Friday, July 06, 2007 Special: Networks Selling Out? 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 (October)

Bewitched - The Complete Series (Mill Creek) I Dream of Jeannie - The Complete Series (Mill Creek) The Facts of Life - Season Seven My Favorite Martian - The Complete Series Grace Under Fire - The Complete Collection

10/06 - Bewitched - The Complete Collection
10/06 - Grace Under Fire - The Complete Collection
10/06 - Happyish - Season One
10/06 - I Dream of Jeannie - The Complete Series (Mill Creek)
10/06 - Party Down - The Complete Series
10/06 - South Park - The Complete Eighteenth Season (Blu-ray)
10/20 - C.P.O. Sharkey - Mr. Warmth: The Ultimate Don Rickles TV Collection
10/20 - The Facts of Life - Season Seven
10/20- King of the Hill - The Complete 13th Season (Blu-ray)
10/20 - My Favorite Martian - The Complete Series
10/20 - Nurse Jackie - Season Seven ((Blu-ray)
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest

Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Friday, October 9

Last Man Standing - "Ping-pong" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Vanessa tries to educate Eve on why she should be more on board with having a woman president. Meanwhile, after Ed mentions to Mike that he hasn’t seen his own daughter for years, Mike and Mandy try to figure out what they have in common.

Dr. Ken - "The Seminar" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
When the office celebrates a promotion for Clark, Ken is oblivious since he lives in his own's the last straw for Clark dealing with Ken's selfish ways. Clark writes a fake complaint comment card about Ken, so he's forced to attend a training seminar for better bedside manners, which leaves Allison at home to have dinner with Ken's parents.

Undataeable - "A Will They Walks Into a Bar" / "A Won't They Walks Into a Bar" (NBC, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Danny (Chris D'Elia) decides to interfere as Justin (Brent Morin) and Candace (Bridgit Mendler) are on the verge of making things official. Burski (Rick Glassman) surprises everyone that when he announces he has a girlfriend. Meanwhile, Leslie (Bianca Kajlich) decides it's time to change up her look.

Girl Meets World - "Girl Meets Rah Rah" (Disney Channel, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Riley really wants to be a cheerleader; when the tryouts begin, she's determined to make the squad.

Tyler Perry's For Better or Worse - "The Results" (OWN, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Angela's mammogram results are in; she stresses out all day.

Tyler Perry's For Better or Worse - "Richard's Break" (OWN, 9:30PM ET/PT)
Keisha brings a man to C-Sports while Richard is working late; Richard loses his head.

Complete TV Listings

Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of October 5) (All times ET unless noted)

Friday, October 9

  • Whoopi Goldberg (Whoopi/Bagdad Cafe) - Watch Whoopi on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC.
  • Ravi Patel (Grandfathered) - Ravi appears on a repeat of Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
  • Judy Greer (Married/Mad Love/Miss Guided) - Judy is a guest on a repeat of Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Ted Danson (Cheers/Becker) - Ted appears on LIVE! with Kelly and Michael, so check your listings.
  • Selena Gomez (Wizards of Waverly Place) - Selena is a guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Tim Daly (Wings) - Tim discusses the second season of Madam Secretary on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Kristin Chenoweth (Kristin) - Kristin is in the house on Rachael Ray, so check your local listings.
  • Alfonso Ribeiro (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air/Silver Spoons) - Alfonso takes the AOL BUILD stage to discuss his new gig as the host of the hit ABC series America’s Funniest Home Videos on the AOL Build Show. He will also be on HuffPost Live at 3pm.
  • Malin Akerman (Sin City Saints/Trophy Wife) - Malin talks about Final Girls on NBC's Today sometime between 7-9am.
  • Mario Cantone (Sex and the City) - Raven-Symone takes on Mario in a soul food cook-off on The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Maura Tierney (NewsRadio) - Maura is a guest on People Now.
  • Fran Drescher (The Nanny/Happily Divorced) - Fran chats on Tavis Smiley on PBS, so check your local listings.
  • The Cast of Dr. Ken - Ken Jeong, Tisha Campbell-Martin, Dave Foley and Suzy Nakamura are guests on The Real, so check your local listings.