Typing Faster

July 16, 2010

Who’s Not Happy About Rookie Blue?

Filed under: Future of TV — petertypingfaster @ 7:00 am

I’m sure everyone’s heard that Rookie Blue‘s been picked up after airing three episodes. Sounds great, right? Another Canadian series being broadcast on American network TV! Go us!

And while I’m sure E1 and ABC are overjoyed, not to mention all the Canadian writers, actors, directors and crew who are busting their humps to make this show happen week-to-week, there are a lot of people who aren’t happy about this latest development.

In an article published the other day on TV by the Numbers, Bill Gorman wonders about what kind of effect it’ll have on Hollywood.

ABC’s Rookie Blue was renewed…by ABC, after only three episodes have aired. Even though its last airing drew just a 1.5 adults 18-49 rating. The only way that could possibly make economic sense for ABC is if the show was very cheap.

Indeed, Rookie Blue is reported to cost ABC just $350,000 an episode.

That is a fraction of the conventional wisdom per episode license fee to a broadcast network for a regular season hour of a broadcast drama (~$1.5 million) or for a cable network drama ($1 million license fee). It’s even less than an hour of The Jay Leno Show was reported to cost NBC ($400,000).

Rookie Blue isn’t being priced way below cost to eek out a few more episodes for syndication like, for example, the now legendary ‘Til Death. Rookie Blue is a show produced and priced to make money for its Canadian production company right now.

Looking at an example near and dear to the hearts of many of our readers (although by no means unique), Warner Brothers’ Chuck drew about a 1.9 rating at the end of last season. I guarantee you Warner Brothers’ license fee for Chuck to NBC is many times more than $350,000 / episode.

For 0.4 more ratings points…

When cheap unscripted reality was the only threat to scripted broadcast production, it could be easily demonized (and still is!), but what of the threat of cheap scripted shows to the “Hollywood” business model?

It’s one thing to primarily compete on ratings (i.e. potential revenue), it’s another entirely when cost becomes a major competitive factor.

It’s interesting, albeit difficult, to try and prognosticate just what this means for the television business. Will Canada take over the production of all the cop shows that litter the US airwaves, leaving the US nets free to develop the next Lost? What does everyone else think?


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