Desperately seeking hits: MPG

December 1, 2008

Are people going to watch more TV because they’ve no money to go out? According to media buying and planning agency MPG — a subsidiary of Havas, the world’s sixth-largest ad firm — the answer is no, unless the TV networks come up with better shows.

“That’s inventory for us, that’s our supply,” MPG Chief Operating Officer Steve Lanzano told the Reuters Media Summit in New York. “The thing is, there are no hit shows out there on the big networks,” he added. “And if there’s no supply in the marketplace, that just makes it harder and harder for us.”

With the economy seizing up and people seeking more stay-at-home entertainment, this could be the perfect time for the big networks to hook people on to some new shows and boost ratings. That would bring in advertising revenue at a time when many advertisers are scaling back spending.

But the networks don’t seem quite up for it yet, Lanzano said. “”They need hits and nobody has them right now.”

Fox, Lanzano said, was a bit edgier than the others. “Clearly, they have these must-see shows that they’ve been able to promote.”

Meanwhile, CBS — which probably has the largest number of total viewers — could do with some younger programming, Lanzano said. “Have they been able to lower their age a bit?”

As for NBC, “they’ve been fortunate because of Sarah Palin.” Shows like 30 Rock and of course, SNL, have gotten a boost because of Tina Fey’s turn as the former Republican vice-presidential candidate, but with Jay Leno going off the air soon, they might be stuck looking around for another winner.

ABC has done well with younger viewers, but still needs a big audience winner to bring home the big bucks, Lanzano said.

Only the cable channels have met with some success in churning out hit shows, he said. “To some degree you see the breakout hits are on the HBOs and the Showtimes because their hands are not tied.” Cable channels also give their shows more time to grow, unlike the networks, which try too many different things in hopes of a quick hit.

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