Why Timeless – and Free – TV Hits the Right Note Right Now

The Andy Griffith Show

Due to the Covid-19 outbreak, more people are watching TV across a variety of channels, finding new favorites as well as beloved older series. In the latter category, MeTV network is presenting “The Month of Mayberry” from May 3-31st, featuring selected episodes of The Andy Griffith Show, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., Mayberry R.F.D., and others. Here, Neal Sabin, Vice-Chairman, Weigel Broadcasting Co., shares his programming and advertising strategies.

What is the benefit of free over the air TV vs. OTT and SVOD services?  

Our advantage is that we are free and available over the air in 98% of the country, as well as seen on cable and on Dish satellite. We’re curated to present the best in timeless TV programming. For those viewers with streaming bundles, it’s also a great way to get local TV stations they can watch, offering them more content.

Why is there such a longing for nostalgia TV? 

Part of the appeal is that this kind of programming often includes warm memories for times, places, people and connections we remember and think of fondly, and maybe regard as better points in our lives. However, many of the programs seen on MeTV have qualities that make them stand out today; great writing, directing, acting, situations. It’s just great television, period. Watching these shows with family and friends offers a way to build new connections. 

How are the Weigel channels, and specifically MeTV, different from its competitors? 

We work hard to present the programs in the best possible manner in today’s environment; our commercial load is only 12 minutes per hour, unless the program was actually produced with a shorter run time. We respect the programs and the viewers; we don’t over run our shows. MeTV for example, airs about 60 different programs a week. Our Movies! Network is virtually edit-free, and our Heroes & Icons Network airs all five of the original live-action Star Trek series unedited, including the original 79-episode series. I venture to say we have invested more in programming than any other networks we are grouped with as diginets, although we don’t operate with a mindset other than being great networks, no matter the designation.    

How are you repositioning yourself during the Upfronts: ie. What changes are you making to adjust to the Covid-19 landscape?  

We continue to stress the stability of our product and our audiences. They continue to grow and when compared to cable network ratings, we rank with the very top performers. That surprises a good number of buyers. 

What do you think it will take to be successful during this Upfront season, such as it is?  

Being creative, flexible and delivering lots of eyeballs. We are all that, so I think we will be very successful, as we have been for the past few years as rated networks. That and continuing to offer great entertainment that viewers enjoy and engage with, and offering consistent value to our advertising partners, these strategies are often well received.

What new products/positioning are you introducing for the rest of 2020 and into 2021? 

We continue to roll out our first run series starring Lisa Welchel (Facts of Life), Collector’s Call, as well as plan for some future original programming. We don’t have a need to make any significant changes in our programming, as audience growth continues and viewer engagement via our web content continues to succeed. Start TV, focused on empowered women in dramas, has taken off beyond our expectations (as well as those of our partner, CBS Television Stations). The “My Start Story” original production elements, which highlight true stories of successful women and their accomplishments, really help to set Start TV apart and elevate it from other networks featuring procedural programming. 

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