchise quicker. To combat that, NBC
needs another hit this year, which it hopes
it has with new comedy 1600 Penn, slated
to air on Thursdays out of The Office.
Summer Flips the Script
While scripted summer series have traditionally
been reserved for cable, broadcast
will make a more concerted push into
scripted for summer 2013, along with its
usual reality fare, to test viewers’ appetites.
ABC will have stalwart Rookie Blue as
well as Mistresses; CBS revived last season’s Unforgettable and ordered
the Stephen King series Under the Dome; NBC still has Hannibal unscheduled;
and The CW could acquire something scripted, as it did
with The L.A. Complex last summer.
A New War for Late-Night
It’s no longer just Leno vs. Letterman when ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel
gets a big promotion to 11:35 p.m. on Jan. 8. While Kimmel isn’t expected
to rival the others in terms of ratings at the outset, ABC is making
a long-term play for younger viewers; his show draws a higher concentration
of adults 18-49 than either of the other hosts. As Kimmel
said in a recent New York magazine interview, “In late-night, sleep is
your enemy, much more than your competition,” meaning his earlier
berth should only make him more popular.
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