How NBC Can Save 'Studio 60'

For the Price of a Latte, You Can Help a Show

By Published on .

I have an idea for how NBC can save "Studio 60" and experiment with a new business model that ultimately might help save the broadcast networks: Ask me to pay for it. Set a price of $1, or $2, or even $3 per episode, and count me in.
I'm willing to do my part to help this great, though uneven, show. Won't you help too? | Comment on this column in the 'Your Opinion' box below.
I'm willing to do my part to help this great, though uneven, show. Won't you help too? | Comment on this column in the 'Your Opinion' box below. Credit: NBC

7.7 million viewers
Cut this across the 7.7 million viewers the show currently has and even if 3 million -- fewer than half of them -- pony up at $1 each, that would cover the costs of producing Aaron Sorkin's lavish prime-time drama. And NBC can still sell ads on the show to high-end advertisers interested in paying a premium to reach an upscale, college-educated audience that is so engaged with the program it's willing to kick in a share to keep it going. Give us limited commercial interruptions from advertisers willing to hit a niche audience with a more targeted (read: relevant) message.

I know what you're thinking: You can't run ads if you charge viewers. Just ask HBO. But that's bull. The newspaper and magazine industries thrived for more than a century on exactly such a dual-revenue-stream model in which readers understood that the advertising kept the cost of the media product affordable.

Number of eyeballs
Fans of "Studio 60" -- it's a great show, if uneven -- give NBC and the broadcasters a lot of credit for taking the chance on such a show. But to what end? No matter the quality of the audience, and "Studio 60" has a quality audience, broadcast economics make it almost impossible for any show to succeed unless it is able to reach a certain quantity of viewers, as The Wall Street Journal pointed out recently in a smart piece on the series. It's still about the number of eyeballs, despite what you hear every advertiser and every media buyer in the universe preaching these days. And that's too bad.

Now that NBC has committed to a full season of "Studio 60," the expectation is the network will move it out of its Monday night 10 p.m. time slot. But again, the point is missed. When the series airs doesn't matter much, because its viewers are the DVR households. We will capture it wherever the network moves it, and we will still watch it when we want to. We'll even pay to do that.

Just ask us.
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