Final CTAM panel takes a temperature reading

Jul 15, 2002  •  Post A Comment

The traditional end to the CTAM Summit, cable’s annual educational conference under way this week in Boston, is the closing “Reality Check: What’s Hot, What’s Not” panel, which often is missed by cable summiteers already racing home as the convention winds up.
The final panel this year will be looking at “programming, technology and ideas,” said Rich Cronin, president and CEO of Game Show Network and the panel’s customary moderator. So for those who will be checking out of their Boston hotels before the “What’s Hot, What’s Not” panel even gets started, here is Mr. Cronin’s summary of the highlights:
What’s Hot: “`The Osbournes,’ the hottest show in the TV business, broadcast or cable. … Reality is still hotter than ever; nostalgia is still hotter than ever. Crime is hot.
“We’ll talk about buzz vs. ratings. There are very few shows in the history of cable that had both. `South Park’ is probably the biggest example. … I think having a show with strong ratings and spectacular buzz does more for a midsized network [like GSN] than a show that got big ratings but no buzz. I’d rather have an `Emeril’ [with great buzz and OK ratings] than a `Witchblade’ [which has great ratings but no buzz].”
What’s Not: “Plenty of shows. … One of the things that has not been trumpeted by the cable industry is that acquisitions for the large part drive cable ratings. `The Dead Zone’ [which recently premiered on USA Network], for example. Big hit, the biggest basic-cable drama in history, but it’s only on once a week. What they get their ratings from day in and day out are reruns.”
What’s Hot: “TiVo and PVRs. … PVRs will change the economics of the business drastically. … [GSN] is relatively TiVo-proof. We have shows [from the earliest days of game shows on television] that include a lot of product placement, they have a lot of sponsorship, they have prizing, so the advertising is built into the programming. It’s completely acceptable and in fact it enhances the programs.”
What’s Not: “AOL TV and WebTV. The Internet on TV has never caught on with consumers.”
What’s Hot: “VOD is a hot idea, and over the next year we’re going to see it rolled out. … PVRs are a hot idea, but there’s a dark side. … How [do PVRs] change the economics of the business? PVRs are going to force more product placement than anyone ever wanted. It’s going to become like `The Truman Show.”’
What’s Not: “The biggest idea that’s not working is creative accounting. … The Adelphia mess, that’s dragged down other cable stocks. That’s unfair and they’ll bounce back, [so] it’s a good time to buy cable stocks.”
Mr. Cronin also has a final word for CTAM summiteers who think that now they can safely give the “What’s Hot, What’s Not” panel a miss:
He’ll be giving away prizes that illustrate TV technologies that turned out to be most definitely not hot, but have since (thanks to eBay) morphed into hot collectibles. Among the giveaways: an eight-track tape player and a Sony Betamax video recorder.