In their rush to get shows online, webheads may be inadvertently strangling TV’s golden goose: repeats.
Viewers hate ’em, but for 50 years, reruns have been a bedrock of the network TV business model. But now, ratings for on-air repeats are eroding — and a key reason is the relatively new phenomenon of networks letting audiences watch full episodes of shows online.
“There are some shows I don’t even bother TiVo-ing because I know I can just watch the episodes on the website,” one network exec admits. “At some point it has to have an impact on the ratings. … You’re training the audience to watch these shows on other platforms.”
Of course, networks make money from online streaming, too. And many believe that putting a show online will ultimately lead to higher overall viewership for a show.
“We’re trying to create a circle of life,” says ABC scheduling czar Jeff Bader. “There are many places to watch a show, but primetime is where it begins.”
Still, the total coin generated by alternative platforms doesn’t begin to match the coin generated by traditional viewership — resulting in a net loss for the nets, at least for now.
While viewers might not care about the decline of repeats, nets have reason to mourn.