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 (October/November/December)

2 Broke Girls - The Complete Third Season Two and a Half Men - The Complete Eleventh Season WKRP in Cincinnati - The Complete Series Hot in Cleveland - Season Five Sgt. Bilko - The Phil Silvers Show - The Complete Series
Family Ties - The Complete Series Happy Days - The Sixth Season The Jeffersons - The Complete Series Mister Ed - The Complete Series Mork & Mindy - The Complete Series

10/07 - The Dick Van Dyke Show - Classic Christmas Episodes
10/07 - The Flying Nun - The Complete First and Second Seasons (Mill Creek)
10/07 - The Middle - The Complete Fifth Season (Warner Archive)
10/07 - The Office - The Complete Series
10/07 - The Wonders Years - Season One
10/10 - The Wonder Years - The Complete Series - Read Our Review / The Signature Edition / Seasons 1-3
10/14 - 2 Broke Girls - The Complete Third Season
10/14 - Two and a Half Men - The Complete Eleventh Season
10/21 - Married with Children - Seasons 5 and 6 (Mill Crek)
10/21 - The Soul Man - The Complete Second Season
10/21 - Square Pegs - The Complete Series (Mill Creek)
10/28 - WKRP in Cincinnati - The Complete Series
11/04 - Hot in Cleveland - Season Five
11/04 - Napoleon Dynamite - The Complete Animated Series
11/04 - Sgt. Bilko (The Phil Silvers Show) - The Complete Series
11/11 - Dads - The Complete Series
11/11 - Family Ties - The Complete Series
11/11 - My Favorite Martian - Best of Collection
11/11 - Taxi - The Complete Series
11/11 - Wings - The Complete Series (Mill Creek)
11/18 - King of the Hill - The Complete Seventh Season / The Complete Eighth Season
11/25 - Better Off Ted - The Complete Second Season
12/02 - Happy Days - The Sixth Season
12/09 - Barney Miller - The Complete Sixth Season
12/09 - The Jeffersons - The Complete Series
12/09 - Mister Ed - The Complete Series
12/09 - Mork & Mindy - The Fourth Season / The Complete Series
12/16 - The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis - The Final (Fourth) Season
12/23 - My Favorite Martian - Season Two - Collector's Edition
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Saturday, October 25

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of October 27) (All times ET unless noted)

Sunday, October 26

  • The Cast of A Different World - The cast of A Different World reunites on Oprah: Where Are They Now? at 9pm ET/PT on OWN.
Monday, October 27
  • Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation) - Watch Amy on The Late Show with David Letterman at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly) - Melissa visits Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Ray Romano (Everybody Loves Raymond) - Ray appears on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Max Greenfield (New Girl/Modern Men) - Max is a guest on Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Norman Lear (Producer of All in the Family/Sanford and Son/The Jeffersons) - Norman chats on Tavis Smiley on PBS, so check your local listings.
  • Rob Corddry (The Winner/Ben and Kate) - Rob is a guest on @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
  • Andrea Martin (Working the Engels) - Andrea stops by Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
  • Nathan Lane (Modern Family/Encore! Encore!/Charlie Lawrence) - Nathan appears on Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
  • Laurence Fisburne (black-ish) - Laurence chats with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Sean Hayes (The Millers/Sean Saves the World/Will & Grace) - Sean is a guest on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Sarah Hyland (Modern Family) - Sarah dishes about a red carpet celebrity mix up and opens up about the adversity she's facing in her personal life on The Meredith Vieira Show, so check your local listings.
  • Vivica A. Fox (Out All Night) - Vivica reveals which actor was the worst kisser and why she chose to throw herself an outrageous 50th birthday party on The Meredith Vieira Show, so check your local listings.
  • Alfonso Ribeiro (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air/Silver Spoons) - Alfonso drops by The Queen Latifah Show on your local station or at 2am on BET.
  • Haley Joel Osment (Thunder Alley/The Jeff Foxworthy Show) - Haley Joel will be on NBC's Today sometime between 7-9am.
  • Zendaya (Shake It Up) - Zendaya is a guest on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am.
  • Kieran Culkin (Go Fish) - Kieran will be on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 12:30pm ET.