Cable’s concept of opening night may get imitated by networks

PASADENA, Calif. — Broadcast network executives departing the informal talks known as the Television Critics press tour last week pretty much agreed on one thing: It is time to start acting more like cable networks.

That applies not only to the newest roster of network programs, which are increasingly being influenced by standout cable series like “Homeland,” “Breaking Bad” and “Justified,” but also to how forthcoming network entries like “Smash” on NBC, “The River” on ABC, and “Touch” on Fox are going to be marketed and scheduled.

The networks have embraced the idea — originally hatched by cable networks — of introducing initial episodes of their shows through other distribution outlets like YouTube before they have their premiere on their own schedules. And executives also suggested that a growing number of series might shift to the cable model of 10 to 13 episodes a season — to be run consecutively with no pre-emptions or repeats — rather than 22 to 24 episodes spread out over nine months.

That the strategies found on cable are infiltrating the broadcast networks comes as little surprise, since three of the four network programming chiefs built their reputations at cable networks: NBC’s Bob Greenblatt at Showtime; Fox’s Kevin Reilly at FX; and ABC’s Paul Lee at the Disney Family Channel.

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