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 (June/July)

The League - Season 7 - The Final Fantasy Maude - The Complete Fifth Season Workaholics - Season Six Two Guys and a Girl - The Complete Series Family Matters - The Complete Seventh Season

06/14 - Ballers - The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)
06/14 - The League - Season 7 - The Final Fantasy
06/14 - The League - The Complete Series
06/14 - Maude - The Complete Fifth Season
06/14 - Survivor's Remorse - The Complete Second Season
06/21 - Workaholics - Season Six
06/24 - The Monkees - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
06/28 - Two Guys and a Girl - The Complete Series
07/08 - The Monkees - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
07/12 - Grady - The Best of Grady
07/26 - Family Mattters - The Complete Seventh Season
07/26 - Where's Huddles? - The Complete Series (WBShop.com)
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Tuesday, July 26

Wrecked - "The Adventures of Beth and Lamar" (TBS, 10:00PM ET/PT)
Danny and Owen start a new camp; two survivors try to escape the island; the island makes a discovery that could change everything.

Best Friends Whenever - "Worst Night Whenever" (Disney Channel, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Bret and Chet worry about their sixth grade dance; haunted by the memories of their own experience, Cyd and Shelby go back in time for a do-over.

In the Cut - "Very Superstitious" (Bounce TV, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Kenny becomes a savvy saver; everyone thinks the shop is haunted.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of July 25)

Tuesday, July 26

  • David Spade (Rules of Engagement/8 Simple Rules/Just Shoot Me!) - Catch David on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Abby Elliott (Odd Mom Out) - Abby stops by The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC. She will also be on People Now at 8:30am.
  • Maria Bamford (Lady Dynamite) - Maria visits Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Tituss Burgess (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) - Tituss appears on Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
  • Allison Janney (Mom/Mr. Sunshine) - Allison drops by Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Rex Lee (Young & Hungry/Suburgatory) - Rex is a guest on a repeat of The Real, so check your local listings.
  • Alfonso Ribeiro (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air/In the House/Silver Spoons) - Alfonso joins the Chew Crew on a repeat of ABC's The Chew at 1pm ET/12pm PT/CT.
  • Marilu Henner (Taxi/Evening Shade) - Marilu talks about how she stays slim and fit for life. She reveals her number one anti-aging beauty secret on The Dr. Oz Show, so chek your local listings.
  • Paul Reiser (Mad About You/The Paul Reiser Show) - Paul talks about Aliens on NBC's Today in the 9am hour.
  • Busy Phillips (Cougar Town) - Busy flashes back to her Freaks and Geeks audition tape on People Now at 8:30am.
  • Yvette Nicole Brown (The Odd Couple/Community) - Yvette guest co-hosts Access Hollywood Live, so check your local listings.
  • Jason Biggs (Mad Love/Drexell's Class) - Jason talks about Amateur Night on Access Hollywood Live, so check your local listings.
  • Ashley Williams (The Jim Gaffigan Show/Good Morning, Miami) - Ashley is a guest on People Now at 8:30am.
  • Michael Ian Black (The Jim Gaffigan Show/Ed) - Michael visits Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.