Warner Bros. Study Touts Acquired Cable Series Programming

Warner Bros. is about to hit the streets with a new study intended to dispel myths about acquired cable series programming and indicating that more viewers turn to cable for reruns than originals.

The study, commissioned by Warner Bros. Media Research and conducted by the strategic marketing research and consulting firm SmithGeiger through online interviews with 1,500 television viewers, also showed that viewing alternatives like TiVo and DVRs have not significantly changed viewing habits for rerun fare.

And the study refuted the industry theory that reruns on cable can cause damage to the original network series.

Fifty-five percent of the respondents said they would be more likely to watch an original after seeing the rerun. Acquired programming attracted new viewers to cable networks, with 62% discovering and watching these series on cable for the first time and delivering audiences back to the original broadcast airings.

In another key finding, SmithGeiger CEO David Smith said at a morning press conference in Los Angeles that the web is emerging as a key driver in the promotion of television shows.

According to the study, 79% said they respond most to promo spots in originals, 70% in reruns, 45% on the Web, 40% in magazines, 39% on the radio, 37% on billboards and 32% in newspapers. The Web had not rated high in previous studies, Smith said.

‘Our business is very challenged these days,” said Bruce Rosenblum, executive vice president of Warner Bros. Media Research. “There is a lot of information out there being spun lots of different ways and lots of misperceptions about the role of acquired programming on cable. These shows are work horses.”

The study reveals that familiarity is a powerful motivator for television audiences, whether they are channel surfers or appointment viewers. In terms of program strategy, 83% of respondents stated that a mix of acquired and original programming strongly influences their decision on which network they watch. 

Other key findings:

• The majority of TV viewers turn to broadcast for originals and cable for acquired programs.

• In primetime, viewers are as likely to turn to cable networks (52%) as opposed to broadcast  (48%).

• Familiarity plays a key role in viewers’ habits, and acquired series have significantly greater familiarity than originals, 93% vs. 46%.  In fact, 70% of viewers most often stop on familiar shows when channel surfing.

Findings supported by Nielsen Media Research:

• New generations of viewers under the age of 35 are finding and viewing acquired series:
o 79% of Full House audience on ABC Family
o 69% of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air audience on Nick@Nite
o 43% of The Dukes of Hazzard on CMT

• Viewers are equally engaged in acquired programming versus original, displaying strong commercial retention.

• Top cable networks have been successful using acquired series to launch originals, including TNT’s launch of The Closer, which retained 65% of the lead-in audience from Law & Order, and the launch of Eureka on SciFi (78% retention out of Dead Like Me).

“The key findings of the survey are completely borne out by the 2006/07 primetime ratings, which, for the first time ever, show cable networks outperforming broadcast networks in four out of seven nights,” said Liz Huszarik, senior VP, Warner Bros. Media Research.  “Cable networks have been very effective at using acquired series as a platform are launching their originals and building their viewer base.”