Why don't commercial TV networks replay their prime time shows in the overnight hours?
January 28, 2006 11:21 AM   Subscribe

Why don't commercial TV networks replay their prime time shows in the overnight hours?

PBS and most basic cable stations will replay popular prime-time shows in the wee hours of the morning (i.e. if PBS shows a new episode of "Nature" at 8 PM EST, it will air again at 4 AM EST). This makes things obviously quite helpful for the Tivo fanatic who is otherwise unable to record two simultaneous prime-time shows. But I was SOL last Thursday when my wife had "The OC" set to a higher priority on the Tivo, and as a result I missed "The Office." Neither episode will likely be shown again until the summer.

So what gives? The hours between Conan and the local early news (1:30 AM to 5 AM EST) are complete dead zones for commercial network affiliates, and replaying the prime time schedule would be an ideal way to recapture lost viewership. I know that the networks are pissed at Tivo for cutting into ad revenue, but I would have figured that attracting more pairs of eyes is better than shutting them out completely. Not to mention that they could make a tidy profit from advertisers who wouldn't otherwise bother buying commercial spots in the overnight hours.

So I guess I'm wondering if network execs are just dunderheaded, or if there's some sort of strategy at work here.
posted by Saucy Intruder to Media & Arts (11 answers total)
What, and preempt the endless Girls Gone Wild infomercials?
posted by wordwhiz at 11:33 AM on January 28, 2006

I believe that after Conan etc. sign off the network stops broadcasting and TV time returns to the local network affiliates who can sell those time slots for infomercials and so forth, netting them those sweet advertiser dollars. If the network took over those time slots, the affiliates would be out that revenue and would probably be hopping mad. So, my guess is that it comes down to money and company politics.

Now some networks - NBC, for one - show network reruns overnight (Leno and Conan, for instance). Affiliates don't have to take these reruns like they must take primetime programs. They're just made available in case an affiliate wants them. Affiliates are perfectly welcome to dump them and program their own stuff for that time.
posted by Servo5678 at 11:33 AM on January 28, 2006

Best answer: This only works if you have quite a lot of viewers who are missing it in the original timeslot. The problem is that you're clearly not going to get very good ad revenues at 2 AM, regardless of what you show. Why would someone choose to advertise on the 2 AM showing rather than primetime, unless it was much cheaper? The result is that you really don't want to have ANY of your existing viewers switch to the later showing. Your primetime ratings would go down so you'd lose money there, and hope to make it up on the late night. It's all pretty risky for marginal gains.

(Also, The Office is on iTunes if you want to see it now.)
posted by smackfu at 11:38 AM on January 28, 2006

Response by poster: Obviously the ad revenue from a second-run showing would be significantly lower, but if they could draw a sizeable Tivo audience, surely it would be more lucrative than a half-hour infomercial that is only available to insomniacs?
posted by Saucy Intruder at 11:43 AM on January 28, 2006

It was a good episode, too. Painfully funny as usual. With a sweet finish this time.
posted by intermod at 11:45 AM on January 28, 2006

Why don't commercial TV networks replay their prime time shows in the overnight hours?

Besides the answers given above, don't forget that the network will have to pay the production companies for the right to re-run those shows, and re-runs are an entirely different contractual structure. The answer, ultimately, is that there aren't enough viewers to justify the costs. We'll be living with infomercials and I Love Lucy re-runs forever.
posted by frogan at 12:43 PM on January 28, 2006

BBC channels in the UK sometimes rerun primetime shows at night, with signing and subtitles for the deaf. Useful service.

I think it's always BBC-originated material though. I assume they'd run into the issues frogan mentions if they tried it with bought-in stuff.
posted by Leon at 12:50 PM on January 28, 2006

Best answer: I don't have any great insight into the actual reasons they don't replay the shows overnight, (probably some mix between advertising revenue, agreements with local affiliates, and historical practice). One additional business-relevant reason is because, Tivo not withstanding, Primetime is something of a zero sum game.

If you only have one shot to watch the OC and you only have one shot to watch the Office, you have to make a decision (and it probably affects future TV watching, as you may stop watching the OC if you missed an episode or two and have no idea why Marissa is in public school and where the heck Pacey went). If you can watch the OC again later, you would spend your prime time watching the Office (giving NBC higher ratings and thus more ad dollars), and late night watching the OC (with its low revenue Girls Gone Wild ads). So it becomes something of a game of chicken, with the channel that double airs shows losing out to the one that doesn't.

That being said, some networks have taken to re-airing shows on affiliated cable networks later in the week.

And as was mentioned above, you can buy the latest Office episode on iTunes. And, you can watch it on your computer even if you don't have a video ipod.

on preview, smackfu said everthing I did, except I managed to use more words
posted by i love cheese at 3:04 PM on January 28, 2006

NBC seems to have the most affiliated cable networks right now for replaying current shows...
Surface (GREAT show, IMO) re-airs on Sci-Fi, CNBC re-airs The Apprentice...
and of course ITunes, as above.
posted by BillBishop at 4:38 PM on January 28, 2006

It's completely dictated by the existing economic model

The broadcast of a show is between the network and the production company. The network has a contract with your local affiliate. If they rebroadcast, who gets paid?

Why would they want you to get the show (for your tivo) in the overnight? This damages their advertising/rating structure. And this is less money for the local station, who are selling a little of prime time advertising, but make money from that...and the selling of that infomercial overnight time.

Last - syndication. They'd be making the resale value less. The more exclusive the content, the more they can charge when it goes into reruns.

DVD season sales have certainly impacted on the syndicated replay values. And I imagine so will the itunes TV sales (or other electronic media methods) over the long term. More people will have a show in different formats.
posted by filmgeek at 4:47 PM on January 28, 2006

Couldn't they just run the same commercials as they do during the regular broadcaast, and effectively tell advertizers they're getting a 2-for-1 deal? Wouldn't it work if all stations (NBC/ABC/CBS/FOX/UPN/etc??) did it?

I assume they get some pretty good dough from quit-your-job-and-sell-real-estate infomercials and the GGW as mentioned above, whereas they wouldn't be getting necessarily anything by just airing re-runs (unless they could compensatively charge more for a 2-for-1 deal) There are those of us who haven't watched any prime time TV since 2001 when we got a night job and usually sleep those hours and are awake in the wee's. I vote for late-night repeats. Most everything on TV for my waking hours is the Price is Right and soap operas. No thanks.
posted by vanoakenfold at 6:56 AM on January 29, 2006

« Older What's the name of the asterisks that divide...   |   Compiling contacts by label in Gmail? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.