Panelists: Don't Dilute Cable Programming


New Orleans -- Programmers can offset the high cost of producing shows
through co-production deals, repurposing existing content and developing
programming with sponsors, but they must avoid the danger of diluting the value
of their content to cable operators, panelists at a National Show session said

Cox Communications Inc. executive vice president of operations Patrick Esser
called reducing programming-production costs all well and good, but when
programming companies -- especially those that own broadcast properties -- air
programming on broadcast that once was exclusive to cable, it dilutes the value
to the operator, he said.

'Cable programming is a unique proposition,' Esser said. 'We want product you
can't get unless you subscribe to cable. When it becomes too tilted, you've
ruined that proposition.'

Esser did not criticize the trend toward repurposing certain programming,
adding that The Walt Disney Co.'s SoapNet came as no surprise to him.

And the networks' plans to create new revenue streams through merchandising
product characters, and even releasing theatrical films based on cable shows, is
a good way to offset costs, he added.

But Esser takes exception when exclusive cable programming, like
Nickelodeon's Blues Clues,ends up on a sister broadcast

'When Blues Clues becomes that big, I'm happy,' Esser said. 'But when
they make it part of the CBS Saturday-morning block, I stop smiling. That's
where they crossed the line with me.'

Programmers on the panel defended repurposing content on broadcast as a way
to promote the brand and drive viewership to the cable channel.

And they also said they are very careful in what programming they decide to

Turner General Entertainment Networks president Bradley Siegel said
repurposing must be done in a way that promotes the brand.

'Programming decisions have to fit through the brand filter. You wouldn't see
TNT [Turner Network Television] repurposing [The WB Television Network show]
Reba. Not everything we have on the air is drama,' Siegel said -- an
allusion to TNT's much-repeated tag line, 'We Know Drama.'