Espionage, comedy veterans touted for upcoming TV season

Thu May 16, 2013 5:20pm EDT
 
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By Liana B. Baker

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The big four U.S. broadcast networks, in need of new TV hits to turn around slumping ratings, are betting espionage programs and old comedy stars will convince advertisers to spend about $9 billion during the so-called upfront selling season.

This week, the broadcast networks have been wooing advertisers, giving them previews of the new shows and revealing the upcoming fall schedules all in the hope that they will get commitments for billions of dollars.

The broadcasters are under pressure from growing competition from cable, upstarts such as Netflix and Wall Street expectations that their ad price hikes will be the lowest in three years.

Barclay's Capital estimates that the networks will be able to push their ad rates up by 6 percent on average, which is well ahead of the 1.3 percent annual inflation rate, but down from 7.5 percent in 2012.

SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY

Copying a successful program is a time-honored TV tradition and this year, the networks fixated on espionage. Three out of four large networks showed advertisers series that resembled the Emmy-award winning cable drama "Homeland".

"The intelligence/spy genre just happens to be resonating with viewers lately," said Jason Maltby, director of national broadcast TV at media buying firm MindShare.

"Homeland," which premiered in 2011 on CBS-owned cable network Showtime, is about a returning Iraq veteran and a CIA agent at the heart of a political and terrorism conspiracy. It dominated last year's Emmys, sweeping the top drama categories in the television awards show.   Continued...

 
A publicity image from "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.", Marvel's first television series, is pictured in this undated handout photo. REUTERS/Bob D'Amico/ABC/Handout via Reuters