by Max Brantley
Discovery Communications has taken charges of $24 million primarily for the cancelation of TLC reality show 19 Kids and Counting.
The cable networks group in its second-quarter earnings report on Tuesday cited "restructuring and other charges" in that amount without detailing all the items they covered, compared with $5 million for the year-ago period, an increase of $19 million.
Analysts said the figure was likely to account for ending the show amid the Josh Duggar scandal, with CFO Andy Warren later confirming that on an earnings conference call.
In his prepared remarks, he cited "higher restructuring and other charges this year of $19 million primarily due to content impairment charges from cancelling TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting."
None of this is to suggest that Discovery made the wrong decision. As programming, it would have been impossible for the network to continue to air “19 Kids and Counting” as a cheery, quasi-aspirational reality show, and it would have been exceptionally difficult — not least for Josh Duggar’s sisters — to completely switch formats, turning the series into a more piercing look at a family recovering from alleged sexual abuse. From an ethical perspective, there was no good way forward. And certainly, no advertisers would have wanted to be affiliated with the program, given the possibility that further ugly revelations about the family might follow.
But numbers like these are a valuable reminder to advocates of just what they’re asking for when they call for a show to be canceled or an actor to be fired. Just because the optics seem obvious doesn’t mean that the financial penalties are negligible. Once a network is in the Duggar, or Robertson, or Trump business, it becomes much more complicated and costly to get out of it.