December 31st, 2009
05:03 PM ET

Another cable channel losing its niche?

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Every few years or so, GSN (formerly known as Game Show Network) tries to stray away from its original model of being the home for classic and new game shows.  Occasionally, those moves into uncharted territory have worked, such as the Sunday night staple "High Stakes Poker."

But, more often than not, GSN's efforts to tackle "reality" shows and the like have failed.   Anyone remember the horse racing-themed "American Dream Derby" or the Chuck Woolery-centric "Naturally Stoned"?  Neither lasted long.

Now, GSN is stepping out of its traditional realm once again.  Next month, the channel will premiere a "reality" show chronicling the life of "Newlywed Game" host Carnie Wilson, as well as a "hidden camera" comedy game called "Hidden Agenda."  The game show Web site BuzzerBlog is also reporting that GSN is also considering a "reality" show about women who play the dice game Bunco, as well as weight loss show.

What makes GSN unique is that, despite its flaws, it is generally a cable channel targeting a specific market - fans of game shows and games in general.  And it's one of the last of the true "niche" cable networks.

Years ago, many cable channels were like that.  Bravo and A&E used to be tailored to fans of fine arts, while TLC was home to educational fare.  MTV, VH1 and CMT were your homes for all things music, primarily videos.

Now, they all seem to be going after the same audience, broadcasting the same obnoxious "reality" shows and other "in your face" pop culture fare.  If it weren't for the network branding on the corner of the TV screen, I couldn't tell the stations apart.

I can understand why cable channels turn this way - it attracts the eyes of the demographics that advertisers crave, and leads to higher ad rates for the channels.  But shouldn't there also be room for entertainment channels that target those outside the demo?

Perhaps GSN will learn that lesson and stay true to its original calling when this experiment comes to an end.  Then again, I could see it following the leader and become just another channel.

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Filed under: television

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