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 (July/August)

Family Matters - The Complete Seventh Season Hangin' with Mr. Cooper - The Complete First Season Maude - The Complete Final (Sixth) Season Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season Three Superstore - Season One

07/08 - The Monkees - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
07/12 - Grady - The Best of Grady
07/20 - Bob's Burgers - The Complete 5th Season
07/26 - Family Matters - The Complete Seventh Season (WBShop.com)
07/26 - Where's Huddles? - The Complete Series (WBShop.com)
08/02 - Hangin' with Mr. Cooper - The Complete First Season (WBShop.com)
08/09 - Maude - The Complete Final (Sixth) Season
08/23 - Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season Three
08/23 - Superstore - Season One
08/23 - The Wonder Years - Complete Series (New Slipcase Version)
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Sunday, August 28

The Simpsons - "The Burns Cage" (Fox, 7:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
When Smithers is devastated by Burns’ lack of affection towards him, Homer makes it his mission to find him a boyfriend. Meanwhile, after Bart orchestrates the removal of the lead in the school’s stage production of “Casablanca,” Milhouse serves as a terrible understudy, which frustrates his co-star, Lisa.

The Simpsons - "Teenage Mutant Milk-Caused Hurdles" (Fox, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
A new teacher arrives (guest voice Sofia Vergara) at Springfield Elementary, and a captivated Bart tries everything to win her over. Meanwhile, Homer decides to buy a new brand of “milk,” which causes early puberty, both for Bart (augmenting his wooing powers) and Lisa (whose small bout with acne opens her up to the world of makeup and popularity).

Brooklyn Nine-Nine - "The Oolong Slayer" (Fox, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
When investigating a serial killer, Jake enlists Holt’s help in an attempt to solve the case off the radar. At the precinct, Rosa and Amy are forced to deal with demands from an old adversary and Terry discovers a new obsession.

Family Guy - "The Heartbreak Dog" (Fox, 9:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Meg begins working at a retirement community and starts stealing from the residents. Then Chris finds out and wants in on the heist. When the residents catch them, they blackmail them and force the thieves to listen to all of their boring stories.

The Last Man on Earth - "Fourth Finger" (Fox, 9:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
With little else to do, Tandy starts a prank war within the group. Meanwhile Todd establishes his dominance.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of August 29)

Monday, August 29

  • Tika Sumpter (The Game) - Watch Tika on Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC. She also talks about Southside with You on NBC's Today in the 9am hour and on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 12:30pm ET.
  • Jerrod Carmichael (The Carmichael Show) - Jerrod is a guest on Tavis Smiley on PBS, so check your local listings.
  • Walton Goggins (Vice Principals) - Walton appears on Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Fred Savage (The Grinder/Working/The Wonder Years) - Fred guest co-hosts LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings.
  • Jerry O'Connell (We Are Men/Carpoolers/My Secret Identiy) - Jerry is a guest on a repeat of The Wendy Williams Show at 12:05am on BET or on your local stations.
  • Chris D'Elia, Ron Funches, Rick Glassman and Brent Morin - The cast of Undateable are guests on a repeat of The Real, so check your local listings.
  • Sally Field (Gidget/The Flying Nun) - Sally whips up a delicious Pea Pesto & Potatoes with Mario Batali on a repeat of ABC's The Chew at 1pm ET/12pm PT/CT.
  • Valerie Bertinelli (Hot in Cleveland/One Day at a Time) - Valerie bakes up her Sicilian Love Cake for dessert on a repeat of Rachael Ray, so check your local listings.
  • Tyler Labine (Deadbeat/Animal Practice/Mad Love/Sons of Tucson) - Tyler talks about Zoom on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
  • Emeril Lagasse (Emeril) - Emeril explains the surprising origins of his catchphrase “Bam!” on People Now at 8:30am.