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My two cents.

Years ago, the three American TV networks' strategic planning divisions were so efficient as to border ESP. Looking back at the various articles published by our sister publication, The TV Executive, now celebrating its 10th year at NATPE, I was impressed by the three networks' research accuracy and the clear understanding of their futures. Research that, unfortunately, the executives first didn't use and, later, were too preoccupied with their own job security to implement.

Today, the situation at the networks has changed. Since Ken Auletta came out with a book reporting on the network's boardroom environment, which matched the perceived image, one can confidently predict the next scenario.

Strategy at the networks is now developed by business people, who were active in LBO's and banking. Nevertheless, the networks' future, once separated from the surrounding chaff, is relatively simple to predict even for the bean counters, who traditionally have little imagination.

To me, the networks' own formula for success is the following: Be able to own cable TV systems (becoming MSO's), produce and syndicate programs without limitations, have the affiliates pay the networks for programming (just like in Australia), and eliminate the deadly Saturday scheduling.

It is clear that both the GE and the Larry Tisch organizations want to unload their webs, (NBC and CBS respectively) but at a profit. Both companies jumped into broadcasting with the idea of doing television to make money, and not making money doing television. Now, they tend to complain about the poor television business, but it cannot be that bad, otherwise they'd be long out of this business. So there might be a future after all. But, what about the consequences? There is no question that, under the aforementioned scenario, both the international and domestic TV business will change drastically.

First, the networks will have to seek their affiliates' consensus before committing to a show. Alternatively, the networks could make foreign pre-sales, or even offer programs in first-run syndication on a cash or barter basis. In addition, MSO's will simply replace some affiliates.

I doubt that the networks will produce most of their own shows, when it is more efficient to commission independent producers. Distribution, however, will become more problematic, since the networks will want to have those rights, in exchange for the license fee. Under the above circumstances, the syndication business should once again flourish, since TV stations will have more hours to program themselves. And, looking at the Australian TV example, I don't think that under this new arrangement, the networks' affiliates would suffer.
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Title Annotation:future of US television networks
Author:Serafini, Dom
Publication:Video Age International
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jan 1, 1992
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