Working Papers

Creative Positioning

Niche Width, Niche Overlap, and Innovation in Television Programming, 1980-2009


How does an organization’s position within a field affect its propensity to innovate? Drawing on niche theory, we characterize an organization’s position along two dimensions: niche width, a function of the relatedness among the resource spaces an organization inhabits; and niche overlap, a function of the number of competitors occupying the similar spaces. We test hypotheses about the effects of field position on organizations’ willingness and ability to innovate using the population of U.S. television broadcasters airing original programming between 1980 and 2009. We predict that broadcasters in niches drawing on a more diverse range of resources and those in more densely populated niches are more likely to innovate. We also find that the effect of niche width and niche overlap is different for broadcasters carried on public airwaves and those available through subscription services. By bringing the question of innovation to the well-established body of work on niche theory, we contribute important new insights to both ecological theory and the innovation literature.