It’s clear to me now that the accountants* have taken the reigns at the broadcast TV networks. While broadcast networks used to try and drive profits by pretty much exclusively focusing on increasing ratings, the boys with the green eye-shades are now in control and are trying to drive profits by driving down costs or emphasizing other non-ratings related revenue streams.

The evidence:

1. Shows renewed last spring with bad ratings, but extraordinary financial situations:

‘Til Death (practically free to Fox), Ugly Betty (syndication), Scrubs (syndication), New Adventures of Old Christine (syndication), Friday Night Lights (3rd party subsidy), Flashpoint (shared development cost), Dollhouse (drastically reduced costs).

2. The Jay Leno Show

Yes, it also kept Jay away from ABC, but it was substantially a cost cutting move at the expense of ratings.

3. Only one show (The Beautiful Life) removed from broadcast primetime so far this season.

It’s not like broadcasters are reveling in extraordinary success, ABC, NBC (and really CW) are getting crushed. But only one ratings loser has been removed from a line up so far. I think the accountants have stepped in and decreed that for the most part they’re not going to throw new money at the timeslots of failed shows until all (or at least more of) the episodes are aired. They’ve paid for 13 episodes of these losers and by damn, even if their ratings stink, they’re not going to spend another penny on something else to fill the airtime until the episodes have aired. Sunk costs be damned! That’s almost certainly is at the expense of ratings, but it’s lower cost!

* no slight on accountants, it’s probably the CFOs anyway, but there’s not as good a headline & graphic for that.

Posted by:TV By The Numbers

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