With Premiere Week Upon Us, We Want To Ask Why

Play associated audio

Andrew Wallenstein is an editor at Variety.

This is a big, big week for broadcast TV — 44 returning series are having their season premieres, and 14 new shows will launch in the span of seven days.

But does running premiere week that way still make sense for the TV business? Or does it just create a traffic jam on your television?

Of the week's new shows, the biggest — or at least the most hyped — is Simon Cowell's new vehicle, The X Factor. But if you're going to watch that, then you gotta make sure to record another buzzworthy new entry, ABC's Charlie's Angels. And don't forget that one hour later, X Factor goes head to head with the new CBS drama Person of Interest.

And you'll need a DVR that can record three shows simultaneously if you also want to watch NBC's new comedy Whitney.

Feeling overwhelmed yet?

Well, so are the networks. Is it any wonder that, of the dozens of shows introduced last TV season, only 23 percent survived to see a second year? The reason so many TV shows fail in the fall is that they cancel each other out. One human cannot watch more than a fraction of 58 premieres over seven days.

And yet the industry has clung to the same front-loaded fall schedule since the 1950s. It began that way largely because September was the time of year that auto advertisers — TV's biggest spenders — traditionally launched their latest cars. TV just followed suit.

The schedule has stayed the same ever since, largely owing to inertia. First there's the industry's own production cycle. Altering it would be like changing tires on a moving vehicle. Then there's Madison Avenue, which is loath to leave a business model that allows it to spend billions of dollars in one gulp. It would make sense to scatter the shows over 12 months, but then advertisers would have to do the unthinkable: work harder year-round. Sorry for the inconvenience, folks.

No wonder many of the most anticipated shows this year have actually been reserved for the midseason, where there's less competition. The Fox drama Alcatraz, from JJ Abrams, won't be seen til January.

The broadcasters must experiment more with launching shows later in the year. Until then, they're just putting the "fall" in "falter." If only they'd learn to pace themselves.


Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Lisa Lucas Takes The Reins At The National Book Foundation

Lucas is the third executive director in the history of the foundation, which runs the National Book Awards. Her priority? Inclusivity: "Everyone is either a reader or a potential reader," she says.
NPR

The Shocking Truth About America's Ethanol Law: It Doesn't Matter (For Now)

Ted Cruz doesn't like the law that requires the use of ethanol in gasoline. So what would happen if it was abolished? The surprising answer: not much, probably.
WAMU 88.5

The Latest on the Military, Political and Humanitarian Crises in Syria

Russia continues airstrikes in Syria. Secretary Kerry meets with world leaders in an attempt to resolve the country’s five-year civil war. A panel joins Diane to discuss the latest on the military, political and humanitarian crises facing Syria.

NPR

Should India's Internet Be Free Of Charge, Or Free Of Control?

Facebook's free Internet service was banned in India on the basis of net neutrality this week. Internet providers, regulators say, should not be allowed "to shape the users' Internet experience."

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.