War and Other Reality Shows


Foreign powers aren't the only ones worried about war. Network gurus also ponder its impact.

"If there are a lot of preemptions of programming, it would affect us," says Andy Dolchin, SVP, network broadcast, Carat. "If we do go to war, some network advertisers might want to stay out of news or might want to wait and see the tone of the coverage."

The Gulf War, recalls CBS EVP, Research & Planning, Dave Poltrack, "was over so fast, there weren't many preemptions. But, if we have a protracted war with heavy casualties, I think advertisers who want a positive environment would avoid newsmagazines."

Planning for the May upfront goes on, though.

Bob Flood, Optimedia EVP, director of national electronic media, notes that, despite reality television's successes, advertisers remain hesitant to buy more. "It's all about pricing and environment. Joe Millionaire
is a very different environment from Amazing Race
or Survivor."

Dolchin concurs: "Advertisers still prefer scripted programming."

NBC President, Research, Alan Wurtzel, while praising the positive re-launch of its Meet the Folks
last week, says, "Reality programs will continue to play a role in our [upfront] schedule but will never replace NBC's core programming: scripted drama and comedy."

And, says Flood, "high sellout rates and a robust marketplace" have network television entering the upfront "thriving," despite ratings erosion. "Current share for the four networks remains the same, 47%," Poltrack explains, "despite a 3% ratings decline overall. And, while basic cable's combined ratings are up 2%, the top 10 cable-network numbers are actually down 5%."