A couple of years ago, one of my sons, who are my leading indicators in pop culture, turned me on to “Pawn Stars” and I was instantly hooked. Then I found “Storage Wars,” then “Real Pawn,” then “Storage Wars: Texas,” and “Auction Hunters.” The list goes on. I can’t help it. It’s a hopeless addiction.
I can’t exactly explain the fascination, but it’s hypnotic. Incredibly, in January, “Pawn Stars” and “Storage Wars” ran 46 and 57 times, respectively, and there are more than 30 series in this category (half of them are on my DVR) and the list is growing. These copycat programs pose an interesting problem for advertisers: The knock off is typically doing OK, but not as well as the originals.
For example, the original “Pawn Stars” gets 2 million viewers, which is huge for cable, but the copies only gather about 30% of the original. Given how cheap these shows are to produce, even these numbers make it pretty compelling media. TV loves to copy a winning formula, i.e., “American Idol,” “X Factor,” “The Voice” and “America’s Got Talent.” It’s interesting to note that Idol, the longtime market leader, is significantly down in viewers this season.
All of this means that in some cases it’s possible to assemble a similar magnitude in reach by patching together the wannabe copies cheaper than the flagship property, which has to give Richard “The Old Man” Harrison and Austin “Chumlee” Russell something to think about.