My apologies for the formatting. Not sure why the paragraphs are messed up making it harder to read! Tried fixing but it didn’t work.
I don’t know about you but I have a shit load of TV shows that I try to watch. My husband makes fun of me constantly about the amount of shows on our DVRs. Remember I have three (yes you read that right…THREE) DVRs. Every single DVR right now is at 60% full or more. Part of the problem is being so busy that I haven’t been able to keep up. But the other problem is that it seems like every other week, ANOTHER show is premiering. Seriously, what the hell? It’s impossible to keep up with all these shows. It’s already hard enough because almost every channel out there has original programming ’round the calendar. And it wasn’t that big of a deal when AMC, HBO, Showtime, F/X, Bravo, TBS, TNT, etc premiered shows April – July because that was when the TV season was winding down and they only had shows that typically had runs of 10-12 episodes. Plus it’s nice to have new programming for the summer. But when the networks start jumping in on the fun (and moving your current shows all over the place) it gets to be too much.
Take a look at the list of shows that have premiered since mid January:
- The River
- The Firm
- Are You There Chelsea
- Betty White’s Off Their Rockers
- The Finder
- Don’t Trust the Bitch in Apt 23
- Best Friends Forever
- Napoleon Dynamite
- I Hate My Teenage Daughter
- Work It
- NYC 22
That’s 21 shows!!!!! And guys, that’s just the network shows. I didn’t even put in shows like House of Lies, Luck, Girls, Veep, etc. Not to mention, all the returning mid-season shows like Cougar Town, 30 Rock, Breaking In, Survivor, The Voice, American Idol. It goes on and on. But look at that list!!! And anything in bold premiered in the last 2 weeks! It’s ridiculous.
First of all, it’s too many shows. I understand having shows ready to go in case other shows fail but guess what? There were plenty of shows that failed but these shows still premiered late. On ABC, Charlie’s Angels, Pan Am, Work It, and Man Up were all canceled. Charlie’s Angels lasted 3 or 4 episodes. Same with Man Up. Work It lasted two. Pan Am was slightly longer but still pulled from the schedule only to have episode burn off later. So why couldn’t Scandal, GCB, Missing, or Apt 23 premiere sooner? NBC canceled Free Agents after 3 episodes. So where was Bent or BFF? I don’t get it. Why order that many shows to pilot if you are just going to premiere them in a dead month and then burn them off when the ratings suck? Oh, and not promote them. Why?
Secondly, people are too entrenched in what they are already watching or too far behind on their DVRs to try something new this late. I’m both. If it wasn’t for this blog, there are so many shows I would blow off because I already have too many shows to watch and I’m so far behind on many of them, I have no time to catch up let alone start a new series.
It’s really unfair to the cast, the crew, the creators, and the TV viewers. Scandal is a good show. Bent is a solid comedy. Detroit 1-8-7 was an awesome show. The Chicago Code was a fantastic show. But you know what? No one watched them. Why? Because they premiered too late and there was no promotion to help get the shows off the ground. To put it very simply, they were set up for failure. So TV audiences are missing out on great shows because the networks don’t know how to schedule.
We are in a “throw it against the wall and let’s see what sticks” environment. While I don’t believe what I am about to say is the case, it does APPEAR that the networks aren’t putting a great deal of thought into their shows’ schedule after the major fall premieres. I believe the networks put forth huge efforts to make sure their fall schedules are strong and successful. Sometimes they win. Lots of times they lose. But they put, what they believe, is their best foot forward. After that, whatever happens, happens and whatever is left over, we’ll deal with it then. That’s how it seems. How else do you explain shows premiering in this quantity this late into the season. These aren’t summer shows. These were promoted as mid-season shows. When exactly do the networks think mid-season begins? Because I can tell you right now, it isn’t April.
March, April, and May are no man’s land…dead zones…for new premiering shows. They are too late for mid-season and too early for summer. February should be the latest they premiere for mid-season. If you miss that, then June for summer programming it is. Now there are always exception to the rules, but it should only be the exception, not the norm. And as each TV season progresses, it seems to be getting worse and worse.
