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 (May)

Mad About You - The Complete Series The Jim Gaffigan Show Newhart - The Complete Fifth Season The Facts of Life - The Final (Ninth) Season The Wonder Years - Season Five

05/03 - Mad About You - The Complete Series
05/03 - The Jim Gaffigan Show - Season One
05/10 - Newhart - The Complete Fifth Season
05/17 - Angie Tribeca - The Complete First Season
05/17 - The Facts of Life - The Final (Ninth) Season
05/24 - The Wonder Years - Season Five
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Monday, May 30

American Dad - "Mine Struggle" (TBS, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Stan discovers a salt mine in the backyard, but Steve turns out to be the rightful owner of the land, and faces pressure from the family to sell.

The Detour - "The Track" (TBS, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Nate's plan to get his job back unravels once they arrive; a nearby race track offers hope.

The Detour - "The Beach" (TBS, 9:30PM ET/PT)
The Parkers try to take down Nate's company through whistle blowing.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of May 30)

Monday, May 30

  • Anthony Anderson (black-ish/Guys with Kids/All About the Andersons) - Watch Anthony on a repeat of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara (Schitt's Creek) - Eugene and Catherine are guests on a repeat of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Ariana Grande (Sam & Cat/Victorious) - Ariana is a musical guest on a repeat of Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Connie Britton (Spin City/The Fighting Fitzgeralds/Lost at Home) - Connie appears on a repeat of The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Jason Sudeikis (The Last Man on Earth/The Cleveland Show) - Jason is a guest on a repeat of The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Riki Lindhome (Another Period/Super Fun Night) - Riki appears on a repeat of The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore at 11:30pm on Comedy Central.
  • Tom Lennon (The Odd Couple/Sean Saves the World) - Tom is a guest on a repeat of @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
  • Ron Funches (Undateable) - Ron appears on a repeat of @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
  • Ray Romano (Everybody Loves Raymond) - Ray is a guest on a repeat of Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Jussie Smollett (On Our Own) - Jussie guest co-hosts LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings.
  • Zendaya (K.C. Undercover/Shake It Up) - Zendaya appears on a repeat of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Michael Strahan (Brothers) - Michael races against the clock in a celebrity guessing game on a repeat of Rachael Ray, so check your local listings.