Open Mike by Robert Rose

This Is No Time To Take The Weekends Off

On Saturday and Sundays, many TV stations are sticking to the script of network sports, news and public affairs, repeats of weekday programs and paid programming — way too much paid programming. It isn’t offering anything to viewers or long-term prospects. But if you're smart, you can use weekends to broaden appeal and differentiate yourself from the pack.
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TVNewsCheck,

Over the past few months I’ve met with scores of local broadcasters while crisscrossing the country pitching my syndicated show, Raw Travel. It’s been both a great pleasure and an eye opener.

Over the years, I’ve successfully produced programming that brings new audiences and revenue streams to local broadcasters. Starting in 2002, I syndicated the first English-language series for young, U.S. born Latinos before selling the company in 2008. It took time, but our shows allowed stations in key Hispanic markets to aggregate Latino viewing and garner rapidly growing Hispanic ad revenue.

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Some stations did better than others, of course, and the single biggest factor was the strength of their sales staffs. Hungry, creative reps seized the opportunity to fish in different waters.

From talking with broadcasters, I believe there is now a similar opportunity: weekends.

On Saturday and Sundays, broadcasters are sticking to the script of network sports, news and public affairs, repeats of weekday programs and paid programming — way too much paid programming. Admitting that paid programming is “crack” for the industry while shaking your head doesn’t change that it’s killing your weekends. It isn’t offering anything to viewers or long-term prospects.

But if you're smart, you can use weekends to broaden appeal and differentiate yourself from the pack.

Brand Connections

Research shows that TV viewing remains a major weekend activity. Then why do so many broadcasters all but give up on the weekends? One excuse I’ve heard is that ad sales staffs “just sell rotators” on weekends. I’ve been in ad sales my entire 20-plus-year career. My suggestion: If your staff can only sell rotators or infomercials, consider upgrading staff or sales leadership.

Rotators are lazy. Laziness doesn’t save an industry, especially one that is under assault from all sides.

So what to do? Schedule unique programming that engages people and provides unique sales hooks less dependent on Nielsen’s guestimates — not “potted plant” shows, not sub-par “fill” programming, not repeats and certainly not more infomercials.

Quality programming will motivate sales staffs, especially if stations are able to tap into genres with sizable but under-served niches and psychographics.

Programming for Hispanics in markets with large Hispanic communities still makes sense. Many Hispanics don’t subscribe to cable. But do it right. Twelve years after launching our shows, I’m amazed at how U.S. born Latinos (65+% of U.S. Hispanics) are still so misunderstood. Targeting is not the same as tokenism.  

Another genre I think is perfect to complement weekend sports and news while also appealing to a large (and in some cases, multicultural) audience is travel. Passport possession and tourism ad spending in the U.S. have exploded. The success of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown on CNN suggests that the genre could be as popular here as it is in Canada, England and Australia

Despite its age, home Improvement is an example of a genre with staying power. Home improvement spending continues to grow and with the real estate market rebounding, it could see a resurgence if broadcasters give it a chance.

With sponsor underwriting, stations should be looking for opportunities to produce localized content that dovetails and extends unique, national productions in these genres. How about a regional travel news minute? Or Hispanic heroes vignettes? Or how-tos from the local hardware store?

Offering real programming would give broadcasters exciting avenues to expand reach. Those viewers can then perhaps be lured back to news, sports and other programming on the station.  

I don’t have any magic answers. But stations need to get out of their comfort zones. See what people are responding to online, at events, in the local entertainment weekly or local radio.   

Experiment with weekends. See what works.  Maybe what you’ll find are viable alternatives to off-network repeats of repeats and infomercials.

Time waits for no one, especially for TV in 2012 … I mean 2013.

Robert G. Rose is television entrepreneur whose focus is on developing business models that target underserved audiences. Since 2000, Rose has produced more than 300 episodes of television and negotiated partnerships with major marketers such as General Motors, Volkswagen, McDonalds, State Farm and Verizon Wireless. He is also the producer and host of  Raw Travel, which is launching via broadcast syndication and internationally this fall.