So what’s the solution? It seems simple to me but if it were that simple, you would think someone would be doing it. My first suggestion (with all of my vast years of TV programming experience) would be to limit the shows ordered to pilot. Once the networks have determined what will premiere in the fall and what will premiere mid-season (by no later than the second week in Feb) then you create your back up plan…2 comedies, 2 dramas with maybe a game show or reality show just in case. Now this can change depending on your network. A network like CBS which is more drama focused, maybe you have 3 dramas in the works. Plus, CBS likes to give their shows full seasons regardless of ratings (see A Gifted Man and $*%# My Dad Says.) So CBS isn’t likely to pull as much as trigger happy NBC. So maybe CBS only needs 1 drama and 1 comedy. It all depends on the schedule. NBC on the other hand has been so bad for so long, they need more shows just in case. But when something fails, then bump a pilot up. Why have reruns of Grimm when Awake could have premiered?
Suggestion number two, is tighten up the schedule to fit more shows. We’ve all bitched about it. I know I have. What is she talking about? Bitched about what? About when our shows go on hiatus for weeks at a time!! First, don’t premiere shows the last week in Sept or first week of Oct. Premiere your fall schedule right after Labor Day weekend (and not before!) Then, run your shows solid through the week before Thanksgiving and have a mid-season break through the holidays. Then come back the first or second week in January and run through March/April. Then, if you have left over shows, no one will be upset if they premiere in April or May because the major TV season will be complete and people will have time to watch something new! Unfortunately, the problem with that is May Sweeps. You miss that time period by moving things up. But there are two ways to handle that: move sweeps to April (if the NFL can remove kickoffs from the game of football….Bruce I want your thoughts on that genius idea….then Sweeps can be moved to April) or start the fall season later (the end of Sept/beg of Oct) end at the same time (mid Nov) and then come back mid Jan and run through early May. It just makes for a really short early part of the season, but it gets you to May Sweeps. I don’t like the latter idea but if Sweeps are that important, you have to make it work.
Lastly, if you don’t need it this season, can you move it to next season? If a show like Bent or Scandal really wasn’t necessary this year, why can’t you keep in the bank until next fall? Just have a smaller pilot season if you know those shows are moving to next season. I’m not sure if this is more expensive due to locking up cast and crew without really using them for an extended period of time. My thinking behind this is, if you don’t think a show like Bent is good enough to risk putting on the regular fall or mid-season schedule, then why order the show to pilot and why pick it up for 9 or 13 episodes? I have to imagine it’s more expensive to have shows waiting in the wings for spots on the schedule and then burning them off vs. not having something to fill the pipeline and running repeats of another show. I don’t know the answer to that. But really that’s what this all comes down to….money.
I believe the way it works is the networks sell advertising on futures. Meaning, they do their up front presentation to the major advertisers and show them their fall and mid-season line-ups. They forecast what ratings will be and the advertisers make their decisions based on the strength of schedules and price. In some cases, the advertisers make out by paying for ad space based off a 2.3 rating when a show ends up getting a 3.7 rating. In other cases, they lose when they pay for space based off the 2.3 rating and the show gets 1.1 and eventually gets canceled. Now your ads are running during reruns of 30 Rock. Not good. And it’s already tough enough for advertisers when DVRs, iPads, Netflix, Hulu, and Computers make watching shows so much easier (and without all those pain in the ass commercials!!!) So I empathize with the position the networks are in. But something still needs to change.
Network TV is in a difficult position right now. Between mediocre to bad shows being developed, to having to compete with the cable channels that have more freedom and flexibility with content, to other ways to view programming, to the pressure of driving more revenue, network executives are scrambling to create successful line-ups and find more ways to reach viewers, live. It’s not easy, I get that. But, there still has to be a way to fix these over-programmed TV seasons. There are talks of not relying so heavily on Nielsen’s (which have boxes in a few thousand homes vs. the millions of people who watch TV) and finding a way to better capture what people are really watching. There are studies that show the ratings we see on our favorite sites aren’t really capturing all the people truly watching a particular show. So what will networks and advertisers use in the future? It’s yet to be determined. But it’s a good sign to see that industry people are starting to realize that as technology advances, the ways in which we view TV shows are ever-changing and that using archaic methods to make major decisions about programming that affect people’s livelihoods, needs to be adapted and altered. If that happens, the way TV programming is managed currently is sure to change for the better. At least, one would hope.