Are vanity cable channels the future?

by Paul William Tenny

I used to love watching Inside the NFL on HBO back when we had it, even though I'm not a big football fan in general, it was well produced and compelling for what it was. It seemed like good news when HBO dropped the show and the NFL went looking for a new home, because I figured why not just set it up on their cable channel? The NFL Network is really only good for watching game reruns during the week and not a lot else, but an award winning program like this could really get them going in the right direction for original content.
Sadly while the NFL decided to go with Showtime, a huge mistake considering how much smaller they are in comparison to HBO, and how much smaller they are compared to the "free" cable networks like USA, it seems like an exercise in futility. Not only that, but cable really does finally seem like it's going to fulfill its destiny as the future of television. While the big four networks keep losing viewers every year, USA keep inching upwards with shows in the 7-5 million viewer range, easily more than some network darlings get like Friday Night Lights.

And speaking of FNL, DirecTV is slowly transforming The 101 (new name please) from a rerun stub into a network of their own. FNL is going to air new episodes there this year and was recently rerunning episodes of Ax Men and Ice Road Truckers along with some recent South Park. Could this be the run-up to really going for it and producing 100% original content leveraged over their own distribution network? I mean what we're really talking about here is what indie producers are trying to do over the web with the Internet, only now DirecTV is going to use its distribution medium for its original content.

It's a scary thought because it consolidates creative control in all aspects with DirecTV, yet it also opens many opportunities for experimentation that the big networks can't afford to try. No commercials? Why not! Nobody else wants to air the show? No problem, we'll just make a new satellite channel!

It'll be interesting to see where all of this goes.
in Television


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