Wednesday, April 10, 2002

Miss a show? Catch same-week reruns on cable




By John Kiesewetter, jkiesewetter@enquirer.com.
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Instant replays for talk shows and prime-time series soon may be as common as they are in sports.

        It's a fundamental change in the TV industry — quick turn-around repeats, or “repurposing,” of shows that viewers once had to wait months to see again, if at all.

        ABC's The View repeats at 7 p.m. (on A&E). NBC's Last Call with Carson Daly replays the next evening (6 p.m., E! Entertainment).

        ABC's Alias reruns five days later (9 p.m. Fridays, ABC Family). Fox's 24 airs twice (1 a.m. and 11 p.m. Monday) before a new episode airs at 9 p.m. Tuesday.

        On Sept. 3, NBC's Late Night with Conan O'Brien will repeat the next day on Comedy Central. And David Letterman's new CBS deal reportedly calls for next-day cable replays, most likely on VH1 or MTV.

        “In two years or three years from now, everybody will wonder why we didn't do a lot more of this before,” says Jamie Kellner, Turner Broadcasting System chairman. He's over all AOL Time Warner channels, including TNT, which repeats Charmed at 10 p.m. Tuesday from WB, a sister network.
       

More choices

        “Repurposing” allows networks to increase revenues without additional production costs. It's also aimed at viewers accustomed to multiple replays of series on HBO and other cable channels, or video-on-demand services.

        “We need to facilitate choice because that's what (viewers) are used to in almost any other form of entertainment and any other form of consumer products,” Mr. Kellner says.

        “Showing the program once, and then not showing it again for six months . . . is a very old-fashioned way of providing entertainment through a television set.”

        Repeating Late Night, The View or Mr. Letterman's Late Show is a no-brainer because of a topical show's short shelf life. Repurposing is a new way to cash in on an old investment.

        Reruns for prime-time dramas or comedies are another matter. Some studio executives fear that quick cable repeats will hurt ratings years later for syndicated reruns, where studios make their big money.

        “As we start to have more experience with these things, it will become clear what works and what doesn't work,” says Mr. Kellner, who helped the launch the Fox and WB networks.

        Law & Order creator Dick Wolf, who pioneered the concept of cable reruns, says more than 80 million viewers watch his three Law & Order series on NBC, USA, TNT and A&E each week. Mr. Kellner says only 3 percent of the Charmed audience on TNT duplicates the WB audience.

        “If you're trying to get more people to watch your shows . . . then what better tool could you have than offering it a multiple of times during the week, so that people will watch it when it's convenient for them?” Mr. Kellner says.

        The old system doesn't work.

        “You can either try to cut somebody's salary, which nobody wants, or you can find other ways to exploit the programming . . . And this is the best idea I've seen so far,” he says. “You're going to see more and more of this happen in the future.”

        Good for them — because it's very good for us.

       



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