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 - TARGET="_blank">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 22

The Middle - "The Table" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
As Frankie and Mike wish each other a happy 20-somethingth wedding anniversary, Axl decides that he and Hutch need to class up their broke-down house and find another roommate to help with expenses. But while helping Axl track down a dining room table to help spruce up his house, Frankie finds a full dining set on sale online for $50 and ends up giving Axl the Heck house dining room table, while she excitedly looks forward to her new purchase. Meanwhile, after being presented with a special necklace to proclaim his love, Sue becomes angry with her boyfriend, Darrin, when she discovers that he had also given the same gift to his former girlfriend. And Brick begins a podcast. Jimmy Kimmel guest stars as himself.

The Goldbergs - "Shall We Play a Game?" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Adam inadvertently gets Barry kicked out of the cool group (Jenkintown Posse) of friends at school and must come up with a plan to get his brother back in. Adam convinces Barry and his friends he has the skills to hack into the school computer system to change their grades, but does he? Later, Beverly is immediately jealous when she learns Erica hangs out with a friend’s cooler mom and sets out to show Erica she can be cool too.

Modern Family - "Won't You Be Our Neighbor" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Phil is selling the house next door and he and Claire are excited by the prospect of having wonderful new neighbors, but that quickly turns into panic when a loud and obnoxious couple (guest stars Steve Zahn and Andrea Anders) come to look at the house. Jay forbids Manny to see his new girlfriend when he realizes she’s the granddaughter of his biggest business rival, leading to a clash of the closet titans. Elsewhere, Mitch and Cam are determined to switch Lily out of Mrs. Plank’s (guest star Tyne Daly) class since she is known to rule with an iron fist – not to mention she scares them too.

black-ish - "Crime and Punishment" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
Although Dre and Rainbow agreed they would no longer spank their kids, all bets might be off when Jack disobeys. Now, Zoey, Junior, Diane and a nervous Jack are afraid that their parents will go back on their word.

Melissa & Joey - "Witch Came First" (ABC Family, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Mel's doctor drops in on Halloween and reveals that Mel was once a teenage witch.

Baby Daddy - "Strip or Treat" (ABC Family, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Ben, Danny and Tucker end up in jail when their plans to attend a big Halloween party go awry.

The League - "Man Land" (FXX, 10:00PM ET/PT)
Jenny's dad (Corbin Bernsen) takes the guys camping. Andre and Russell go into business together. Pete's new team name offends Kevin who refuses to say it.

Tyler Perry's For Better or Worse - "The Restraining Order" (OWN, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Keisha retaliates by serving Richard with a restraining order; Marcus brings in an attorney to help out his friend.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of October 20) (All times ET unless noted)

Wednesday, October 22

  • Jason Bateman (Arrested Development/The Hogan Family/It's Your Move) - Watch Jason on a repeat of The Late Show with David Letterman at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Mike Epps (Survivor's Remorse) - Mike drops by Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent/Arrested Development/The Larry Sanders Show) - Jeffrey appears on a repeat of The Colbert Report at 11:30pm on Comedy Central.
  • Craig Ferguson (The Drew Carey Show) - Craig is a guest on a repeat of Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC. He will also be on Rachael Ray, so check your local listings.
  • Kat Dennings (2 Broke Girls) - Kat stops by Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Jenny McCarthy (Two and a Half Men/Jenny) - Jenny chats on Watch What Happens: Live at 11pm on Bravo.
  • Henry Zebrowski (A to Z) - Henry is a guest on a repeat of @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
  • Ty Burrell (Modern Family/Back to You/Out of Practice) - Ty appears on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am. He also chats with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Fred Savage and Danica McKellar (The Wonder Years) - Fred and Danica chat with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Tori Spelling (Mystery Girls) - Tori opens up about the cheating scandal that left her marriage in shambles, how she juggles four kids, business ventures and salvaging her relationship with her husband on The Dr. Oz Show, so check your local listings.
  • Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family/The Class) - Jesse visits The Meredith Vieira Show, so check your local listings.
  • Elise Neal (The Hughleys) - Elise is a guest on Access Hollywood Live, so check your local listings.