ARF CEO & President Scott McDonald, Ph.D.
The fall premiere season started losing some relevance with the rise of the cable networks 30 years ago. These then-upstarts found it was difficult to compete with the promotional firepower of the broadcast networks, so they used a counter-programming strategy, releasing their new series in the summer when the broadcasters were mostly showing reruns. This practice started nibbling away at the primacy of the fall premiere season. The rise of social media further eroded the centrality of the fall premiere season by accelerating the importance of word of mouth as a means of new program discovery.
Netflix started the practice of releasing its new internet-distributed shows by putting out all episodes at once.
So is the fall premiere season now just a relic of a bygone age? I would not say so. It still is the main way for the broadcast networks to unveil their new scripted shows to their still very substantial audiences. What’s more, the cable networks that once launched their new programs off-cycle have increasingly shifted toward direct competition with the broadcast networks for a share of the public’s attention during the season.
On the advertising side, both broadcast and cable networks continue to sell most of their premium ad inventories in the spring upfront markets. Conventional advertising sales in the 2017 upfront market were reported to be very strong. This is noteworthy because the 2017 upfront market included, for the first time, significant offerings of data-based targeted ad inventory that did not conform to the standard age/sex demo guarantees of the conventional upfront. This suggests that the new model (i.e. data-based targeted advertising inventory) is not yet cannibalizing the old model – that change to the upfront will come more slowly than some expect.
Bottom line: Even though we have more diverse models for releasing and supporting new TV shows, the fall premiere season remains an important event in the TV industry’s calendar and in the public’s efforts to discover, sample and talk about those new shows.
Scott McDonald, Ph.D. In the Era of ‘Peak TV’ Is the Fall Premiere Season Still Relevant? Forbes
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