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Comments (1) -

Bob Jay Nickname posted over 3 years ago
As someone that worked with Robert when he sold local TV, I can attest to the fact that he was exceptionally successful at maximizing revenues for us on our weekend schedules. He knows what he is talking about from actual experience, not just theorizing.
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Ratings

Overnights, adults 18-49 for September 29, 2016
  • 1.
    1.6/6
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    1.2/4
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    1.2/4
  • 4.
    0.9/3
  • 5.
    0.6/2
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    0.3/1
Source: Nielsen

Reviews

  • Rob Owen

    Easily fall’s best broadcast network comedy pilot, NBC’s The Good Place offers a clever high-concept premise that’s complemented with intelligent, sometimes absurdist humor. Created by Michael Schur, co-creator of NBC’s Parks and Recreation, The Good Place is a highly serialized series that’s essentially set in heaven and stars Kristen Bell and Ted Danson. NBC made five episodes of The Good Place available for review, and the show not only holds up, but also it improves, deepening characters that initially feel one-note and frequently leaving viewers guessing with cliffhanger endings to many of the episodes. The combination of snappy dialogue and winning but flawed characters makes The Good Place a great bet for fans of smart TV comedy.

  • Maureen Ryan

    Pitch has swagger, for good reason. It gets the big things right; the Fox drama about the first female baseball player in the Major Leagues is one of the year’s most assured and exciting debuts. But part of what impresses about the pilot is also the way it confidently strings together so many small but telling details. Ginny (Kylie Bunbury) is the first woman to be called up from the minors to the big leagues, and no show since Friday Night Lights has done a better job of portraying the internal and external pressures that weigh heavily on young athletes asked to do much more than merely succeed on the field. Pitch will likely do a good job of getting viewers to root for it. The hope is that the show won’t be an impressive, short-lived curiosity, but rather a long-term phenomenon.

  • Kevin Fallon

    In a fall TV season that’s already making a splash for championing diverse, distinctive voices in an array of projects that they created, wrote, and starred in, Better Things on FX stands out. The show is created by, written by, and starsPamela Adlon. She plays Sam Fox, the single mother of three daughters modeled after her own reality-show-ready experience raising three girls in Los Angeles following a divorce. Sam is also, like Adlon, a working actress — on shows both raunchy, a la Californication, and animated for children, like her role on Recess. It’s a refreshingly blunt take on single motherhood without sacrificing the warmth of parental love, portraying the dance between selfishness and selflessness that’s at the heart of being a parent — especially one weathering the hormonal fireworks of a household of four women at different ages.

  • David Wiegand

    The fall TV season doesn’t count as much as it used to — we already know that. But no matter how many retreads the broadcast networks throw at viewers in the next few months, this fall will be memorable because of the premiere of Atlanta on Tuesday, Sept. 6, on FX. The half-hour comedy created by and starring Donald Glover (Community), simply and brilliantly recalibrates our expectations of what a TV comedy is and how black lives are portrayed on the medium.

  • Louisa Ada Seltzer

    The second reboot of the 1980s John Candy movie Uncle Buck, bumped by ABC from midseason, has the same tired jokes you'll find on any second-rate sitcom. Too bad, because Mike Epps is appealing and ABC would be wise to keep him around for future shows, but there’s just not enough to this show to suggest it will last past summer. It also airs against NBC’s America’s Got Talent, summer’s No. 1 program on broadcast, which may make it even harder to find an audience.

  • Neil Genzlinger

    Bryan Cranston brings his Tony Award-winning interpretation of President Lyndon B. Johnson to television in an adaptation of the Robert Schenkkan play All the Way, and it’s still quite a sight to behold, just as it was on Broadway in 2014. Nothing beats witnessing this kind of larger-than-life portrayal onstage, of course. But the television version, presented by HBO, offers plenty of rewards, allowing Cranston to work the close-ups and liberating him from the confines of a theater set. Cranston’s performance is a gem — in his hands, this accidental president comes across as an amazing bundle of contradictions, someone who seems at once too vulgar for the job and just right for it.

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