Media Outlook 2001: Domestic Television

Elizabeth Herbst
Studios USA Domestic Television

Due to the recent consolidation of stations by the major broadcasting groups, the future of the independent program supplier has come into question.

Today, Paramount, Disney, Fox, and Tribune can launch a program on their stations and clear a minimum of 32 percent of the country. The NBC/Hearst/Gannett affiliate consortium reaches more than 60 percent of the U.S., a figure that will likely grow as time goes on. Access to immediate distribution gives these station groups a distinct advantage, but it doesn't eliminate the independent producer–distributor as a force majeure.

History has demonstrated that viewers don't watch consortiums – they watch good shows. For stations to survive, they need to be able to choose from a variety of production sources and to put the best shows in the best time periods. Otherwise, when station monoliths like Fox/Chris-Craft and CBS! Viacom have to rely primarily on their sister syndication units to produce shows, they face double jeopardy.