Summer is Cable's Time To Shine

I have a joke for you.

What is the difference between Cable Networks & the Broadcast Networks? If a show pulls in 4 million viewers, a Cable Network Exec will say "This show's a hit. Renew it, renew it NOW! Is that show renewed yet?" An Exec from one of the broadcast networks will say "This show is an embarrassment. Pull it, Pull it from the schedule NOW! We'll burn off the unaired episodes during the summer."

Recently, I got my hands on TV Guide's Summer Preview issue. With True Blood on the cover, I wasted no time tearing into it. While sifting through the Summer Preview portion, I noticed the vast majority of the shows were on Cable. Same w/ the noteworthy Highlights that precede that day's schedule grid.

Like the total TV geek that I am, I counted the all the shows that received a writeup. By my count, I found TV Guide featured 53 shows (both scripted & reality) premiering this summer. Of those, 36 are on cable (mostly scripted). The clear majority of the 17 broadcast networks' shows are reality programming.

If you Google eroding ratings, it is rare to find an article that doesn't mention Cable audiences are growing almost proportionally to the erosion of broadcast network audiences. There is a reason why Audiences are seeking refugee status on the Cable nets, and the Summer season is a big catalyst. The broadcast networks seem take the summer off, while Cable releases their most impressive programming.

No offense ABC, CBS, CW, Fox, & ABC, but reruns and reality shows suck. In the modern world of DVRs, VOD, & mobile streaming, you have got to be a year round business. Chances are if I didn't watch Gray's Anatomy, CSI, or Law & Order while they were first run, I probably won't be checking them out now. With SyFy, TNT, USA, FX, etc offering new & interesting scripted shows, I, along w/ millions of others, are going explore those options.

And, while I am watching the majority of my summer TV on Cable, guess what I'm going to be exposed to? That's right, previews for their Fall season. Being that a parent company can own multiple cable networks, there's also a lot of cross network promoting. I'm going to see what's premiering this fall on USA, while watching SyFy. No obnoxious billboards needed to get the word out there. And chances are, I'm going to find that new fall Cable show premiere a whole not more interesting than whatever new procedural drama CBS is offering.

I'm just a measly non-Nielsen TV junkie, but to me in light of not only competition from Cable, but also from summer movies, game releases, & of course the weather, Summer is clearly not the time to scale back your schedule. Year over year audience erosion show that tactic is flawed. Come on Broadcast Networks, step up. Put some effort into retaining your audiences over the summer. If you do, maybe, just maybe the audiences will still be there to successfully launch your fall premieres.

UPDATE 6/4/10: Just found this interesting article on tvbythenumbers.com. It outlines the growth of cable since the 80's.


  1. You had me until you said SyFy had interesting shows. J/K. SciFi Media

  2. Ha! You had there for a moment. Thanks for the laugh.