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The afterlife of television

Adriene Hill Apr 21, 2015
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Some reruns are on so often, you can spot them pretty instantly.

Shows like “Seinfeld,” “Friends,” and “Law and Order” are the gold standards of syndicated television; seemingly immortal in their appeal to audiences and advertisers. And for years, they’ve been steady money makers for cable.

But today, the afterlife for television is changing. More shows are finding their heavenly home on streaming services like Netflix and Amazon.

“It’s not good news for the cable networks,” says Tom Nunan, a film and television producer and a lecturer at UCLA. “They  now have an even more dynamic set of competitors out there.”

Viacom, which owns more than a dozen cable channels, says its been hit by shrinking audiences for reruns.

According to the research group Kantar Media, advertising buys on nationally syndicated TV have been relatively flat in the past year.

But, says Nunan, streaming is positive for the folks who make television. “Now there are just more and more markets for original material, there are more and more markets for titles that have been sitting on the shelf.”

There’s an afterlife for reality shows, like “Dance Moms.”

Reincarnation can be successful for serial dramas, like ‘The Good Wife,” where you want to see episodes in order, and maybe all at once. 

But all reruns, on every platform, face new hurdles. 

Like a nearly endless stream of new shows, for example. “Game of Thrones,” “Orange is the New Black,” “Mad Men,” “Veep,” “The Americans”—And that’s just scratching the surface.

 

And reruns aren’t just competing with everything that’s new, they’re competing with everything that’s old. “If you’ve got a sitcom and you want to sell it in syndication you are still going up against the likes of ‘Friends’ and ‘Seinfeld,'” says Derek Kompare, professor at Southern Methodist University and author of “Rerun Nation: How Repeats Invented American Television.”

Because sometimes, nothing’s better than watching Ross and Rachel try to figure it out, even if you know exactly how the story goes.

If you’re a member of your local public radio station, we thank you — because your support helps those stations keep programs like Marketplace on the air.  But for Marketplace to continue to grow, we need additional investment from those who care most about what we do: superfans like you.

Your donation — as little as $5 — helps us create more content that matters to you and your community, and to reach more people where they are – whether that’s radio, podcasts or online.

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