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Fred "Rerun" Barry once commented here.

January 30th, 2005

Make Your Own Cable Network

With the recent news that ESPN is creating yet another “original series” for itself, instead of actually showing information related to sports, I think I’ve finally come up with a step-by-step method for making your own cable network. Join me, won’t you?

  1. Start with pure information and fact-based programming as long as possible. Remember when The Weather Channel only showed weather? Or when ESPN only showed sports? Me, too. Pick a topic and come up with something that is updated frequently, is somewhat exciting and/or timely, and ideally hits with a big demographic like young men. For our example we’ll choose skin care products. The term “metrosexual” may be dead and buried, but skin care is big for young men. This channel will be called simply “Metro.”
  2. Only broadcast as much as you can. No all-night reruns of the day’s programs just yet. Sell out the night to paid programming or do something very bold – go off the air for a few hours.
  3. Build viewership through word of mouth, and later, bus stop ads. This is where the real marketing comes in. Metro needs to be not just a television station, not just a viewing experience, but a part of the core consumer’s lifestyle. We need to sell the entire Metro lifestyle. We start by just getting the word out slowly and letting it snowball. When the time is right, we start selling sweaters and t-shirts on our website. And of course, public transit ads. Lots of them.
  4. Now that we have a buzz, keep it going for 3 years or so. Develop new programming that still speaks to the core audience, but don’t fall into reality shows or dramas just yet. Doing so right now would betray the audience’s trust – after all, they watch Metro to extend their lifestyle, remember? They’re not into fiction yet.
  5. Pick up reruns of Conan. CNBC can do it. Show them at some early hour and rebrand it, saying that it fits in with the Metro lifestyle. It does, right?
  6. Show reruns all night long. Now we’re big enough to do this, so roll it out.
  7. Watch ratings decline due to duplication of information available on the Internet. Ooops.
  8. Develop fictional hour-long programming designed to appeal to the Metro lifestyle. Now’s the time! Strike while the iron is hot! People don’t care about integrating our lifestyle-based programming into their lives as much as they used to, and advertisers aren’t spending as much. So we follow HBO’s lead and develop hour-long fictional programs that have some sort of loose connection to our channel’s original purpose. For instance, a show that is specifically about a metrosexual would be terrible. But a show with one in the supporting cast? Now you’ve got it.
  9. Develop reality shows. Iron is red hot! Go for it! Reality shows. “Makeup Boot Camp!” Bring over some half-baked reruns from NBC, ABC, or CBS – one of which will want to buy us soon.
  10. Watch as ratings come back up. More people will watch. But there’s just one problem: now people expect us to only have reality shows and dramas, instead of the information they used to expect from us.

Sure, it’s not perfect. But the beauty is that it’s a cycle. Now we can reintroduce our original, original shows… and once people get bored of that, go back to dramas and reality shows or whatever is hot. See? It makes perfect sense.

Posted in Television, Movies, and Music

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