“Friends” alumna Lisa Kudrow will officially be a part of Scandal in Season 3. The Web Therapy producer will recur as a politician but at this time that is all ABC has confirmed. While we are excited about the Scandal addition, its always difficult not to picture Lisa Kudrow singing “smelly cat”.
In other news, Scandal is headed to BET.
It’s official. The busted old TV reruns business model is on its knees. And, as might be expected, there’s a “scandal” behind its demise. Only this time, it’s a good thing.
Fans of the ABC series Scandal will be glad to see that BET has signed a deal to air episodes of season three (coming back in the fall) just eight days after they’re initial broadcast on ABC. That beats paying for them on Hulu Plus or Amazon Prime. And it marks a tectonic shift in the landscape of syndicated television.
For decades now, successful TV shows and their makers had one Holy Grail in mind—making it to 100 episodes, setting the series up for strip, or daily, syndication. Some shows have succeeded in less time and still found their niche in the replay market (mostly thanks to rabid fans) on TV and on the web. But it’s rare. For every Family Guy or Arrested Development, there are a hundred Pushing Daisies.
And anyone who’s cared to explore the TV business has figured out that their favorite shows take too long to make it into rerun status. Traditionally, a hit show aired for five seasons before it was sold into syndication. Why? What’s the hold up? Isn’t television supposed to be a “vast wasteland” with a voracious appetite needing to be fed 24-7-365? As the guys who put the Six Million Dollar Man back together once noted, “We have the technology.”
In fact, since the web started blending seamlessly with TV just a few short years ago, viewers have been badgering the networks to lighten up the rules. Instead, they’ve tightened up the purse strings.
It all comes down to maximizing revenue, of course. For decades, TV content producers had a virtual monopoly on their properties since they controlled the distribution and carriage rights. Piracy and bootlegging in the VCR age put a dent in the bottom line, but nowhere near enough to upset the apple cart.
Then came along the web and a rogue site called The Pirate Bay. Aptly named, Pirate Bay brazenly “appropriated” all manner of creative content, including movies, music and, most notably, first-run television programs. The potential lost revenue is now counted in the billions of dollars. So, kicking and screaming, TV content owners have come to realize it’s better to collect, say, 90% of something rather than 100% of nothing.
The Scandal deal between ABC and BET represents the first, halting steps to TV nirvana: The day when the pie gets sliced and devoured in days instead of years. And why not? Owners and producers of hit shows have held on tightly to their rightful ownership because, like any profitable business, it’s best to squeeze every dollar while the produce is still fresh. That meant jealously guarding distribution and legally challenging every pirate willing to host a site openly, if illegally, stealing content.
Scandal is a savvy pick to test out the new theory. Kerry Washington is on every Top 10 actress list, the show is smart, wickedly funny, and the ratings are consistently sky high. To say nothing of the social implications. Washington is the first African American woman to lead a prime time network drama in more than 40 years. Talk about keeping step with enlightened thinking. There’s another idea whose time has come.
But think of the implications. If this gambit works (as it already has… Hulu is adding bandwidth to keep up and BET is already running 12-hour marathons of the first two seasons), there’s a huge pool of shows (hits and non-hits alike) that may live on much longer than the few that make 100 episodes.
ABC, with its penchant for canceling programs on a whim (mostly, and most aggravatingly, even before a finale airs) is emerging as the network with clear eyes set on the TV dreamscape of tomorrow.
And all it took was a whiff of Scandal.
What do you think? Is this the TV business model of tomorrow? Or is it doomed to fail? Please leave comments below and don’t forget to subscribe to the CableTV.com blog for the latest TV news.
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