Thursday, March 20, 2014

Why MyNetworkTV's Acquisition of "The Walking Dead" Is Smart

MyNetworkTV has acquired the rights to air one of television's most popular shows once a week beginning this fall.

AMC's "The Walking Dead," normally a TV-MA rated show, will debut on a date to be announced with a TV-14 rating due to editing which will be done to fit broadcast television standards.

This is a really smart move for Fox because it gives viewers a reason to tune in to MNT for the first time in a while. Despite being renewed up to the 2016-2017 season, many have questioned what 21st Century Fox wants do with the network and it's affiliates.

There were talks of adding Thursday night NFL games to the network but those ended rather swiftly. The network was stuck between a rock and a hard place with no identity until now.

Depending on how successful this move is, Fox can sell MNT to content producers and advertisers as the home of reruns for critically-acclaimed shows. MNT only has enough space to rerun a show twice a week which means that it doesn't impede on any potential online licensing fees (Netflix or Amazon might not be willing to pay as much for the licensing fees of a show if it's being aired on television for big blocks of time).

If you want to binge-watch "The Walking Dead," you still have the option to do so on Netflix. But if you're already caught up and want to re-live some of your favorite episodes once a week or if you want to catch-up with the show in a more traditional way, you have the option to watch on MNT.

Because MNT reaches 97 percent of Americans, "TWD" reruns will also give AMC a chance to expose their popular show to potential new viewers who may not be aware of it (We tend to forget that not everyone has cable. As of 2012, the number of subscribers was at 61.7 million which means at least 238 million people didn't have cable or satellite. With the increase in subscription costs, that number has most likely risen). Those viewers could also potentially turn into regular viewers on AMC Sunday nights.

Fox is also playing defense with this move. "TWD" has so many superfans that it wouldn't be an unforeseen circumstance if they won in the demo or at the very least took away some viewers who may have watched Fox's rivals if "TWD" wasn't on TV at the time (Vice versa, it could also hurt Fox if their shows against "TWD" are weak).

It's also a big plus that MNT will be the only place to watch "TWD" reruns unlike the other shows currently on MNT's schedule which air on other networks.

Some media critics argue that MNT should be producing original programming. In the old guard traditional media world, cable television aired repeats while broadcast television produced all of the original award-winning content. But we don't live in that kind of world anymore.

Everyone is producing original content. Playstation is. Netflix is. TNT is. Your neighbor with a huge following on YouTube is. Why enter such a crowded field? There's nothing wrong with being a broadcast network which airs syndicated reruns as long as the other major broadcast nets aren't following the same strategy (both now or 30 years from now).

I would argue that MNT choosing to air reruns helps invigorate broadcast television because it gives free TV viewers another choice which they've never had before without taking on too much financial risk on the network's part which in effect keeps them on air.

Based on the ratings on both cable and broadcast, viewers are very satisfied with the choices they currently have. Also, now more than ever (for the most part), quality shows always find a way to get on air either on TV or online even if they're denied in the beginning of their process. For example, "TWD" was denied by HBO before joining AMC. One less broadcast network producing original shows doesn't hurt a new show's chance of getting on air, the future of broadcast TV or their own bottomline.

(SIDENOTE: Choices in today's broadcast TV model include: Original high quality shows (ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, The CW), Spanish-language (Uni, Tele), African-American focused (Bounce), Old reruns from the 70s, 80s (This TV, Retro), Old reruns from the 2000s (MNT, Ion) etc.)

We also can't forget that it wouldn't make sense for Fox to have two of it's own broadcast networks competing for pilots. Fox is already producing enough shows for itself, FX and it's sports properties. It doesn't need any more stress on it's hands.

"TWD" is a proven product which has a following no matter where it goes which means that it'll guarantee MNT a viewer base it didn't have before. Original programming poses too much of an unnecessary risk.

Hopefully, Fox tries to pick up the off-network rights for other major critically-acclaimed shows such as "House of Cards," "Game of Thrones," "Homeland" etc. Broadcast television deserves a channel with cable reruns to give cord-cutters/non-cable subscribers a taste of what they're missing. 

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