- Associated Press - Saturday, May 21, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - Jimmy Kimmel’s lacerating dissection of the industry has become an annual highlight of the week when television’s biggest networks reveal programming plans to advertisers. This year he nailed the pie-eyed suspension of disbelief that characterizes each sales job.

“Remember those shows we were so excited about last fall?” Kimmel said at the ABC session. “We canceled all of them. And yet here you are again. I think you might have a gambling problem.”

Big laughs, perhaps from the hint of recognition.

Of the 18 new series that debuted last fall on ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox, six survived to make this coming September’s schedule _ a batting average of .250. Take away the relatively stable CBS, and it’s three out of 13. That doesn’t even count shows that appeared in midseason and are already history, such as “The Paul Reiser Show” and Matthew Perry’s “Mr. Sunshine.”

And yet, the dance begins again. While the ways to experience television have changed dramatically over the past decade with DVDs, digital video recorders and Internet streaming, the brutally inefficient ways of making it have not. There’s little incentive to alter things, judging by predictions for this year’s “upfront,” the mad scramble to spend billions of dollars on advertising for next season.

The $8.5 billion hauled in by broadcasters last spring will almost certainly be topped, said Jack Myers of the industry newsletter Jack Myers’ Media Business Report.

Big spending sectors such as the auto industry are expected to buy more commercial time. Advertisers these days have better access to research telling them that TV is their most efficient way to get their message across, Myers said.

Perhaps sensing this, NBC’s new management had a turn-back-the-clock vibe in its presentation. After years in which the network touted new content delivery systems, Comcast-appointed NBC executive Ted Harbert got a big hand by promising his audience “a little less reinventing the wheel” and more attention to broadcasting basics.

The week had its usual displays of competition, snark and a whole lot of laugh tracks _ with a few clear trends emerging.

SING LOUD(equals)

It may seem that every amateur singer who wants to jump on stage in front of cameras will be getting the chance. “American Idol” isn’t going anywhere, of course, and now Fox will have Simon Cowell’s “The X Factor” in the fall. Desperate for success, NBC has made “The Voice” a central building block after a couple of strong weeks.

“Some critics say we’re ripping off `American Idol,’” NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” star Seth Meyers joked. “To which I say, `If you have a better idea, we’d like to hear it.’”

Kimmel’s take on “The X Factor”: “This is the best idea since 2002. It’s like `American Idol’ meets a mirror.”

If it works _ and executives are confident about that _ it’s a game-changer for Fox.


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