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

Wednesday, October 29

The Middle - "Halloween V" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
It's Halloween night, and Frankie and Mike are stunned – and a bit scared -- to learn that Brick has invited a girl over to the house just to hang with him. Meanwhile, to help supplement her college fund, Sue attempts to put together a pumpkin patch screening of the animated classic, “It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” and Axl reluctantly goes to the library to write a history paper and ironically gets locked inside after staying past closing hours.

The Goldbergs - "Family Takes Care of Beverly" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
When Pops accidentally starts a fire in his apartment during a Halloween party, he’s evicted and Beverly invites him to move into the Goldbergs’ home. Pops’ wild lifestyle is soon too much for the family to handle and they decide to look into other options. Meanwhile, Barry stops Erica from eating Pop Rocks candy with soda, since according to urban legend, the combination would kill her. Since he “saves” her, Barry wants something in return from Erica.

Modern Family - "Halloween 3: AwesomeLand" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Even though Halloween is Claire’s holiday, she allows Phil to take over this year so instead of her usual fright-fest theme, he decides to turn the house into AwesomeLand! Gloria picks out Princess Fiona and Shrek costumes for her and Jay but Jay decides he wants to be Prince Charming complete with a full head of gorgeous hair, and with the hair comes a new sense of confidence. Elsewhere, Cameron gets overwhelmed by the day’s activities and Mitchell has closing arguments for a huge case, and it doesn’t help that the stenographer is dressed like a spider.

black-ish - "The Prank King" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
Dre fears his holiday fun will be ruined when the older kids balk at the glorious Johnson Halloween tradition of seeing who can pull the most outlandish pranks on each other.

The League - "Taco Standard Time" (FXX, 10:00PM ET/PT)
Taco takes on the end of Daylight Savings Time. The guys try to help Lane (Zach Woods) during a difficult time. Andre and his cat M'Lady are on the rocks.

Tyler Perry's For Better or Worse - "Please Say Yes" (OWN, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Joseph tries to come up with a proposal idea for Leslie; he finds himself struggling with the preparation.

Complete TV Listings


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

Wednesday, October 29

  • Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men) - Watch Jon on Conan at 11pm on TBS. He will also appear with Ashton Kutcher on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Zooey Deschanel (New Girl) - Zooey performs with M. Ward on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC.
  • Will Arnett (The Millers/Up All Night/Arrested Development) - Will appears on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Lisa Kudrow (Friends/The Comeback) - Lisa visits Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Michael J. Fox (The Michael J. Fox Show/Spin City/Family Ties and Tracy Pollan (Family Ties) - Michael and Tracy are guests on Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo. Tracy also joins the Chew Crew on ABC's The Chew at 1pm ET/12pm PT/CT.
  • Justin Long (Mom/Ed) - Justin drops by The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Tone Bell (Bad Judge) - Tone is a guest on Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
  • Ashton Kutcher (Two and a Half Men/That '70s Show) - Ashton appears on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Jennie Garth (Mystery Girls/What I Like About You) - Jennie reveals behind the scenes secrets of 90210, how she became a DIY queen and life post divorce on The Meredith Vieira Show, so check your local listings.
  • Sherri Shepherd (Less Than Perfect/Sherri) - Sherri stops by The Queen Latifah Show on your local station or at 2am on BET.
  • Tyler Ritter (The McCarthys) - Tyler talks about his new comedy series The McCarthys on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
  • Debra Messing (Will & Grace) - Debra and Rach take on their stickiest challenge yet – a grape-stomping competition - on Rachael Ray, so check your local listings.
  • Kyra Sedgwick (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) - Kyra talks about Brooklyn Nine-Nine on NBC's Today in the 9am hour.
  • Soleil Moon Frye (Punky Brewster/Sabrina, the Teenage Witch) - Soleil will be on NBC's Today in the 9am hour.
  • Fran Drescher (The Nanny/Happily Divorced) - Fran talks about Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Inner Strength on NBC's Today in the 10am hour.
  • Nick Jonas (Jonas L.A.) - Nick is a guest on Access Hollywood Live, so check your local listings.
  • Anthony Anderson (black-ish/Guys with Kids/All About the Andersons) - Anthony appears on Access Hollywood Live, so check your local listings.