If Content Is King Is Over-Distribution The King Killer?

One of my favorite TV shows is “The Big Bang Theory”.  It’s well written and the characters are some of the best on TV today, most notably Sheldon Cooper played by Jim Parsons who has won multiple awards and critical acclaim for his character. The show is still in original production and I hope it continues to be for some time. 

The show is also on Cable and in Syndication and by my count—I’m not good with numbers is the joke I often tell—I can watch it over 30 times in the next seven days. If next week is a typical week the program is airing over 1,500 times this year.

Funny thing is I find myself watching the repeats and I rarely see the originals in first run. I think it’s because the syndicated airings in NY are ideally timed for my viewing habits.  I’d rather watch movies in Prime or, especially during baseball season, live sports. So the 7:30 and 11:00 PM airings work well because I’m only interested in a short show to carry me over.

Has this over distribution, or should I say saturation hurt the first run airings? Actually it hasn’t. The Syndicated airings w/o 1/14 had a 7.9 rating and the Network Prime airing the following week had a 7.3 rating. Add in the 3 million TBS viewers each week and you have a juggernaut. Of course the Syndicated ratings include multiple airings. People now are as interested in the repeats as they are the originals.

In the past programs were not in original production on Network TV AND in syndication AND Cable simultaneously. It’s a phenomenon of the last twenty years. It may have been Seinfeld and Friends that began this trend. So programs like The Golden Girls would either be off air or at least have announced their end of production before they were distributed in cable and/or syndication. Golden Girls by the way is actually on TV next week more times than Big Bang Theory. It seems like WE and Hallmark have no other programs to air, but that’s another story.

In the case of Seinfeld and Friends both experienced ratings drops in their first runs around the time they syndicated, but that may have introduced the show to new audiences who could catch up because within two seasons they both grew their audiences in first run. But that was before DVR penetration was as high as today and they were watercooler shows, a concept that may no longer exist.

How long can Big Bang Theory be in over-distribution before it becomes tired? In November it reached all time highs in audience levels for first run airings.

Long live the king.

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2 thoughts on “If Content Is King Is Over-Distribution The King Killer?

  1. MarceloSalup says:

    The same thing would apply to all the Law & Orders, CSI’s, Seinfelds’s, Two and a Half Men’s… and they seem to be doing well. My very very personal opinion is that all of those programs are bland, vanilla and fairly safe, so they are “auto pilot” programs?

  2. Nader Ashway says:

    Excellent post, David. Most people don’t consider the over-saturation of content as a potential killer, but you’ve done an excellent job of highlighting this potentially damaging concept.

    I suppose the answer is the opposite: that over-distribution could be considered the king-MAKER. It’s when shows go into syndication that their real value is derived. The syndicating network buys the show (for much less than original run episodes,) and the value of the advertising relative to the cost of running is significantly higher. The longer this goes on, the more overall VALUE Big Bang Theory really has, right? Proof that great content can derive great revenues.

    Good thinking here – thanks!
    Nader Ashway

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