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.


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Friday, January 18

Fresh Off the Boat - "Driver's Eddie 2: Orlando Drift" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Eddie finally gets his driver’s license; but instead of freedom, he finds an endless list of errands to run for his mom. Will he be done in time to take his friends to the Insane Clown Posse concert? Louis is excited for a boy’s weekend at Chili Con with Marvin, until Honey tags along; and Jessica faces off with her nemesis, Jamie, at the school fundraiser.

Speechless - "H-- HEY, YOU" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Maya is less than thrilled when Kenneth interferes with her business plans with Melanie. Ray begs JJ to cast him opposite his new crush, Izzy, in his next movie, which has unexpected consequences. Meanwhile, Dylan is impressed with Jimmy’s band.

Last Man Standing - "Dreams vs. Realty" (Fox, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Mandy comes close to forgetting her fashion designer dreams when she is confronted with rejection and sends herself in a spiral; Vanessa feels regret as she reflects on her own career path; Mike helps the women in his family achieve their dreams.

The Cool Kids - "Thanksgiving at Murray's" (Fox, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Mike and Ryan are forced to get along together when Boyd proposes a compromise to their plans to take him on separate trips by all three going on a trip together; Mandy and Kyle attempt to solve a mystery like a pair of detectives.

Andi Mack - "I Got Your Number" (Disney Channel, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Andi gets in over her head when she attends a high school party with Amber, causing Bowie's plans for a romantic outing with Bex to go awry; Cyrus tries to mend a longtime rift between Jonah and T.J.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of January 14)

Friday, January 18

  • Maura Tierney (NewsRadio) - Watch Maura on a repeat of Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Elizabeth Banks (Scrubs) - Elizabeth visits The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC. She talks about The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am.
  • Andy Samberg (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) - Andy appears on a repeat of Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Lily Tomlin (Grace and Frankie/Malibu Country) and Jane Fonda (Grace and Frankie) - Lily and Jane are guests on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Pete Holmes (Crashing) - Pete appears on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Molly Ringwald (Townies/The Facts of Life) - Molly talks about All These Small Moments on People Now at 12pm.
  • Don Cheadle (Black Monday/House of Lies/The Golden Palace) - Don talks about Black Monday on ABC's GMA Day at 1pm.
  • Dave Franco (Scrubs/Do Not Disturb) - Dave talks about If Beale Street Could Talk on NBC's Today in the 9am hour.
  • Adam Pally (Champaign ILL/Making History/The Mindy Project/Happy Endings) and Sam Richardson (Champaign ILL/Detroiters/Veep) - Adam and Sam talk about Champaign ILL on NBC's Today in the 10am hour.


New on DVD/Blu-ray (November/December/January)

Step by Step - The Complete Third Season Perfect Strangers - The Complete Sixth Season Fuller House - The Complete Third Season The Wayans Bros. - The Complete Fourth Season The Game - The Complete Series

11/01 - Episodes - Season 5
11/05 - Robin Williams - Comic Genius (includes Mork & Mindy)
11/06 - American Dad! - Volume 13
11/16 - Man with a Plan - Season One
11/20 - Step by Step - The Complete Third Season
11/27 - What I Like About You - The Complete Third Season
11/28 - The Great Indoors - Season 1 (The Complete Series)
12/04 - Family Guy - Season Sixteen
12/04 - Perfect Strangers - The Complete Sixth Season
12/18 - Our Cartoon President - Season One
01/08 - Family Guy - 20 Greatest Hits
01/22 - Fuller House - The Complete Third Season
01/22 - The Wayans Bros. - The Complete Fourth Season (WBShop.com)
01/29 - Ballers - The Complete Fourth Season (Blu-ray)
01/29 - Crashing - The Complete Second Season
01/29 - The Game - The Complete Series
01/29 - Kidding - Season One
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