It's that time of the new broadcast-network television season when the
broadcasters call up the reinforcements for their weak programming links.
In a timely report on midseason repeats, Interpublic Group of Cos.' Magna Global USA senior vice president and director of audience analysis Steve Sternberg indicated that the networks' heavier reliance on series repeats at midseason is "one of the leading causes of network audience erosion" and a boost for cable programmers.
Since the broadcasters began extending the TV season into May back in 1996, he pointed out, "The percentage of regular series hours devoted to repeats in midseason has risen dramatically, particularly in the nonsweeps months of December, January and March."
The percentage of repeats for those months has "ranged from 36 percent to 41
percent" since the 1996-97 season, he estimated.
The basic-cable networks' Nielsen Media Research household-ratings bump for December, January and March was 7.5 percent higher than for November, February and May (11 percent higher among adults 18 through 49), Sternberg said.
But the networks' reliance on reruns isn't likely to
change. "The economics of the business force a network to ration its product,"
"The networks typically buy two or three runs of a program, with the first
run more or less the breakeven point -- they start making money on the
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