NBC sets 2008 year-around schedule

by Paul William Tenny

nbc.jpgIt looks like NBC and Ben Silverman really are intent on trying something new with their development cycle. Most of the big CEOs pledged to use the strike was an opportunity to change the way they do things but when all was said and done, only NBC has actually done anything. Rather than announcing their fall schedule at the upfronts that everybody thought were going to be called off this year, NBC just crapped its entire 2008 plans on us. I don't know too much about the history of television, but I guess this is the first year-around sched by a network.
Silverman doesn't seem any more or less bright than any of the other network execs and I've never seen any real justification for a round-robin of show development so I suppose you can count me amongst those who don't see what all the fuss is about. With the way we use DVRs and rent and buy entire seasons of TV shows on DVD, I haven't felt like as a viewer than I've been a part of the old system for sometime now. Cable too has a lot to do with that, there are plenty of good shows on cable while the network shows are on hiatus.

Maybe that's what is really driving NBC in this direction, not so much playing games with advertisers, but understanding how much their parent GE benefits from the success of USA -- a cable network that blew NBC out of the water in profit last year. Makes sense when you think about it, the networks haven't done anything to fight off the cable networks but have been taking a gradually worsening beating from them pretty much ever since cable came onto the scene. Silverman may have finally realized they can be on the air with new content while their competitors are burning off reruns.

You know what, I take back what I said. Ben Silverman may have some brains after all, even if he is responsible for torturing us with foreign reality TV imports. He had the guts (or perhaps the desperation) to buy Quarterlife and bring it to the network too, and though that blew up in his face, it was well worth the risk. It's going to be a very long time -- if ever -- before the Internet supplements or even replaces direct broadcast systems like cable and satellite. The immediate future is a secondary and much cheaper venue for reruns and syndication, followed by a "farm system" where new ideas can be tested on the cheap, and if successful brought over to the big leagues for development.

Going year-around gives NBC more time to try out new shows while reducing the pressure to squeeze out at least one smash hit every season. So there it is I guess -- maybe only those who have nothing to lose are the ones that will discover and forge the new media experience for everyone else.

The only other thoughts I have for this is why in god's name is NBC still putting brand new high-profile series on Monday nights at 10pm? That time slot killed an Aaron Sorkin show (and a damned good one at that) for crying out loud, just who the heck else could you possibly slide into that slot and expect to succeed?
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