Too Many Repeats? What Should Broadcast Networks Do?

Categories: Watching TV

Written By

April 22nd, 2010

"There are too many repeats", "the hiatuses are too long" or the like, are a frequent themes from TV fans in our comments. So by popular request, here's your chance to discuss your ideas for "solving" whatever problem you may think exists.

Here are some numbers for your consideration:

  • The broadcast primetime "season" is 35 weeks long.
  • The current typical number of episodes ordered for a scripted broadcast show per "full" season is 22-24.
  • The conventional wisdom is that an hour long scripted drama episode for broadcast television costs $3 / million. Comedies typically cost less / hour, but I don't have a good number to cite. Update: Heard from someone who should know that broadcast single cam comedies range from $1.5-2m/episode and multi-cams are about $1m/episode.
  • Broadcast rights typically include 2 repeat airings in the same season.

Airing those repeats allows a broadcast network to spread that production cost over multiple periods, reducing the per episode cost. Although it should be obvious, repeating an episode once reduces its per hour cost by half. For many broadcast shows, the ratings (hence, ad revenue) for a repeat are >50% of an original episode (although serialized shows typically perform worse in repeats).

The conventional wisdom is that long hiatuses substantially dampen ratings on return, although there are so many factors involved I hesitate to draw any conclusions.

So, trying to stay away from the "I have unlimited money, and profits mean nothing to me, I will fill every time slot for the entire 35 week season with a new scripted episode" solution, what would you propose?

 
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