Breathing new life into rerun season

JOHN INTINI March 26 2007

Breathing new life into rerun season

JOHN INTINI March 26 2007

Breathing new life into rerun season

BY JOHN INTINI TV executives get nervous during the rerun season. Unlike in the past, it’s the time of year when most viewers tune out—why would anyone with 499 other channels and a myriad of other entertainment options (video games, the Internet and DVDs, to name just a few) want to watch a show they’ve already seen? Even top-rated programs lose about half their audience the second time around, making holding on to viewers and ad dollars during the off-season a major problem for broadcasters. NBC thinks “newpeats” may be the answer.

This week, for the first time ever, two previously aired episodes of The Office—NBC’s popular comedy about the wacky staff at a paper company in small-town Pennsylvania—were spliced together to make an hourlong show. Some of the original scenes were cut to make room for new content (material scraped from the cutting-room floor). The hope is to please potential advertisers by generating enough buzz around the show to attract new viewers, while giving diehard fans a little something they haven’t seen before and a reason to tune in again. It’s like a record label putting out a greatest hits album with a couple of new tracks. (Some people, of course, call that a cash grab.)

It’s all part of the effort to extend the reach and profitability of brands like The Office. First there were webisodes. Now we have newpeats. The idea in both cases: additional revenue with minimal costs.

But don’t proclaim the rebirth of the rerun just yet. The idea could just as easily backfire. Will the experience be “new” enough to pull back viewers who have already seen the episodes? And if the scenes didn’t make the cut the first time around, what makes them worth watching now? For now, newpeats are just an experiment. NBC claims it has no plans to produce “newruns” of other shows—unless, of course, the experiment works. M