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 (April)

Barney Miller - The Complete Seventh Season Frasier - The Complete Series What's Happening!! - The Complete Series The Jeffersons - Season Seven Sgt. Bilko (The Phil Silvers Show) - The Second Season

04/07 - Barney Miller - The Complete Seventh Season
04/07 - The Brady Bunch - The Complete Series
04/07 - The Crazy Ones - The Complete First Season
04/07 - Frasier - The Complete Series
04/07 - King of the Hill - The Complete 9th Season
04/07 - King of the Hill - The Complete 10th Season
04/07 - 1600 Penn - The Complete Season 1
04/07 - Wanda at Large - The Complete First Season (WBShop.com)
04/07 - Wilfred - The Complete Season 4
04/14 - Growing Pains - The Complete Fourth Season (WBShop.com)
04/21 - What's Happening!! - The Complete Series (Mill Creek)
04/28 - I Love Lucy - I Love Mom Edition
04/28 - The Jeffersons - Season Seven
04/28 - Mama's Family - Mama's Favorites: Season 5
04/28 - Sgt. Bilko (The Phil Silvers Show) - The Second Season
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Saturday, April 24

Bella and the Bulldogs - "Player Hater" (Nickelodeon, 8:30PM ET/PT)
When Troy starts to date Bella's nemesis, Charlotte, Bella decides to put their differences aside. However after Bella finds out Charlotte is actually using Troy, she struggles to break the news to her friend.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of April 27) (All times ET unless noted)

Monday, April 27

  • Jane Krakowski (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt/30 Rock) - Watch Jane on Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Kevin Pollak (Mom/Work with Me) - Kevin is a guest on @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
  • Tom Rhodes (Mr. Rhodes) - Tom appears on @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
  • Cedric the Entertainer (The Soul Man/The Steve Harvey Show) - Cedric stops by Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • NeNe Leakes (The New Normal) - NeNe chats on LIVE! with Kelly and Michael, so check your listings. She will also be on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 12:30pm ET.
  • Kunal Nayyar (The Big Bang Theory) - Kunal drops by The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men/The Famous Teddy Z) - Jon appears on a repeat of The Queen Latifah Show on your local station or at 1am on BET.
  • Casey Wilson (Marry Me/Happy Endings) - Casey is a guest on a repeat of The Queen Latifah Show on your local station or at 1am on BET.
  • Mo'Nique (The Parkers) - Mo'Nique joins the Chew Crew on ABC's The Chew at 1pm ET/12pm PT/CT. She also discusses weight loss on The Dr. Oz Show, so check your local listings.
  • Keke Palmer (True Jackson, VP) - Keke chats with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Penelope Ann Miller (A Minute with Stan Hooper/The Popcorn Kid) - Penelope chats with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT. She talks about her latest role in ABC's American Crime on HuffPost Live at 2pm.
  • Cristela Alonzo (Cristela) - Cristela guest co-hosts The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.