[10/05/09 - 09:08 PM]
The 10 Things You Need to Know About the New Season: #6 - Shows Rarely Change Networks
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

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Welcome once again to "The 10 Things You Need to Know About the New Season," our annual feature about, well... the 10 things you need to know about the new season. The goal of this venture is to address not only common questions people have about television but to also demystify (or potentially reaffirm) stigmas out there about certain networks, time periods, genres and so forth. So with that in mind let us put on our journalistic caps and give you the cold hard truth about what's potentially ahead for some of your favorite new and returning shows...

6. Shows changing networks is the exception, not the rule.

Of the 707 shows to premiere on broadcast television (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, UPN, The WB and The CW) in the past 10 years (those that have launched from 9/1/99-6/1/09), guess how many of those aired on two different networks? Excluding the WB/UPN merger, just 18. And if you expand that pool to include the 74 returning shows for the 1999-2000 season, that number grows to only 29. Take a look:

1/3/97 - jag (cbs, from nbc)
9/17/98 - for your love (wb, from nbc)
9/11/00 - hughleys, the (upn, from abc)
9/12/00 - mysterious ways (pax, from nbc)*
9/22/00 - sabrina, the teenage witch (wb, from abc)
10/8/00 - pjs, the (wb, from fox)
9/12/01 - candid camera (pax, from cbs)
10/2/01 - buffy the vampire slayer (upn, from wb)
10/9/01 - roswell (upn, from wb)
1/19/02 - making the band (mtv, from abc)
2/28/03 - grounded for life (wb, from fox)
9/5/04 - surreal life, the (vh1, from wb)
10/3/04 - america's most talented kids (pax, from nbc)
2/14/06 - world's most amazing videos (spike tv, from nbc)
6/4/06 - simple life, the (e!, from fox)
7/18/06 - contender, the (espn/versus, from nbc)
9/11/06 - monday night football (espn, from abc)
10/4/07 - law & order: criminal intent (usa, from nbc)
2/4/08 - paradise hotel (mynetworktv, from fox)
3/5/08 - high school reunion (tv land, from wb)
3/23/08 - futurama (comedy central, from fox)
10/1/08 - friday night lights (directv, from nbc)
10/3/08 - wwe smackdown (mynetworktv, from cw)
1/6/09 - scrubs (abc, from nbc)
4/18/09 - nanny 911 (cmt, from fox)
6/1/09 - i'm a celebrity, get me out of here! (nbc, from abc)
6/16/09 - singing bee, the (cmt, from nbc)
9/25/09 - medium (cbs, from nbc)
TBA - secret millionaire (abc, from fox)

The above means in the past decade, just 3.71% of series have ever made the leap from a broadcast network to another home. And of those only 14 were scripted shows. In other words, on average just one scripted and one unscripted show per season wind up in new homes.

So why such long odds? First and foremost, shows rarely switch networks because they are successful. They switch because they failed the original broadcaster and, if picked up by someone else, have the cloud of "someone else's garbage" hanging over it. Secondly is the cost. Shows on ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC simply cost more to produce that shows on cable. This is why there's always talk of behind-the-scenes upheaval (cast, crew, budget, etc.) when a potential move is being discussed. And finally, history shows that outside of a few notable exceptions, the overwhelming majority of network jumps don't pan out in the long run. Of the aforementioned shows, so far only six ("The Contender," "For Your Love," "JAG," "Making the Band," "Mysterious Ways" and "The Surreal Life") went on to run longer on their new networks than their original ones.

At the end of the day, switching networks is a rare feat. So while we hear the cries of "HBO should pick up 'X!'" or "Syfy should pick up 'Y!'" each year, the reality is that the hurdles involved - cost, perception and risk - are only overcome by the very few.

TOMORROW: The iTunes, Hulu and DVD question.

* was intended to move to PAX from the start

  [october 2009]  

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