Another TV tradition has ended, one that had the side effect of sending kids and their parents outside and away from the television set for one season of the year. No longer will Americans be subject to summer reruns.
Episodes of dramas and sit-coms used to be repeated as many as two or three times. Now, according to Scott Collins of the Los Angeles Times, that kind of recycling will be a thing of the past.
In an effort to build audiences and compete against cable, the networks are not only scrapping reruns; they are scrapping the very concept of "the new season." New shows will be introduced at various times throughout the year.
This does not mean that any more episodes of a series will be made than the industry standard 35 episodes per year. Making 52 episodes, for a new show every week, would be much too expensive. Instead, the series will be interrupted by specials, reality shows, and tryouts of new series. Some shows will only be shown for half of the year. For example, NYPD Blue will air for only the first half of the year. Alias will air only during the second half of the year.
In other words, it will be even harder to figure out when your favorite shows are on. The effort to do away with reruns will likely have the unintended consequence of making it even harder for audiences to connect with a particular program.
The demise of the network rerun, of course, will not mean that you will never get to see an episode of a favorite show that you missed. DVDs of television series are a growing market. And syndication of network shows to local stations and to cable networks is the television industry's cash cow. Ironically, the programming of the networks' biggest competitors, cable TV, consists largely of reruns.