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 (June/July/August)

Father Knows Best - Season Six Diff'rent Strokes - The Complete Sixth Season Alice - The Complete Fifth Season Rhoda - Season Four Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season Four

06/13 - The Andy Griffith Show - Return to Mayberry
06/13 - That's My Mama - The Complete Series
06/20 - Workaholics - The Final (Seventh) Season
06/20 - Workaholics - The Complete Series
06/27 - The Jamie Foxx Show - The Complete Third Season
07/04 - Superstore - Season Two
07/18 - Father Knows Best - Season Six
07/25 - Diff'ernt Strokes - The Complete Sixth Season
07/25 - Girls - The Final (Sixth) Season (Blu-ray)
08/01 - Alice - The Complete Fifth Season (WBShop.com)
08/01 - Crashing - The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)
08/15 - Rhoda - Season Four
08/22 - Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season Four
08/29 - Will & Grace - Season One (Universal)
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Tuesday, August 22

The Mick - "The Mess" (Fox, 9:00PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
When Mickey’s attempts at disciplining the kids are ignored, she decides to shed her “cool aunt” persona and lay down the law.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine - "Monster in the Closet" (Fox, 9:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Pimento and Rosa decide to pick up where they left off and get married, so the whole squad preps a perfect wedding under Amy’s careful direction. Pimento enlists Jake and Gina to hunt for his grandmother’s ruby earrings for Rosa to wear in the ceremony, but the universe has other plans for them.

Wrecked - "Nerd Speak" (TBS, 10:30PM ET/PT)
As the ship sinks, the survivors try to escape.

Still the King - "Vernon's Single" (CMT, 1:00AM ET/PT)
Vernon discovers his manager has given his new single to another recording artist to perform.

Still the King - "Who's Your Daddy?" (CMT, 1:30AM ET/PT)
It's Debbie and Ronnie's big wedding day, but when Debbie's water breaks on the altar, Vernon races against the clock to be there for the birth.

In The Cut - "Party Things" (Bounce TV, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Jay and Smitty see dollar signs when an enthusiastic lawyer convinces them their complaints can result in big cash settlements; Kenny reconnects with Angelique, but it's her new boyfriend, Conrad, that is interested in a relationship with Kenny.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of August 21)

Tuesday, August 22

  • Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory) - Catch Jim on a repeat of Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Michael Showalter (Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later/Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp) - Michael appears on a repeat of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Maya Rudolph (Up All Night) - Maya is a guest on a repeat of Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Topher Grace (That '70s Show) - Topher appears on a repeat of Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
  • Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation) - Chris is a guest on a repeat of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Kevin Hart (The Big House/Undeclared) - Kevin appears on a repeat of Harry, so check your local listings.
  • Jake Smollett (On Our Own) - Jake takes store-bought ramen to the next level on a repeat of Rachael Ray, so check your local listings.
  • Spencer Sutherland (Still the King) - Spencer dishes on playing a young Billy Ray Cyrus on Still the King on People Now at 8:30am.
  • Mindy Sterling (Con Man/A.N.T. Farm) - Mindy talks about Syfy's Con Man on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
  • John Corbett (Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll/United States of Tara/Lucky) - John talks about All Saints on NBC's Today in the 9am hour. He can also be heard on The Morning Mash Up on SiriusXM at 11am.