Friday, July 06, 2007

SitcomsOnline.com Special: Networks Selling Out?

SitcomsOnline.com Special
Networks Selling Out?
By: Seth Thrasher

For some time now, there has been a lot of talk regarding networks, such as TV Land, GSN, USA Network, etc. "selling out" – that is to say that the network shifts its programming practices from its original or most popular style to a different one, replacing fan favorite programs with others, etc. A lot is made of this as we, as fans of the television genre, want to continue to enjoy our favorite programs indefinitely.

Something that gets lost in this emotional attachment, though, is that at the end of the day these networks are businesses. And businesses in the television industry, for better or worse, have a responsibility to its advertisers, and to its owners and shareholders, to deliver the largest viewership possible, the largest viewership among the advertisers desired target group possible, and to operate in a manner that makes the company the most money.

One example is Nick at Nite. Every other night is a marathon of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air or Roseanne. Many fans aren't happy with this in the least bit – they long for the days of when the channel ran shows like I Love Lucy, Taxi, I Dream of Jeannie, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Happy Days, etc. That's a nice sentiment to have, but ultimately, Nick at Nite does wonderful ratings airing shows like Fresh Prince and Roseanne, particularly among the groups their advertisers want to target. I guarantee you if they could get the same ratings airing The Odd Couple as they could Fresh Prince, you'd get to see Felix and Oscar just as much as you see Dan and Roseanne.

People complain as though networks owe them to run these shows – unfortunately, one small reality of the television industry negates this; unless you're part of a household that reports viewing data to Nielsen, what you’re watching – and what you want to watch...really doesn’t matter as much as it possibly should. It's a flaw in the Nielsen system – if 10 Nielsen viewers are watching Fresh Prince, and 1000 non-Nielsen viewers are watching Murphy Brown, the data reported to networks – and advertisers – indicates all of those 1000 people are in fact watching...Fresh Prince. Is it right? Not necessarily. But it's the best measurement system the industry has at the moment.

This system, and the data it produces, is why networks ultimately have to "betray their vision." For better or worse their loyalties lie with the bottom line. If the ratings data says that airing nothing but Fresh Prince, Roseanne, and The Cosby Show will put more viewers – and more young viewers – in front of the TV than WKRP in Cincinnati, Bob Newhart, and Laverne & Shirley then that's what they'll run.

They're not selling out, or whatever you want to call it. A lot of the people in this business really DO care about television. In order to remain a viable network, they have to make money. In order to make money, they have to make advertisers happy. In order to make advertisers happy, they have to deliver the most viewers possible per timeslot, and with any luck, the most of the specific group the advertiser is trying to target. And in order to attract the most viewers, sometimes a channel will have to run its most popular programs often, in order to maximize these things. It is a sad reality of this industry, and for better or worse it is not likely to change any time soon.

Agree or disagree with Seth? Discuss it here.


New on DVD/Blu-ray (May)

Mister Ed - The Final (Sixth) Season C.P.O. Sharkey - The Complete Season 1 The Nanny - The Complete Series Welcome Back, Kotter - The Complete Third Season The Wonder Years - Season Three

05/05 - Cheers - The Complete Series
05/12 - Bob's Burgers - The Complete Fourth Season
05/12 - The Hotwives of Orlando - The Complete First Season
05/12 - Mister Ed - The Final (Sixth) Season (Shout! Factory)
05/19 - American Dad - Volume 10
05/19 - C.P.O. Sharkey - The Complete Season 1
05/19 - The Larry Sanders Show - The Complete Series (Mill Creek)
05/19 - Married with Children - Season Nine (Mill Creek)
05/19 - Married with Children - Season Ten (Mill Creek)
05/19 - Married with Children - Seasons Nine and Ten (Mill Creek)
05/19 - Married with Children - Seasons Nine and Ten (Mill Creek)
05/19 - NewsRadio - The Complete Series (Mill Creek)
05/19 - Welcome to Sweden - The Complete First Season
05/26 - Hello Ladies - Season 1
05/26 - The Nanny - The Complete Series
05/26 - Welcome Back, Kotter - The Complete Third Season
05/26 - The Wonder Years - Season Three
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Saturday, May 30

Bella and the Bulldogs - "No Girls Allowed" (Nickelodeon, 8:00PM ET/PT)
An outdated rule about girls not being able to play football is made public before the Bulldogs' first playoff game, preventing Bella from playing. Now Bella and the team have to change the rules to make history.

Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn - "No Ifs, Ands, or But-ers" (Nickelodeon, 8:30PM ET/PT)
The Quads turn their garage into an awesome hangout space, making their house the place to be. But when a notorious one-upper opens a competing hangout, the Quads have to work together to top her and regain their social status. Guest Star: Science Bob.

100 Things to Do Before High School - "Start a Garage Band Thing!" (Nickelodeon, 9:00PM ET/PT)
CJ, Fen and Crispo start a garage band with hopes of winning top prize at the school's music festival. But when creative differences break up the band, CJ must find a way to reunite the team in time for their big performance.

K.C. Undercover - "Double Crossed Part 2" (Disney Channel, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Zane has captured K.C.; the family is unaware as their rival has also created a K.C. look alike to infiltrate and destroy the Coopers.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of June 1) (All times ET unless noted)

Monday, June 1

  • Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Mollly/Samantha Who?) - Watch Melissa on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC. She also talks about her new film Spy on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am.
  • Jeremy Piven (Entourage/Ellen) - Jeremy visits Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • He also discusses new his film Entourage on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Hannah Simone (New Girl) - Hannah appears on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Rory Scovel (Ground Floor) - Rory is a guest on @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
  • Joel McHale (Community) - Joel stops by Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • David Spade (Rules of Engagement/8 Simple Rules/Just Shoot Me) - David drops by The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Jonathan Groff (Looking) - Jonathan is a guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Regina King (227) - Regina appears on a repeat of The Meredith Vieira Show, so check your local listings.
  • Ana Ortiz (Kristin/A.U.S.A.) - Ana, Roselyn Sanchez and Susan Lucci chat about Devious Maids with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT. Ana and Roselyn also join the Chew Crew on ABC's The Chew at 1pm ET/12pm PT/CT. Ana will be on Morning Joe on MSNBC sometime between 6-9am. They can be heard on Shade 45 with Sway and Morning Jolt with Larry Flick on SiriusXM Radio.
  • Tracy Morgan (30 Rock/The Tracy Morgan Show) - Tracy gives first interview since his tragic car accident on Inside Edition, so check your local listings. He will also be on NBC's Today sometime between 7-9am.