Was ‘Modern Family’ a Bad Investment for NBCU’s USA Network?

Nov 13, 2013  •  Post A Comment

USA Network paid around $1.4 million an episode to air repeats of "Modern Family," but so far that big bet doesn’t appear to be paying off, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The ABC comedy is the centerpiece of USA’s prime-time schedule this fall, with the cable network seeking to lure a younger audience with the show.

USA "was so confident ‘Modern Family’ would do well that it negotiated higher ad rates than advertisers had previously paid for the same prime-time slots occupied last season by shows including reruns of aging crime dramas like ‘NCIS’ and ‘Law & Order: SVU,’" the story notes.

But no one’s laughing just six weeks after the debut of the strategy, the piece reports. The comedy is averaging 9% fewer viewers than its time slots delivered last year in the key 18-49 demographic. Total audience, meanwhile, has plunged 40%.

"What’s more, the show has delivered only about half the viewers in the 18-to-49 group that USA guaranteed, requiring the cable network to give advertisers ‘make goods’ — extra ad time — to offset the shortfalls, media buyers say," the piece reports.

One bright spot: Viewership for "Modern Family" has bumped up steadily since it debuted on USA Network. The network says reruns of popular shows still require months to gain traction.

The repeats of "Modern Family" are drawing an audience that’s 11 years younger, on average, as well as more affluent and better educated, than the typical USA viewer, the piece notes.

"’Modern Family’ has always been a long-term strategic play for us, and we are pleased with its week-to-week double-digit growth," Linda Yaccarino, president of ad sales at parent NBCUniversal, told The Journal.

One issue might be the shift in USA’s strategy from being known as a drama network to seeking a foothold in comedy, the piece notes. USA plans to debut its own original sitcoms, and is counting on "Modern Family" to help build an audience.

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