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The TV Show Reboot: A Good Play for Advertisers?

February 14th, 2019   ||    by Susan Kuchinskas

Audiences love the TV show reboot—at least in theory. Excitement is always high when a beloved vintage show gets the reboot treatment. A case in point: Roseanne. The premiere garnered 18 million viewers, making it most likely the biggest TV show reboot of all time, according to Pop Culture.

Of course, that particular revival tanked due to racist comments by its eponymous star. But ABC is doing quite well with the resulting, Barr-less spin-off, The Conners, says Ad Age. A spot on the new series costs 21 percent more than the average cost of a commercial on Roseanne.

That premium illustrates how the glow of good times remembered can rub off on a new show—in this case, even if it’s sort of a reboot of a reboot.

Era of the TV Show Reboot

In today’s world, reboots have become the norm—for movies, television shows, and even books. Charmed, Magnum P.I., and Murphy Brown were the big reboots of 2018, but there were several others.

Many of them try to give a modern spin to the reboot in an attempt to attract younger viewers as well as old die-hards. This modernization can take the form of a more diverse cast, and/or the treatment of current cultural concerns.

For example, although typically played by older white men, the latest incarnation of the Doctor on Doctor Who is a woman. As Wired notes, this works because over the course of the show’s nearly sixty years, the Doctor has changed his face, personality, and traveling companions.

Wired goes on to say that diverse casting in itself isn’t enough. A TV show reboot must push the show’s world into the future instead of reprising familiar plot lines and dialogue with new faces.

This is what made the reboot of Battlestar Galactica a success, says IndieWire. Although fans were initially skeptical, they were won over by creator Ronald D. Moore’s determination to reinvent the TV science fiction genre.

Maybe that’s where Murphy Brown went wrong. It must have seemed that Brown, a straight-talking but quirky television journalist, was a character that resonated today. And critics loved it, but audiences didn’t support it enough.

Although the show tackled current topics, such as a reporter being beaten at a political rally, Vanity Fair says it struggled to keep up with today’s accelerated news cycle. When even Saturday Night Live, with its famous last-minute rewrites, struggles to respond to the latest tweets, a thirty-minute sitcom just wasn’t agile enough.

Riding the Buzz

The ratings, of course, tell the real story for advertisers—and the picture they paint is that while premiers of TV reboots can attract big audiences, often as not, interest in these shows fades. It’s something to keep in mind during upfront negotiations.

There’s another way advertisers can ride the buzz for a TV show reboot: A reboot often renews interest in the original series, available as TV reruns or on other platforms, according to CNN Business.

While many old shows can’t be shown again due to licensing issues, those that can have been rewarding. Oldies but goodies Friends and Grey’s Anatomy, both on Netflix, were the most-binged shows of 2018, reports Variety.

While audiences used to dread the TV rerun season, the concept of reruns is having a moment with these shows and others like them. That means that syndication of old shows could be a gold mine for local television stations—and a smart play for advertisers.

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