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 (March)

Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. - The Complete Series Bewitched - Seasons 5 & 6 (Mill Creek) Maude - The Complete Series WKRP in Cincinnati - The Complete First Season (Shout! Factory) The Donna Reed Show - Season 2 (MPI Home Video)

03/03 - CHiPs - The Complete Third Season
03/10 - Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. - The Complete Series
03/10 - Hey Dude - The Complete Series (Walmart Exclusive)
03/10 - Petticoat Junction - Family Favorite Episodes
03/17 - Bewitched - Season 5 (Mill Creek)
03/17 - Bewitched - Season 6 (Mill Creek)
03/17 - Bewitched - Seasons 5 & 6 (Mill Creek)
03/17 - Maude - The Complete Series (Shout! Factory)
03/17 - WKRP in Cincinnati - The Complete First Season (Shout! Factory)
03/17 - WKRP in Cincinnati - The Complete Second Season (Shout! Factory)
03/24 - The Donna Reed Show - Season 2 (MPI Home Video)
03/31 - Silicon Valley - Season 1 (Blu-ray)
03/31 - Veep - The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray)
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Wednesday, April 1

The Middle - "Operation Infiltration" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Frankie accompanies Brick on a school field trip and attempts to help her socially inept son make friends with a couple of boys. Meanwhile, when Devin scolds Axl for being mean to his sister, he tries to make it look like they are the best of friends when Sue spends the weekend at his house; and while trying to thin out some of their hoarding father’s massive stockpile of junk, Mike gets a sinking feeling that he may have bullied his brother Rusty (Norm Macdonald) a bit too much as kids and turned him into the hapless man that he is today.

The Goldbergs - "The Adam Bomb" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
When Erica gets inspired to put college on hold, in favor of pursuing a singing career, Beverly is worried Erica will be disappointed her dream will not come true. Beverly puts Murray up to the task to have a talk about her future with a surprising result. Meanwhile, Adam and Barry get into an epic war that starts as an April Fools’ joke but ends with more repercussion.

Modern Family - "Grill, Interrupted" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Jay’s birthday brings everyone together and Phil is beside himself over the super cool gift he got Jay, a high-tech outdoor grill. Claire and Mitch decide they will “offer” to pay back the money Jay loaned them ages ago as their gift not really thinking he will take them up on it, and Gloria teaches Manny and Luke a lesson about drinking, while Andy gets real awkward with Haley when she brings over her new doctor boyfriend.

black-ish - "Sex, Lies and Vasectomies" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
Bow learns from her colleague that Dre never had the vasectomy a few years back that he was supposedly scheduled, so she decides to see if he’ll come clean and tell the truth.

Young & Hungry - "Young & Cookin'" (ABC Family, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Gabi fears for her job when Josh begins dating a woman who loves to cook.

Hot in Cleveland - "All Dolled Up" (TV Land, 10:00PM ET/PT)
Elka is convinced that Bob’s gift to Joy is a voodoo doll. Melanie accidentally doses her boyfriend, Dane (William Baldwin) with estrogen. Victoria gets a visit from her agent (Garry Marshall).

The Soul Man - "Shopping While Black" (TV Land, 10:30PM ET/PT)
When Lolli is wrongfully accused of shoplifting at a posh department store, Boyce rallies the community for a protest. Stamps turns to Lester to help him get rid of his cupcake truck.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of March 30) (All times ET unless noted)

Wednesday, April 1

  • Jeremy Piven (Entourage/Ellen) - Watch Jeremy on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS. He talks about what it was like to reunite with his Entourage co-stars to make the highly anticipated movie, dating in Hollywood and more on The Merdith Vieira Show, so check your local listings.
  • Kevin Hart (The Big House/Undeclared) - Kevin appears on a repeat of Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart at 11pm.
  • Natasha Leggero (Free Agents) - Natasha is a guest on a repeat of @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
  • Peter Facinelli (Nurse Jackie) - Peter stops by Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC. He also talks about American Odyssey on VH1's Big Morning Buzz Live at 9am and New York Live on WNBC in New York at 12:30pm ET..
  • Maz Jobrani (Better Off Ted/The Knights of Prosperity) - Maz is a guest on Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
  • Rob Corddry (The Winner) - Rob visits Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Brooke Shields (Suddenly Susan) - Brooke appears on a repeat of The Queen Latifah Show on your local station or at 1am on BET.
  • Zachary Knighton (Weird Loners/Happy Endings) - Zachary talks about Weird Loners on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
  • Robyn Lively (George & Leo/Doogie Howser, M.D.) - Robyn and Sloane Morgan Siegel talk about their critically acclaimed series Gortimer Gibbon's Life on Normal Street on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
  • Chris Messina (The Mindy Project) - Chris discusses his directorial debut and starring role in Alex of Venice, a drama about a woman who's forced to revaluate her life and career after her husband suddenly leaves her, on HuffPost Live at 11:30am.