Remember when basic cable’s scripted TV offerings seemed a fairly major part of pop culture? The Disney Channel had shows like That’s So Raven and Hannah Montana (despite not watching the channel at all then, I knew there was something called a “Hannah Montana,” even if I wasn’t sure what exactly it was, an actual person or a character or maybe just a figure of speech), and Nickelodeon had iCarly. AMC’s was more a hit with Midcult-loving critics and their upmarket followers than the general audience, but Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead were both confirmed popular sensations — while at the more grown-up but still lighter end of the spectrum, USA had Monk, and TNT had
As Brad Adgate acknowledged in Forbes recently, hits like these are pretty much nonexistent these days. Where iCarly creator Dan Schneider watched his show pulling in 10 million viewers then on its best nights, his more recent Henry Danger, which Nickelodeon touted in a recent commercial as the #1 Kid’s Comedy on TV, was bringing in under 1 million — bespeaking an astonishing collapse in that market. And it seems pretty much the same story elsewhere in this part of TVland.
Of course, this raises the question — just how will basic cable respond? The cancellation of Disney XD’s Kirby Buckets in hindsight seems to have been indicative of a shift away from original, scripted, live-action fare in favor of other material — animation, gaming and the rest. It may be that this was an easier course for this particular channel, with its slighter market and margin for failure, and connections with Marvel and so forth, but it seems possible that other channels will be walking the same path, looking for other ways in which to cater to a shrunken base of viewers. One way might be their similarly turning to nonscripted fare. Another might be their doing what the networks have generally done, passing on more “adventurous” material in favor of more conventional fare — like the procedurals they keep churning out, very profitably.