Friday, July 06, 2007 Special: Networks Selling Out? 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

Monday, March 19

Kevin Can Wait - "Delivery Guy" (CBS, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Vanessa convinces Kevin to go on a TV talk show with the “baby boy” he helped deliver years ago as a cop, but her plan to promote Monkey Fist backfires when Kevin runs into his arch-nemesis, Frank Munson (Ricardo Chavira), at the appearance. Michael Yo returns as Tom, a morning show host.

Man with a Plan - "March Madness" (CBS, 8:30PM ET/PT)
When Adam and Andi lose footage of an intimate moment they accidentally recorded, they have to track it down before anyone can see it.

Superior Donuts - "The Chicago Way" (CBS, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Randy, who just passed the detective’s exam, is asked by her former supervisor, Ted (guest star Christopher McDonald), to talk to a female rookie who has filed a sexual harassment complaint against him. Also, Arthur’s usual arrangement with a city health inspector to ignore violations in the shop goes awry when a new by-the-book inspector shows up.

Living Biblically - "Thou Shalt Not Steal" (CBS, 9:30PM ET/PT)
Chip infuriates his colleagues when he decides to follow the commandment “Thou Shalt Not Steal” and begins returning office supplies he stole.

American Dad - "" (TBS, 10:00PM ET/PT)
Stan deals with childhood issues of abandonment, which affects his performance at work; Klaus builds a website based on Smith family fails.

Complete TV Listings

Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of March 19)

Monday, March 19

  • Drew Barrymore (Santa Clarita Diet) - Watch Drew on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Adam DeVine (Workaholics/Modern Family) - Adam appears on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley) - Kumail is a guest on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Jenny Slate (Married/Parks and Recreation/Bob's Burgers) - Jenny visits The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Josh Radnor (How I Met Your Mother) - Josh stops by Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
  • Burt Reynolds (Evening Shade) - Burt appears on Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Krysten Ritter (Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23) - Krysten chats on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Allison Janney (Mom/Mr. Sunshine) - Allison is a guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Zach Woods (Silicon Valley/Playing House/The Office) - Zach drops by The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Billy Ray Cyrus (Still The King) - Billy Ray appears on a repeat of Harry, so check your local listings.
  • The Cast of You Me Her - Greg Pohler, Rachel Blanchard and Priscilla Faia are guests on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 11:30am ET.
  • Swoosie Kurtz (Mike & Molly/Love & Money/Love, Sidney) - Swoosie talks about The Dangerous Book for Boys on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
  • Nia Long (Uncle Buck/The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) - Nia talks about Roxanne Roxanne on NBC's Today in the 10am hour.
  • Jay Pharoah (White Famous) - Jay talks about Unsane on the BUILD Series at 1pm.