Now that “Bates Motel” has officially wrapped, A&E says it’s done with scripted programming.
Rob Sharenow, executive vice president and general manager at A&E and Lifetime, told Deadline that “Bates Motel” was one of the best shows on TV, but that A&E didn’t have much of a scripted programming ecosystem to support.
“But I think in today’s world where we really try to clarify and focus our brand for the consumers and to lean into what we are best known for, what we are best at, I think it was a good time to say, ‘We are going to double down on nonfiction content where we are having a lot of success. The market’s really hungry for it,'” Sharenow told the publication.
As the report pointed out, the shift to all unscripted programming was essentially telegraphed as no new scripted series had been OK’d by A&E for the past two years. It came down to running out the series clock on “Bates Motel.”
A&E is not alone in backing away from scripted series, which generally cost more and take more time to develop than unscripted shows.
Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav, after operational cash flow dipped in February thanks to higher content spending, was careful to warn that his networks were not wholly embracing scripted programming.
“Scripted is not the core of what we do. It’s part of a tentpole [strategy],” said Zaslav during an earnings call, referring to the series “Harley and the Davidsons,” which he called a “treat” for viewers.
“We don’t see cost being an issue and we’re not moving more into scripted, which is more expensive,” Zaslav said.
But as cable networks renew their commitments to unscripted programming, they may be facing more competition from SVOD with deep pockets like Amazon Prime Video and Netflix.
Following the NAPTE conference, analyst firm MoffettNathanson expected SVODs to be making serious bidding attempts to win unscripted programming rights.
“Concurrently, SVOD players have started to show interest in buying non-fiction content which could start to put pressure on the bigger non-fiction cable networks. Netflix has continuously emphasized increasing original content. However, given the high cost of scripted originals, Netflix will need to incorporate more unscripted content in these efforts. As a result, Netflix (and the other SVOD players) will start to bid away name brand non-fiction shows from cable networks,” MoffettNathanson wrote in a research report.