Tough reality for PBS: Roadshow audience doesn’t flow easily into Market Warriors

Print More

Miller Gafney is one of four "pickers" in Market Warriors, from the producer of Antiques Roadshow. (Photo: WGBH)

PBS has ended production of Market Warriors, the Monday-night series that was a lynchpin in its strategy to hold on to viewers of Antiques Roadshow, the most-watched regular series in the primetime schedule.

The cancellation is the first major schedule change under new Chief Program Executive Beth Hoppe and a disappointment for producers and programmers concerned about public TV’s ability to develop and successfully launch new series — especially at WGBH in Boston, which produces both Antiques Roadshow and Market Warriors.

Miller Gafney is one of four "pickers" in Market Warriors, from the producer of Antiques Roadshow. (Photo: WGBH)

Miller Gaffney is one of four “pickers” in Market Warriors, from the producer of Antiques Roadshow. (Photo: WGBH)

In a statement provided to Current, Hoppe said that Market Warriors “earned a number of fans” but “did not retain and engage as much of its lead-in audience from Antiques Roadshow as we had hoped.” PBS declined to answer further questions.

The cancellation also is a setback to PBS’s ongoing effort to rebuild primetime viewership by pairing programs with similar audience appeal, creating better flow across the schedule each weeknight (Current, Jan. 17, 2012).

After the last new episode of Market Warriors airs April 22, PBS will schedule Roadshow repeats in its timeslot, 9 p.m. Eastern on Mondays, at least until fall, according to spokeswoman Anne Bentley.

“We will continue to look at new shows across genres that are interesting and engaging for viewers,” Hoppe said in her statement, “and help stations attract new audiences or build an audience over the course of a night.”

Market Warriors premiered in July 2012, funded by PBS member stations through the National Program Service Assessment.

It was public TV’s attempt to catch up with an audience craze that started with the 1996 debut of Antiques Roadshow. The PBS series was a knockoff of the popular BBC series of the same name and, at the time, “we were the only ones in the genre,” said Marsha Bemko, executive producer of Roadshow and Market Warriors.

But now Roadshow knockoffs have taken root across the cable TV landscape: American Pickers and Pawn Stars on History Channel, Auction Hunters on Spike TV, Auction Kings on Discovery and Storage Wars on A&E.

Although strikingly similar to the BBC One series Bargain Hunt, Market Warriors was an original idea developed by Bemko and her Roadshow team, she said. Four “pickers” scour flea markets for interesting items to purchase and later auction, competing to make the biggest profit with their finds.

The program was structured differently than Roadshow, and that may have been part of its problem, said Craig Reed, audience analysis director at TRAC Media Services. “The focus in Market Warriors is on the characters and casting,” he said. “The focus in Roadshow is not the people, although they play an integral part. It’s the short narrative arcs, objects and the personal reactions that are important. Roadshow is full of facts and history, which are not as prevalent in Market Warriors.”

Also, viewers experience far fewer payoffs when they watch Market Warriors — just one singular moment when they discover which picker made the most cash. Roadshow offers multiple rewards throughout the hour as viewers learn the often surprising appraised values of each of the items presented throughout the show, Reed noted.

Nielsen ratings for Market Warriors weren’t what anyone had hoped for, but they weren’t bad for a brand-new series. Weekly episodes earned a 1.2 average rating from the series’ July 2012 debut through Feb. 25, with a high of 1.7 and low of 0.9. The ratings were below last season’s (2011–12) second hour of Roadshow repeats, which averaged 1.6, but they beat those garnered by the various programs that aired in that slot during the 2010–11 season, which drew a 1.1 average, Reed said.

Reed was “puzzled” that PBS canceled Market Warriors so quickly. History Detectives, among the last new series to earn a continuing slot in the PBS primetime schedule over extended seasons,“took a couple of seasons to catch on,” he said. “Market Warriors was getting better. The characters were fine-tuned as it went on, the structure was improved. The ratings were heading up.”

History Detectives launched in 2003 as a co-production of Oregon Public Broadcasting and Lion Television. Like Market Warriors, it was built on a less-expensive production model that presented educational content in an engaging way.

What killed Market Warriors, Reed said, “was expectations, when it didn’t immediately hit.”

Bemko also saw Market Warriors as steadily gaining ground and struggled to explain the cancellation. “I never felt it wasn’t catching on,” she said. “The ratings were doing well. I honestly don’t know what happened. We’re proud of the year we put out there.”

Questions, comments, tips? [email protected]
 This article was first published in Current, April 1, 2013, and updates a previous online post.

15 thoughts on “Tough reality for PBS: Roadshow audience doesn’t flow easily into Market Warriors

  1. We’re very disappointed this series was cancelled. Everyone at our house watched Market Warriors, even the kids. I hope in time PBS will reconsider. We prefer it to Antiques Roadshow!

  2. Maybe if they didn’t have Miller on there, the show wouldn’t have been so irritating. Her nasal voice and smug, holier than thou attitude, plus the way she constantly tried to guilt merchants to sell their products at a loss was so annoying to watch.

  3. I thoroughly loved this program. I learned how to bargain at flea markets and antique stores as a result of watching this show. I also learned the value of things and how many dealers overcharge. I really miss this show and have been in withdrawal since it was cancelled. I watch Antiques Roadshow, but given a choice Market Warriors would win hands down.

    • Yes, we were never big fans of Antiques Roadshow, but never missed an episode of Market Warriors. Unfortunately they were few and far between.

  4. Disappointed on the show being cancelled. It was something we and kids looked forward to watching together as a family. Was informative and entertaining. Hopefully it could return or picked up by another network.

  5. This was a particularly bad decision as Market Warriors was the most relevant and interesting PBS has produced in years. Boo.

  6. Please bring this show back, love it!

    And Jasonwheeler97, wtf? Miller’s fun and probably the hottest thing ever on pbs. Show wouldn’t be the same without her!

  7. Get rid of Miller and bring it back! We just discovered this show on PBS online and it is a really enjoyable show except for Miller Gaffney! Honestly we have never watched anyone quite so strange and annoying. She has to be the downfall and it is hard to believe that the producers of the show couldn’t see that. She must be related to someone!

  8. The problem with Market Warriors was this: The group would buy something and then send it to a market far away and sell it oftentimes at a significant loss. Buying items at antique fairs or flea markets and then putting them in an auction will 70% of the time result in a loss.
    There was a great little show on Oregon or Washington Public TV in the 70’s and 80’s. It had, usually, a single appraiser, he was very good and the program had real educational value!
    I love Antiques Roadshow, the British variety. I don’t like the, gee wiz look how much its worth, part of the American Version.

  9. Very sad news for our family. We looked forward to it every Sunday afternoons. With our family mostly teenagers this was the one show we all wanted to watch. As a mother I loved the hour all of us would spend together and our conversations we had about the show that went on through the evening. My children would hear the opening credits drop what they were doing and next thing I knew they were sitting next to me. That says something about the lure this show had with my family. PBS doesn’t have much programing that teenagers enjoy. It’s a real shame that you took it away. Please bring it back so I can spend this wonderful hour with my children. Antique road show doesn’t hold the families interest like Markert Warrior’s.

  10. Just catching this on reruns, looked forward to future episodes only to find out it was canceled years ago! PBS, where was your dedication to your viewing public ??? Shame on you !!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *