CBS brings back the oldies

Listen on-demand to this segment of the show from January 27, 2018

And here I thought the closest thing to immortality on Earth was supposed to be a temporary government program. But it turns out that old CBS shows never really die, either. "Murphy Brown", "Magnum PI", and "Cagney and Lacey" are getting second chances, too.

Honestly, I don't think we should be surprised that networks are reviving the old hits. New original programming has flourished on cable channels and streaming (often for highly targeted auds). It's risky and expensive for the big networks to compete.

Revivals are a midway step between new shows and syndication. Cheaper to develop, a built-in audience, and it breathes new value into old properties for rerun.

Brian Dean points out that it's not very original.

And he's right: It's totally unoriginal. But with Fox and NBC going full-tilt with live shows and super-cheap contest programming, it doesn't surprise me. There are still some great original scripted network shows out there ("The Good Place", "Blackish"), but they're a big gamble.

Streaming has amazing original programming ("The Crown", "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt") and can relay great foreign programming, too ("Dreamland", "Occupied"). Narrowcasting lives large on streaming. Plus, they get incredible feedback from the user data.

Plus, the ability to binge-watch or to stream on-demand means people can either pick up a series well after it's begun or catch on to something at a different time from everyone else.

No doubt this detracts a bit from the old role that television used to play in creating a common mass culture -- I still remember "Must See TV" Thursday nights on NBC. But with declining production costs (brought about by technology) and vastly improved distribution methods (again, thanks to technology), it's inevitable that audience fragmentation is going to occur and even accelerate. It means we each get more of something much closer to what we want to watch, even if we're watching a lot less in common.

That's what capitalism tends to do: Drive closer and closer to the specific demands of ever-shrinking groups of consumers. As production costs decline and product refinement improves, we inevitably move from the Model T towards the bespoke.

Brian Gongol

Brian Gongol

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