Syndication and the Broken Market

It’s no secret that TV syndication is a changing and complicated process. When do programs become syndicated? Who should receive the rights to the show? Is it worth it to syndicate a program? Will a profit be earned? These questions are the foundation of changes coming in the TV industry regarding syndication.

Years ago Hulu began establishing agreements with networks to receive current season episodes at some point soon after they first aired. Each network has their own policy. For example, ABC gives day after access to the latest episodes, while Fox could be anywhere from eight to thirty days after, and BBC, the most strict policy of all, does not give Hulu access to current season episodes.

Other networks have not always been as lucky as Hulu. Generally if a show airs on NBC it takes seasons before it can be aired on USA. No day-after syndication has been allowed because it creates extra competition, but in recent years that rule has been bent to the point that quick syndication is becoming a normal idea. Last year Hollywood Reporter announced that new episodes of Scandal would make their way from ABC to BET in a matter of eight days -not three seasons or one hundred episodes later.

broken TVAs these syndication changes have been developing for normal channels, the market for Netflix and Amazon has also opened up. CBS’s Under the Dome became available on Amazon four days after it aired on television, faster than any show in the past. If Amazon and Netflix are able to continue striking deals that give them quick access to shows, they could have a leg up on the competition, becoming direct competitors with TV channels.

While the changing syndication business has opened up opportunities for online streaming companies like Netflix, traditional TV networks have struggled to find shows that do well in syndication. In an effort to keep up with the changing times, long-established TV networks have been reevaluating the way they do business. The bottom line is that traditional syndication is becoming a thing of the past.

In the old days, it was common knowledge that only the most successful TV shows made it into syndication. After all, a show had to make it past the 100-episode mark to even be considered. These days, shows are being evaluated by what MediaPost has deemed Future Viewing Potential, or FVP. Strangely, a show doesn’t have to be particularly good to have Future Viewing Potential. The shows with the strongest FVP are the shows that receive relentless media attention, regardless of low ratings. Some may argue that a show like Pretty Little Liars has been around for a few too many seasons (like seriously, we should already know who “A” is), but the buzz that surrounds the show has kept it alive, and will undoubtedly result in a future syndication deal.

In an interview with Variety, Frank Chicha, the senior VP of programming for Fox Television Stations, explained that he believes the syndication business is “broken.” After Fox picked up several high-rated shows to syndicate on its national networks, the network discovered that it was losing money. The shows had failed in several markets. In an effort to push back against the changing market, Fox Television Stations began producing several new shows in-house. Since beginning in-house production, Fox has been able to test its own shows in different markets and find out which of the new shows have the FVP that the old shows lacked.  It has become a trial and error process for the traditional TV networks to produce shows that do well in such an evolved syndication market.

Figure out your program’s Future Viewing Potential by screening content on MediaShowroom.

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