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.


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Friday, March 22

Fresh Off the Boat - "Vice Mommy" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Jessica starts her college classes, leaving Evan in charge at home as “vice mommy.” But the transition doesn’t go smoothly, either for her starting school again or with Evan taking over the reins of the Huang household. Eddie and Louis run into conflict when Eddie just wants his dad to treat him as an employee, and not a son, at Cattleman’s Ranch.

Speechless - "P-R-O-M-P--PROMPOSAL" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Outraged that JJ’s girlfriend, Izzy, declines his invitation to prom, Dylan and Ray swing for the fences with a bold plan to make her jealous. Jimmy, Kenneth and Melanie coach Maya through accepting criticism for the good of her company, and one of the DiMeos takes a big step into a new life.

Last Man Standing - "The Passion of Paul" (Fox, 8:00PM ET/PT)
When Rev. Paul calls on Mike to teach Sunday school, Mike calls on Kyle to take his place.

The Cool Kids - "Margaret Ups Her Game" (Fox, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Margaret tries to date the hottest guy in Shady Meadows but can't seem to rid herself of Leonard.

Sydney to the Max - "You've Got Female" (Disney Channel, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Sydney organizes a school protest for clubs to be more inclusive of women; young Max befriends a skater girl, but is conflicted because the Dog Boys don't allow girls in their crew.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of March 18)

Friday, March 22

  • Matt LeBlanc (Man with a Plan/Episodes/Joey/Friends/Vinnie & Bobby) - Watch Matt on a repeat of Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Illana Glazer (Broad City) - Illana is a guest on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC.
  • Pamela Adlon (Better Things/King of the Hill/The Facts of Life) - Pamela appears on a repeat of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • J. K. Simmons (Growing Up Fisher/Family Tools) - J. K. is a guest on a repeat of Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Cobie Smulders (Friends from College/How I Met Your Mother) - Cobie appears on a repeat of The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Stephen Merchant (Hello Ladies) - Stephen is a guest on a repeat of Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
  • Keegan-Michael Key (Friends from College/Playing Houe/Gary Unmarried) - Keegan-Michael visits LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
  • Piper Perabo (Turn Up Charlie) - Piper is tentatively scheduled to appear on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 11:30am ET.
  • Casey Wilson (Black Monday/Marry Me/Happy Endings) - Casey talks about Black Monday on Couch Surfing at 8am.
  • Natalie Morales (Abby's/The Grinder/Trophy Wife/Parks and Recreation) - Natalie appears on NBC's Today in the 10am hour.
  • Mark Hamill (The Texas Wheelers) - Mark talks about Knightfall on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am and on Strahan & Sara at 1pm.
  • Tony Danza (Taxi/Who's the Boss?/Hudston Street/The Tony Danza Show) - Tony performs on ABC's Strahan & Sara at 1pm.
  • Maddie Corman (Mr. President/All-American Girl) - Maddie talks about the play Accidentally Brave on The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
  • Patti LaBelle (Out All Night) - Patti will be on Steve, so check your local listings.


New on DVD/Blu-ray (January/February/March)

Step by Step - The Complete Fourth Season What I Like About You - The Complete Fourth Season Hangin' with Mr. Cooper - The Complete Second Season Alice - The Complete Ninth Season The Wayans Bros. - The Complete Fifth Season

01/08 - Family Guy - 20 Greatest Hits
01/22 - Fuller House - The Complete Third Season
01/22 - The Wayans Bros. - The Complete Fourth Season (WBShop.com)
01/29 - Ballers - The Complete Fourth Season (Blu-ray)
01/29 - Crashing - The Complete Second Season
01/29 - The Game - The Complete Series
01/29 - Kidding - Season One
02/05 - Family Guy - Part 1 - Volumes 1-5
02/05 - Family Guy - Part 2 - Volumes 6-10
02/05 - Family Guy - Part 3 - Seasons 10-14
02/05 - First Lady of Television - Betty White Collection (40 rare and acclaimed episodes from her early days in television)
02/05 - Mama's Family - Seasons 1-6 - The Complete Series
02/12 - Rick and Morty - The Complete Seasons 1-3 (Blu-ray)
02/12 - Step by Step - The Complete Fourth Season
02/26 - What I Like About You - The Complete Fourth Season
03/05 - Hangin' with Mr. Cooper - The Complete Second Season (WBShop.com)
03/12 - Alice - The Complete Ninth Season (WBShop.com)
03/26 - The Wayans Bros. - The Complete Fifth Season (WBShop.com)
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