Reruns sap Big Four

Study says midseason repeats cause ratings erosion

NEW YORK — The increase in midseason repeats is accelerating steady ratings erosion by the major broadcast networks, according to a new study from BJK&E Media Group, which documents the repeats’ impact.

The number of reruns has steadily increased in December, January and March, in part to offset the extension of the traditional broadcast season from mid-April until late May that occurred two years ago.

25% repeats in March

In December 1996, for instance, 28% of all regular-series program hours were repeats, up from just 8% 10 years earlier, while last March, 25% of series program hours were repeats, up from 16%.

BJK&E argues that midseason ratings erosion results directly from the repeat cycles. For the four major networks in the 1996-97 season, December reruns averaged household ratings 12% below originals in that month, and January repeats were off 15%, the study said. And 36 of the 56 series that aired repeats in March or April showed share declines in May vs. their October-to-February averages, as viewers become accustomed to tuning out broadcast networks.

“We believe that midseason repeats interrupt normal viewing patterns, encourage channel surfing and cause viewers to sample other viewing options,” said the ad-buying firm’s report from senior partner Steve Sternberg.

The falloff ultimately affects network sales, because buyers factor in the higher percentage of repeats in their overall ratings projections.

Economic benefits

Still, adding repeats provides other economic benefits to the networks and local stations. The extension of the traditional broadcast season requires them to spread out originals into more weeks, as affiliates need high ratings during May sweeps to set future ad rates.

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