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NBC: Deadliest Network

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The New York Times reports that NBC has struck a deal to acquire a ton of programming from outside producers including Thom Beers. You probably don’t know who Beers is, but you very likely know his shows: he specializes in cable shows about people in extreeeeeeeeem circumstances, like Deadliest Catch and Ice Road Truckers. The shows will run in blocks of two or three hours, to begin most likeely in late 2008, depending, I suppose, on how soon Beers can find a group of men who mine diamonds in the desert with their bare hands, or collect teeth from live alligators for jewelry or something like that.

As the article notes, the move has nothing to do with the writers’ strike, and also everything to do with it. It was in the works independently, but it and the strike both derive from the same meta-pressures in a business of smaller audiences and more platforms: namely, network TV is becoming more like cable is becoming more like Internet, and all of this militates figuring out new ways of making and paying for it.

I was generally aware of how popular Beers’ series were, by the way, but I didn’t know before reading this piece that Ice Road Truckers drew almost five million viewers for its finale. Clearly someone loves these shows, other than network executives looking for someone who can deliver an hour of primetime for a sixth of the cost of a scripted show. Is this good news to you?