Art & Commerce




Endless Summer The TV “season,” once upon a time, began in September and ran through April. Viewers watched first-run episodes of regular series most weeks in that span, then came the summer reruns. Now, reruns are almost as likely to show up in season as out. According to the Media Group at Bozell, Jacobs, Kenyon & Eckhardt, for example, there were no reruns in October 14 years ago; last October, replays accounted for 10 percent of the major networks’ prime-time hours.
Conversely, in the good old days, repeats made up more than one-third of May’s series airings; this year, their share was only 14 percent. Apparently, the networks think that by running originals during sweeps months, such as May, they will be helping affiliates set higher advertising rates. The basic theory that original episodes draw larger audiences than reruns is true. Perhaps, though, sprinkling reruns so liberally through the year has diluted the impact of first-run stuff and contributed to the networks’ larger problem-the loss of viewers across the board. The irony, of course, is that because of the profound audience erosion-maybe encouraged by the seeming proliferations of reruns-most series airings, first run or not, are “original” in the sense of never before seen by the majority of TV viewers. -Alan Gottesman (westendal pobox.com) is principal of West End Consulting.

THE GOTTESMAN FILE
These days, prime-time reruns are sprinkled liberally throughout the television season.
……….1982/83…..1996/97
…..October…..0%…..10%
…..November…..0%…..4%
…..December…..4%…..28%
…..January…..12%…..20%
…..February…..8%…..10%
…..March…..13%…..25%
…..April…..33%…..25%
…..May…..37%…..14%
Source: BJK&E Media Group. Percentage figures represent the major networks’ prime-time hours of regular-series reruns.