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 (January/February)

I Love Lucy - Superstar Special #2 (Colorized) The Love Boat - Season Three - Volume Two Hooperman - Season One 227 - The Complete First Season (Mill Creek) Fuller House - The Complete First Season

01/03 - Girls - The Complete Fifth Season (Blu-ray)
01/10 - Broad City - Season 3
01/17 - I Love Lucy - Superstar Special #2 (Colorized)
01/17 - The Love Boat - Season Three - Volume One
01/17 - The Love Boat - Season Three - Volume Two
01/24 - Hooperman - Season One / Review
01/24 - Hooperman - Season Two / Review
01/31 - Ballers - The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray)
02/07 - Sabrina, the Teenage Witch - Sabrina Down Under
02/07 - So Little Time - Volume 1 - School's Cool - Boy Crazy
02/07 - So Little Time - Volume 2 - About a Family - Hangin' Out
02/07 - 227 - The Complete First Season (Mill Creek)
02/07 - Vice Principals - The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)
02/14 - Beavis and Butt-Head - The Complete Collection
02/14 - Grace and Frankie - Season Two
02/28 - Fuller House - The Complete First Season
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Monday, February 27

The Big Bang Theory - "The Dependence Transcedence" (CBS, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Tensions rise when the boys struggle to complete their government project on time and Sheldon tries an energy drink to stay awake. Also, Penny and Amy go to a “party” at Bert (Brian Posehn) the geologist’s house, and Kooothrappali learns Bernadette’s true feelings about her pregnancy when they clean out the future baby room. Dean Norris returns as Air Force Representative Colonel Williams.

Man with a Plan - "Assisted Living" (CBS, 8:30PM ET/PT)
When Adam's parents visit unannounced, they reveal surprising plans for their future living arrangements. Emmy Award winner Swoosie Kurtz and Stacy Keach guest star as Bev and Joe, Adam and Don’s parents.

Superior Donuts - "Takin' It to the Streets" (CBS, 8:30PM ET/PT)
When Franco and Sweatpants discover their new landlord, Fawz, wants to convert their apartment building into luxury condos, they decide to organize a protest. Also, Randy realizes she needs to be nicer to James in order to get a good recommendation for her sergeant’s exam.

2 Broke Girls - "And the Dad Day Afternoon" (CBS, 9:00PM ET/PT)
When Han’s new therapist suggests that Max needs to confront her “daddy issues” and fear of intimacy, she reluctantly heads to Rhode Island to track down her birth father with the diner gang in tow. Also, Oleg is up in arms when Sophie wants him to help out around the house.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of February 27)

Monday, February 27

  • Keri Russell (Running Wilde) - Watch Keri on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC.
  • Connie Britton (Spin City/The Fighting Fitzgeralds/Lost at Home) - Connie appears on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Slink Johnson (Black Jesus) - Slick is a guest on @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
  • Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation) - Adam drops by Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Josh Henderson (One on One) - Josh appears on Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo. He also talks about The Arrangement on NBC's Today in the 10am hour.
  • David Hyde Pierce (Frasier) - David chats with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Jerry O'Connell (We Are Men/Carpoolers/My Secret Identity) - Jerry is a guest on LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings.
  • Leighton Meester (Making History) - Leighton stops by Harry, so check your local listings.
  • Holly Robinson Peete (Hangin' with Mr. Cooper/For Your Love) - Holly visits Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
  • John Lithgow (Trial & Error/Twenty Good Years/3rd Rock from the Sun) - John talks about Trial & Error on NBC's Today in the 9am hour and on the AOL Build Show at 1:30pm.
  • Billy Gardell (Mike & Molly) - Billy dishes on how This is Us is following in Mike & Molly’s footsteps – and why both shows are so beloved on People Now at 8:30am.
  • Lisa Kudrow (Friends/The Comeback) and Craig Robinson (The Office) - Lisa and Craig talk about their new film Table 19 on the AOL Build Show at 2:30pm.
  • Sinbad (A Different World/The Sinbad Show) - Sinbad is a guest on Steve Harvey, so check your local listings.
  • Bradley Whitford (Trophy Wife) - Bradley visits The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Craig Robinson (The Office/Mr. Robinson) - Craig appears on The Real, so check your local listings.