If you worked in the broadcast television business you might be feeling a little down and depressed after watching the 2021 Disney Upfront presentation as ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel joked in his monologue that everyone in the industry is screwed. He would later go on to joke his kids do not even know what a commercial is.
If that’s not bad enough, NBC’s fall schedule doesn’t even include one new sitcom. The network that brought America Cheers, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Seinfeld, Friends, Frasier, and The Office has not been able to produce a hit comedy since, well, The Office went off the air in 2013.
Things are not much better over at CBS. Instead of trying something new, they’re offering America new FBI and NCIS shows. If the trend continues, almost every major metropolitan area in America will have its own NCIS show on the Eye network.
Fox has pretty much given up trying to compete with Netflix and Disney in the entertainment programming game. It’s why Rupert Murdoch sold most of the company to Mickey Mouse. Fox knew they could not compete on entertainment programming with Netflix.
The Murdoch network is becoming the go-to network for live events and mask-wearing reality competition shows. While I could care less about The Masked Singer and all the masked shows that will follow, from a business perspective, this strategy makes sense.
Reality TV is cheap to produce, and since viewers want to tune in and vote on next week’s winner, the shows are DVR’d proof since they air weekly. No one wants to binge American Idol because the excitement is to see who gets voted off from week-to- week. Competition shows are some of the few watercooler shows left on broadcast television.
Of the big four broadcast networks, Fox is trying to keep viewers actually watching the linear TV broadcast the most of any network.
NBC wants you to subscribe to Peacock. CBS would appreciate it if you purchased a Paramount + subscription. ABC, well, let’s be real. Disney would rather you watch Disney + than ABC because we all know streaming is the future of the House of Mouse.
Fox has no app to promote except its recent purchase of free-to-watch Tubi. So far, the company does not seem too interested in producing new content for Tubi. What a wild idea Fox has: getting viewers to watch actual TV!
While it is too early to tell which of the four broadcast networks will win the future, or even be in business in the future, Fox is setting itself up as maybe the network in the best position to own broadcast TV. The network continues to transition into mostly live sporting events and cheap reality television.
Of course, Fox cannot air WWE or have someone in a mask every night. Fox still has some dramas and comedies, but with the company selling off its entertainment assets, the main focus of the network moving forward is clear: live events.
The other broadcast networks should follow Fox’s lead and invest in live programming. If I was ABC, I would try to get college football games on my Thursday night schedule. Likewise, NBC should give up on Saturday Night Live, which stopped being funny years ago, and instead, they should take that money and invest in a primetime live concert series aimed toward a younger audience.
Since the expectations are lower for what defines success on a streaming app, CBS and NBC should experiment with different programming formats and see what gains some traction. Then, add those shows to the primetime lineup. For example, ABC could give America’s Funniest Videos a Generation Z twist and have a show showcasing funny Tik Tok’s.
The pop-culture leaders of Generation Z are on Tik Tok and not in Hollywood.
Network executives should be reaching out to Instagram influencers and Tik Tok stars like Addison Rae and give her a show and go bold! Make it available only on linear television and not online for them to watch later. She has a large social media following. If she told her followers to watch her on CBS, they would ask their Grandparents what CBS is and where to find it.
Network TV should think outside the box to stay relevant in the future.
As I finish typing this article while holding my five-month-old daughter, I wonder what broadcast television will look like when she is old enough to watch. Or, will network TV even exist then?
Subscribe to The Chad Whittle Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, TuneIn, and listen at ChadWhittle.com. For a full list of available podcast platforms to listen to Chad's podcast, visit https://chadwhittle.com/
Chad on Substack: Subscribe to Chad's newsletter to receive podcast updates and his weekly articles.