Cable Networks Stay Focused on Quality


Los Angeles — Despite competitive and
technological challenges, cable programmers
must continue to produce quality,
original content to remain successful in a
crowded marketplace, according to several
network executives speaking on a panel at
The Cable Show 2010 last week.

The industry’s slew of major original
scripted and reality hit shows such as AMC’s
Mad Men and TNT’s The Closer have allowed
networks to better identify their brands and
stand out against the multitude of competitors
in the marketplace, said Ed Carroll, chief
operating officer of Rainbow Entertainment
Services, who was part of the session last
Tuesday afternoon.

“What all these shows have in common
is, they make the networks distinctive and
hard to replace,” Carroll said. “You develop
fans that are attached to the networks and
the brands — at the end of
the day, that’s what we’re all

NBC Universal executive
vice president and general
manager for Bravo Media
Frances Berwick said the
success of such reality shows as the Real
franchise has allowed the service
to change its brand image from one reliant
on acquired and repurposed content to
one known mostly for its original fare.

“We’ve been able to do more [due to strong
original programming]; we’ve doubled our
number of original hours in the past three
years, but we can also move away from [the]
acquired and repurposed standpoint,” she

History president and general manager
Nancy Dubuc added that the more successful
a network is at developing original programming,
the more pressure it faces to keep
rolling out new content that stays within the
brand identity.

“It’s that balance of keeping the pressure
on the team but staying true to what distinguishes
you as a brand, which is why viewers
watch you,” she said.

Executives warned that the advent of the
Internet and other technologies
that allow viewers
to watch quality
original cable fare free of
charge or without commercials
threatens the dual revenue
financial model that
supports original programming production.

Carroll said onl ine authent icat ion
efforts can also help maintain a show’s value
to advertisers by disabling fast-forwarding
through commercials.

While the debate over TV Everywhere
models continue, FX executive vice president
of original programming Nick Grad said that
in the end it’s the content that attracts viewers
to the various platforms.

“You have to work on making the best
show possible,” he said.