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 (November)

The Dick Van Dyke Show - The Complete Remastered Series (DVD) Maude - The Complete Third Season WKRP in Cincinnati - The Complete Final (Fourth) Season McHale's Navy - The Complete Series Sgt. Bilko (The Phil Silvers Show) - The Fourth Season

11/03 - Californication - The Complete Series
11/03 - Getting On - The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray)
11/03 - Hank (1965-66) - The Complete Series
11/03 - I Love Lucy - The Complete Series
11/03 - Men at Work - The Complete Second Season
11/03 - That '70s Show - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
11/03 - 'Til Death - The Complete Third Season
11/10 - The Dick Van Dyke Show - The Complete Remastered Series (DVD)
11/10 - Maude - The Complete Third Season
11/10 - WKRP in Cincinnati - The Complete Final (Fourth) Season
11/17 - The Comedians - The Complete Series
11/17 - Cristela - The Complete First Season
11/17 - McHale's Navy - The Complete Series
11/17 - Sgt. Bilko (The Phil Silvers Show) - The Fourth Season
11/17 - Weird Loners - The Complete Series
11/24 - George Lopez - The Complete Sixth Seaon
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest

Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Tuesday, December 1

The Muppets - "Going, Going, Gonzo" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
after a show-stopping duet with Miss Piggy on “Up Late with Miss Piggy,” Joseph Gordon-Levitt joins Scooter, Pepe and the gang for poker night; The Great Gonzo gears up to perform his dream stunt; and Dave Grohl challenges Animal to a drum-off.

Fresh Off the Boat - "We Done Son" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Jessica and Honey’s friendship hits a rough patch after an argument about the investment property. Louis’s old friend Barry (J.B. Smoove) overstays his welcome. And Eddie starts a part-time job working for DMX.

Grandfathered - "Jimmy & Sons" (Fox, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Jimmy hires Gerald as the new host at his restaurant and gives him a crash course in hospitality. Meanwhile, Vanessa teaches Sara how to take sexy photos for Bruce (guest star Andy Daly), and Annelise encourages Ravi to crack down on the comedy in the kitchen.

The Grinder - "Grinder Rests in Peace" (Fox, 8:30PM ET/PT)
“The Grinder: New Orleans” -- a spinoff of the original hit series, asks Dean to film a scene giving closure to his beloved character, Mitch Grinder. Not surprisingly, Dean struggles with being replaced by his TV brother, Rake (guest star Timothy Olyphant). Meanwhile Stewart, who has also been feeling replaced by his brother in Ethan's eyes, jumps at the opportunity to get Dean back into acting and out of his hair.

Family Time - "Bright Lights, Dusty House" (Bounce TV, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Tony's mother comes over to help out now that Lisa has started a full time job; Donnie convinces tony to shoot an ad for his business.

Complete TV Listings

Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of November 30)

Tuesday, December 1

  • Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy/American Dad!) - Catch Seth on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC.
  • Paul Reiser (Mad About You/The Paul Reiser Show) - Paul appears on a repeat of Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Krysten Ritter (Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23) - Krysten is a guest on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Ted Danson (Cheers/Becker) - Ted appears on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Oliver Hudson (Rules of Engagement) - Oliver visits Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Michaela Watkins (Trophy Wife) - Michaela is a guest on @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
  • Kunal Nayyar (The Big Bang Theory) - Kunal stops by The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Wanda Sykes (The New Adventures of Old Christine/Wanda at Large) - Wanda appears on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Bob Saget (Fuller House/How I Met Your Mother/Full House) - Bob is a guest on The Meredith Vieira Show, so check your local listings.
  • Wendy Raquel Robinson (The Game/The Steve Harvey Show) - Wendy guest co-hosts The Real, so check your local listings.
  • Terry Crews (Brooklyn Nine-Nine/Are We There Yet?/Everybody Hates Chris) - Terry join Chrissy Teigen in the kitchen to make breakfast toast cups and crème brûlée on FABLife, so check your local listings.
  • Kristin Chenoweth (Kristin) - Kristin joins the Chew Crew on ABC's The Chew at 1pm ET/12pm PT/CT.
  • Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project/The Office) - Mindy is a guest on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Candace Cameron Bure (Fuller House/Full House) - Candace appears on People Now.