Competition between TV networks to air top movie content on television is so intense that some stations are willing to pay eight-figure fees, in some cases committing to healthy per-box-office-dollar payment formulas even before the movies formally open on the big screen, according to an IHS Screen Digest US. Cable Network Intelligence report.
Nearly 10,000 unique English-language movies aired last year on basic cable networks, accounting for 13.5 percent of total television air time of the 79 basic cable networks included in the study.
While Comcast/NBC Universal, Viacom and Disney were the three network groups with the greatest amount of total air time on basic cable, those having the largest amount of movie air time were AMC, News Corp. and Time Warner, as shown in the table attached. For instance, movies on AMC Networks accounted for three percent of all air time on the 79 largest US cable networks. An estimated two percent of the air time was accounted for by AMC’s other content, such as original programming like its smash series “Mad Men.”
On the whole, cable-network-owning media conglomerates use their existing film content in two ways: One is in opening up a dedicated movie channel like the Fox Movie Channel as an outlet for aged content; the other is by either launching or refocusing an existing network’s line-up to include significant amounts of movie content, as in the case with the TBS channel.
“The large expenditures undertaken by media conglomerates to license movies to their basic cable networks are justifiable, even if single-title prices regularly top $20 million for a first-run cable window,” said Erik Brannon, analyst for US cable networks at IHS. “A good example is the movie ‘Iron Man,’ which was snapped up by FX Network for $22 million, prior to the conclusion of its theatrical run. The expenditures are defensible because significant portions of the consuming public consider their pay-TV subscription to be of greater value than other forms of entertainment. Moreover, the number of movies aired on a cable network can be a formidable weapon in a network’s goal to increase audience size, which in turn can be leveraged to entice more advertisers.”
Of the movies shown on TV in 2011, 53 per cent could be considered “fairly recent,” with theatrical debuts that came after January 1st 2000. Another 20 per cent appeared on the big screen between 1990 and 2000. Dramas, comedies and romantic comedies were the biggest categories.