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Cable Technology Feature Article

May 28, 2013

TV's Cure for the Summertime Blues

By Peter B. Counter, TMCnet Contributing Writer

School might be out for summer, but that’s no reason for television to be unremarkable. At least not anymore. The summer season of television has been the dumping ground for animated corpses and cheap mimics for as long as the hot season has been synonymous with vacation, but with the newly emerging content wars, it seems like the battle for your attention (and, consequently, advertising revenue) has become evergreen.

Last week, the fall seasons were announced for the major four television networks: NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox. None of them are pulling punches. Original content is the name of the game now, with old mares like “American Idol” not pulling in the revenue they once did. The autumn audiences are going to need to really manage their schedules and set their recording devices if they are going to want to bask in the star power that’s fueling the Joss Whedon, Robin Williams and Michael J. Fox series.

It seems like a preemptive skirmish is going to lead into that all-out battle though, with entertainment revenues not as good as the networks have wanted, needing to make up for sad performances during the regular season. The truth is, the big four networks lose 10 percent of their under-50 audience when the summer months take hold, and they’re betting the key to retaining that demographic is the same strategy that has become such a news item for the fall.

The issues that might disrupt this plan, both for the summer and the fall, are exemplified by NBC’s confidence in its most critically acclaimed but criminally under-watched original show, “Hannibal.” The psycho-thriller-procedural sounds like a jackpot on paper: a beloved character, high profile actors and a showrunner with an impressive resume, but this show is not being watched enough to warrant a renewal yet.

The summer analogue to this is CBS’s “Under The Dome,” starting in late June, based on the Stephen King novel that made people start caring about his work again. A deal with Amazon is going to allow fans to stream the show four days after the original broadcast, making sure the 13-episode serial is as accessible as possible; but accessibility hasn’t helped “Hannibal” guarantee its future, seeing as NBC allowed for Amazon streaming as well.

Regardless of how this will work out in the long run, viewers can breathe easy knowing that when they turn on their entertainment this summer they won’t have to settle for half-baked reality shows and sitcom reruns that Netflix has given them year-round access to. Even if the revenue doesn’t save the networks financially, audiences will be winning with access to more original programming than there has been in a very long time.

Edited by Alisen Downey

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