Monday, May 7, 2012

It sure would be nice if the networks gave us some help in prime time during sweeps

As someone who enjoys scripted television shows, May sweeps always brings a sense of both fun and frustration to me. Fun because you get to enjoy all those season finales. Frustration because for some inexplicable reason, the networks run said season finales in the first or second weeks of sweeps. And then waste the rest of the book with reruns or reality junk.

News departments use every last minute of sweeps periods, and many savvy News Directors start their sweeps pieces early and keep them going a few days past the end of the book. (Here's a news flash: viewers don't generally start watching newscasts on a Thursday and completely stop on a Wednesday.)

When I was a kid, most prime time shows had 39 brand new episodes per season. When summer rolled around, you got some fun summer replacement shows. This was, of course, before the networks loaded up the summer with reality garbage and sent us running over to the FX and USA and AMC networks for entertainment. Now you're lucky if you get 20 new episodes for your favorite shows. Maybe it's too expensive to produce more shows, but couldn't they at least fill up sweeps months and give our late newscasts a helping hand?

This also illustrates why news departments are more "on their own" than ever before. Why it's imperative to come up with great stories on a regular basis, because you can't expect a great lead-in from the latest of an endless parade of musical talent reality shows. (I keep waiting for them to combine a weight loss show with a dating show and a singing show. Just imagine a single woman dropping a hundred pounds and turning into a beautiful swan while trying out for Broadway musicals and having her choice of bachelors. Call it "Swan Song Bachelorette.")

Bottom line, you may have a great story for the late newscast but your promo in prime time may only be viewed by people whose lips move when they read. So those teases in the earlier newscasts and during the daytime are even more crucial.

And since the networks aren't giving you much, you need to put your promotions hat on. You may think promotion is something the promotions department should deal with, but remember, you're putting the story together. Even though you've got enough plates to keep spinning with live shots, two packs a day and maybe one-man-banding, you should take a minute to let the promo person know a little bit about your story. Where to find the money shot, the great sound bite, etc. I know it's not your job, but it will help you keep the one you have. When more people watch your stories, when your stories become watercooler tales,  you become more valuable to the station. And helping the promotions department labels you as a true team player.


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