It’s the notion that comforts many a TV showrunner: Abandon broadcast TV and leave your ratings worries behind; all cable cares about is quality.
But as those behind some critically acclaimed cable shows are being reminded, you can run from ratings worries but you can’t hide.
with the “Rubicon” cancelation came the reminder that when it comes to ratings, even cable — at least basic cable, as opposed to subscription-based channels like HBO and Showtime — has its breaking point.
Are there really people in the TV business that need to be reminded that ads need to be sold on “ad supported cable”?
While the economics of cable dramas and broadcast dramas are quite different, and ad supported cable networks get a significant share of their revenue from subscriber fees that are only very loosely tied to their ratings, the idea that the inability to sell enough advertising to make a show viable on ad supported cable is something people in the industry need to be “reminded” of caused me a facepalm moment.
And in case anyone wondered, like every show on every network, the executives at AMC really loved Rubicon:
“Apparently the discussions over there really did get anguished,” [Rubicon showrunner] Bromell says. “I think they genuinely loved the show, and they wanted to keep doing it. And they thought it would hurt the image of AMC not to continue with it. But the advertising guys were saying, ‘We love it too — but we can’t sell advertising for it.”