In broadcast programming and motion pictures, a tent-pole or tentpole is a programme or film that supports the financial performance of a film studio or television network.
It is an analogy for the way a strong central pole provides a stable structure to a tent. A tent-pole film may be expected to support the sale of tie-in merchandise.
Tentpoling is a scheduling strategy.
What is the Purpose of Tentpoling?
In tent pole programming, the programmers bank on a well-known series having so much audience appeal that they can place two unknown series on either side, and it is the strength of the central show that will draw viewers to the two other shows.
Types of Tentpoling
In the film industry, tent-poles are sometimes widely released initial offerings in a string of releases and are expected by studios to turn a profit in a short period of time.
Such programming is often accompanied by larger budgets and heavy promotion.
A tentpole movie, for example, is a film that is expected to support a wide range of ancillary tie-in products such as toys and games.
An example of this strategy in television is to schedule a popular television programme alongside new or unknown programming, in an attempt to keep audience viewers watching after the flagship programme is over; a prominent example is the long-running Star Trek series.
A related concept is the hammock: in broadcast programming, if a network has two tent-pole series, it can boost the performance of a weak or emerging show by inserting it between the two tent-poles (known as hammocking).