WB: Movies Are the Move for Basic Nets

Although basic-cable networks continue to focus their marketing dollars on original and acquired series, statistics compiled by Warner Bros. Media Research showed that theatrical films continue to be the “successful programming constant” among basic networks.

In a two-year study of ratings of theatrical features cablecast on a variety of networks, the studio found that viewers would return to watch movies over and over again.

The recidivism even means that some films can post ratings, after dozens of airings, which are actually higher than when they debuted on basic cable. For instance, Miss Congeniality earned a 3.9 Nielsen Media Research rating when it debuted on TBS. On its fifth airing on the same network, the film posted a 4.7.

Executives said they released the data to emphasize the role their movies play in drawing viewers to cable, contributing to the success of those networks’ touted series.

The executives noted that networks program popular films with appropriate demographic draws as lead-ins to now popular series.

USA Network, for instance, used E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Clear and Present Danger to help build the audience going into the 10 p.m. slot where it programs Dead Zone.

And a lead-in including female-skewing films such as Bridget Jones’ Diary and Miss Congeniality, Warner Bros. Media Research senior vice president Elizabeth Huszarik said, boosted even a series with strong audience recognition, such as Home Box Office’s Sex and the City.

Smaller networks get good performance from theatricals, too, she said, noting that The Blue Collar Comedy Tour was among the top-five-rated shows on Comedy Central this year; VH1’s debut showing of Rock Star was No. 1 for the week and Oxygen’s highest-rated program ever was Whale Rider.

Eric Frankel, president of Warner Bros. Domestic cable distribution, said he is not concerned about networks’ stated focus on original and acquired series. The statistics show that movies continue to perform across all platforms, and without cannibalizing revenue streams from movie rentals, Huszarik added.

“We have more clients than ever,” Frankel added.