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 (August)

The Jeffersons - Season Eight Maude - The Complete Second Season 2 Broke Girls - The Complete Fourth Season Mike & Molly - The Complete Fifth Season Welcome Back, Kotter - The Final (Fourth) Season

08/04 - The Comeback - The Complete Series
08/04 - I Love Lucy - Ultimate Season 2 (Blu-ray)
08/04 - Sgt. Bilko (The Phil Silvers Show) - Season Three
08/11 - The Jeffersons - Season Eight
08/11 - Maude - The Complete Second Season
08/11 - 2 Broke Girls - The Complete Fourth Season
08/11 - The Jeff Foxworthy Show - The COmplete Series (Mill Creek)
08/18 - Mike & Molly - The Complete Fifth Season
08/18 - Welcome Back, Kotter - The Final (Fourth) Season
08/25 - King of the Hill - The Complete 11th Season
08/25 - The Mindy Project - Season Three
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Sunday, August 30


Bob's Burgers - "The Gayle Tales" (Fox, 7:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Linda's sister, Gayle (guest voice Megan Mullally), arrives at Bob's Burgers in tears because her date for the evening was cancelled and she had theater tickets!!! Desperate to get out of the house after being grounded, the kids compete to be Aunt Gayle's “date” for the evening via an essay contest.

Bob's Burgers - "L'il Dad" (Fox, 7:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Bob becomes obsessed with his new automatic helicopter, but when it falls apart for no reason, he enters into a battle with the manufacturer in order to receive a refund. Gene assists Bob in his quest, but things quickly get out of hand and end in a crazy helicopter battle. Meanwhile, Louise and Linda help Tina prepare for her oral book report.

The Simpsons - "Bull-E" (Fox, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
After Bart gets bullied at the school dance, Marge convinces the town to pass anti-bullying legislation. Homer then gets arrested and sent to rehab for bullying Ned Flanders, only to subsequently leave rehab as a hero.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine - "Det. Dave Majors" (Fox, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Jake is excited to work a case with the best detective in the NYPD, Detective Majors (guest star Garret Dillahunt), until Majors shares his intentions to ask Amy out on a date. Meanwhile, Charles and Gina try to convince Terry to stay at the Nine-Nine when he considers accepting an offer to work at a private security firm.

Family Guy - "This Little Piggy" (Fox, 9:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Meg is thrilled to be recruited as a model, but it turns out to be for a very specific type of modeling: the foot-fetish industry. Meanwhile, Brian accompanies Stewie on an open-road adventure when Stewie decides he wants to experience life outside of preschool.

The Last Man on Earth - "Moved to Tampa" (Fox, 9:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Now a single man, Phil discovers there are other fish in the tiny, tiny sea of Tucson survivors.


The Carmichael Show - "Pilot" (NBC, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
When Jerrod (Jerrod Carmichael) decides to move in with his girlfriend, Maxine (Amber Stevens West), he is incredibly hesitant to tell his opinionated parents, Cynthia (Loretta Devine) and Joe (David Alan Grier). While Maxine feels they both need to be open and honest, Jerrod and his brother, Bobby (Lil Rel Howery) are well aware that this is a recipe for disaster...

The Carmichael Show - "Protest" (NBC, 8:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
A protest breaks out in the community, causing divisions in the family over social activism and complicating Jerrod's birthday celebration.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of August 31) (All times ET unless noted)

Monday, August 31

  • Victoria Justice (Victorious/Zoey 101) - Watch Victoria on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC.
  • Roseanne Barr (Roseanne) - Roseanne stops by Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Demi Lovato (Sonny with a Chance) - Demi is a panelist and musical guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Melora Hardin (Transparent/Wedding Band/The Office) - Melora is a guest on a repeat of The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Amy Landecker (Transparent) - Amy will be on a repeat of The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Abby Elliott (Odd Mom Out) - Abby appears on a repeat of Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
  • Tim Conway (McHale's Navy/Rango) - Tim is a guest on a repeat of The Queen Latifah Show, so check your local listings.
  • Cedric the Entertainer (The Soul Man/The Steve Harvey Show) and Niecy Nash (The Soul Man/Getting On/Reno 911!) - Cedric and Niecy are guests on a repeat of The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Jeremy Sisto (Suburgatory) and David Walton (About a Boy/Bent/Perfect Couples) - Jeremy and David talk about their new film Break Point on NBC's Today in the 9am hour, on HuffPost Live at 3:00pm, on the AOL Build Show, on SI Now and on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 12:30pm ET.