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.


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Wednesday, August 27

The Middle - "Office Hours" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Feeling that her mind has been turned into Swiss cheese over the kids' never ending demanding requests of her, Frankie sets up office hours in which they can only voice their needs between 5:00-6:00 p.m. Meanwhile, an overprotective Mike keeps a stern eye on Darrin to make sure he doesn't take advantage of Sue, and Brick invites his surprising new friends over to the house for a book club meeting.

The Goldbergs - "For Your Own Good" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
From wearing the same shoes to always eating a bagel with cream cheese for breakfast, Murray is a creature of habit in and around the house. When Beverly changes his favorite easy chair with something new and “better,” he flips out. So he repays the favor to Beverly by removing the oven in the kitchen so she can cook food in the “better” microwave. Soon, it becomes a heated game of back and forth between the couple as more things around the house get changed. Will they reach a breaking point and get their lives back to “normal?” Meanwhile, Adam is being bullied on the school bus by eighth grader JC Spink and looks to Barry to come to his rescue.

Modern Family - "A Fair to Remember" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
The family attends the annual school fair and Phil has a big 20th wedding anniversary surprise planned for Claire at the fairgrounds, but unfortunately, she simultaneously has a surprise for him back at home. Gloria signs Jay up to be a fair cop for the day and it gets worse when he’s partnered up with his nemesis. Elsewhere, Mitch, Cam and Lily try to enjoy the fair but Cam is in a funk from the football team’s recent losing streak, and Haley has an awkward first encounter with Andy (guest star Adam DeVine).

Modern Family - "ClosetCon '13" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
With some urging from Claire, Jay begrudgingly agrees to return to ClosetCon this year, and things get interesting when Jay is reunited with some old colleagues. Cam takes Mitch and Lily to the Tucker family farm for the first time and is excited to fold them into country life, that is until Grams pays an unexpected visit. And back at home, Phil, Gloria and the kids get into some mischief involving Jay’s very delicate Apollo 13 spacecraft model.

Young & Hungry - "Young & Thirty (and Getting Married!)" (ABC Family, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Josh and Caroline's upcoming wedding puts Gabi in a panic.

Mystery Girls - "The Killer Returns" (ABC Family, 8:30PM ET/PT)
The killer from the murder investigation that reunited the Mystery Girls goes on the loose.

Hot in Cleveland - "Win Win" (TV Land, 10:00PM ET/PT)
The killer from the murder investigation that reunited the Mystery Girls goes on the loose.

Love Thy Neighbor - "A Night Away" (OWN, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Linda's inhibitions return upon her waking; she is shocked and upset when she realizes she's in Philip's bed.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of August 25) (All times ET unless noted)

Wednesday, August 27

  • Jennifer Aniston (Friends) - Watch Jennifer on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC. She will also be on NBC's Today sometime between 7-9am.
  • Chris Rock (Everybody Hates Chris) - Catch Chris on a repeat of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC.
  • Ed O'Neill (Modern Family/Married with Children) - Ed is a guest on a repeat of Tavis Smiley on PBS, so check your local listings.
  • Kevin Hart (The Big House/Undeclared) - Kevin appears on a repeat of Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Betty White (Hot in Cleveland/The Golden Girls/The Mary Tyler Moore Show) - Tune in to see Betty on a repeat of The Arsenio Hall Show, so check your local listings.
  • Jason Biggs (Mad Love/Drexell's Class) - Jason guest co-hosts a repeat of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Alan Thicke (Growing Pains) - Alan talks about his TV and music career, his son Robin and reality series Unusually Thicke on a repeat of Katie, so check your local listings.
  • Holly Robinson Peete (Hangin' with Mr. Cooper/For Your Love) - Holly appears on a repeat of Steve Harvey, so check your local listings.
  • Pooch Hall (The Game) - Pooch will be on Larry King Now at 2/5pm PT/ET on Ora.tv and Hulu.
  • Dustin Diamond (Saved by the Bell) - Dustin appears on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 12:30pm ET.
  • Wilmer Valderrama (That '70s Show) - Wilmer will be on Access Hollywood Live, so check your local listings.
  • Marilu Henner (Taxi/Evening Shade) - Marilu is a guest on NBC's Today in the 10am hour.