Question: Last week you mentioned that NBC wanted to put cost-effective "alternative" programming in the 8 pm/ET slot, by which I presume you mean reality TV and game shows like Deal or No Deal. But doesn't the benefit of reality TV's low production cost get canceled out by the lack of syndication opportunity in the future? Sure, Heroes may be more expensive to produce than Deal or No Deal, but I'll bet that money is made back down the line when it comes time for syndication and DVD sales, which seems to be where the big money is these days. No one's going to watch a rerun of Deal or No Deal. But a daily syndication of Heroes and the Season 1 DVDs will probably make NBC some big cash. Doesn't that balance out the greater production cost?
Answer: When you've got a hit, you're absolutely right. But as you may have noticed, NBC isn't exactly overstuffed with Heroes-size success stories. Few networks are. The economic reality is that NBC is in a bind — it needs to keep overall costs down while balancing a schedule between short-term gains from inexpensive reality/game shows like Deal or No Deal and what it hopes will be a new generation of hits (a slow, risky and costly process). NBC seriously overplayed its hand this season when Jeff Zucker initially announced that scripted shows were for the most part no longer welcome in the 8 pm time period (except on Thursdays), and NBC made perhaps an even bigger blunder this week by placing the tacky The Real Wedding Crashers after Heroes, thus polluting a 10 pm/ET time period with this sort of crud. (Thankfully, it crashed.) All of the networks are in the business of trying to develop hits from which all kinds of back-end revenue flows. But in today's TV world, it's not the only priority. Every network is also looking for the next American Idol/Dancing with the Stars/Survivor/Deal or No Deal as well.