Networks continue steady migration to cable

Last week’s announcement that NBC will acquire Bravo from Cablevision Systems represents a milestone in television, the The New York Times said.

For the first time, all four major broadcast networks will have at least one fully controlled entertainment network on cable. The broadcast network executives said they need cable carriage to spread the costs of increasingly expensive primetime shows and to reach younger viewers who have been conditioned to higher channels‚ such as those where MTV and Comedy Central reside.

Although the broadcast networks have shown surprising resilience in the face of the emergence of the 500-channel universe, the traditional broadcast terrain remains rugged. In April, for the first time the newspaper reported, basic cable took a slightly larger share of the national audience than the broadcast networks and held it through the summer.

Meanwhile, The Times said ratings for broadcast networks shows have fallen over the years and cable executives say it is only a matter of time before they can convince advertisers that broadcast networks do not deserve the premium rates they now obtain.

NBC agreed to acquire Bravo from Cablevision for about $1 billion in stock, while it will pay Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer $250 million in cash for its stake in the network. The purchase gives NBC not only a new place to sell advertising, but a new revenue stream from subscriber fees.

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