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 (February)

The Bob Newhart Show - Season Five The Bob Newhart Show - The Final (Sixth) Season Maude - The Complete First Season (Mill Creek) The Wonder Years - Season Two Mama's Family - The Complete Sixth Season

02/03 - The Bob Newhart Show - Season Five
02/03 - The Bob Newhart Show - The Final (Sixth) Season
02/03 - Maude - The Complete First Season (Mill Creek) / The Complete Series Available 3/17 (Shout! Factory)
02/03 - The Wonder Years - Season Two
02/10 - Mama's Family - The Complete Sixth Season
02/10 - Nurse Jackie - Season Six (Blu-ray)
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Saturday, February 28

Henry Danger - "Caved In" (Nickelodeon, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Henry, Charlotte, and Ray's plans for a day of fun are derailed when Jasper accidentally triggers the emergency lockdown mode for Junk-N-Stuff and the Man Cave, trapping everyone inside.

Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn - "Piggy, Piggy, Piggy & Dawn" (Nickelodeon, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Dawn wants to change up the Quads' puppet routine for the talent show and finally win first place, but gets frustrated after always being outvoted by her brothers.

Bella and the Bulldogs - "That's My Tri-Five!" (Nickelodeon, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Bella encourages Sophie and Pepper to recruit a new girl to fill the void she left behind on the cheerleading squad. Bella begins to question her friendship with the girls when the girls succeed in replacing her all too well.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of March 2) (All times ET unless noted)

Saturday, February 28

  • John Travolta (Welcome Back, Kotter) - Watch John on a primetime encore of the Jimmy Kimmel Live: After the Oscars special on ABC at 8pm. Special appearances include Neil Patrick Harris, Mila Kunis, Jennifer Aniston, John Krasinski, J.K. Simmons and Kevin Hart.
Monday, March 2
  • Steve Carell (The Office) - Watch Steve on a repeat of The Late Show with David Letterman at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Aziz Ansari (Parks and Recreation) - Aziz drops by Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Drew Carey (The Drew Carey Show/The Good Life) - Drew guest co-hosts The Late Late Show at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Joshua Molina (Sports Night) - Joshua appears on The Late Late Show at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Cathy Ladman (Caroline in the City) - Cathy visits The Late Late Show at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Kelly Ripa (Hope & Faith) - Kelly stops by Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Cristela Alonzo (Cristela) - Cristela is a guest on Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Juliette Lewis (I Married Dora) - Juliette talks about ABC's Secrets & Lies on LIVE! with Kelly and Michael, so check your listings.
  • Jamie Foxx (The Jamie Foxx Show) - Jamie appears on a repeat of The Queen Latifah Show on your local station or at 3am on BET.
  • Lisa Kudrow (The Comeback/Friends) - Lisa chats on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Terry Crews (Brooklyn Nine-Nine/Are We There Yet?/Everybody Hates Chris) - Terry is a guest on The Better Show, so check your local listings.
  • Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm) - Larry talks about Fish in the Dark on NBC's Today sometime between 7-9am.
  • Alan Alda (M*A*S*H) - Alan appears on NBC's Today sometime between 7-9am and in the 10am hour.
  • Sean Giambrone (The Goldbergs) - Sean talks about his hit comedy series on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
  • Mo'Nique (The Parkers) - Mo'Nique will be on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am.