Logo

A Funny Thing About the Shortage of Comedies

May 13, 2009  •  Post A Comment

As the broadcast networks prepare to unveil their schedules for the 2009-10 season to advertisers in New York next week, Magna has taken a look at what was once a TV staple: the sitcom.
Steve Sternberg, executive VP for audience analysis at Magna, a division of Interpublic’s Mediabrands, notes in a new report that in the fall of 2003, the broadcast networks aired a record 50 comedies. By comparison, last fall there were just 22 comedies on the networks. Three of them were new and none of those will be back. The comedies that debuted midseason are not performing well either, he said.
One reason the broadcasters may be having trouble developing comedies is because they seem to prefer the edgier fare. Meanwhile, viewers—and advertisers—prefer family-friendly shows.
“The bulk of viewers are not looking for the next ‘Arrested Development,’ they’re looking for the next ‘Everybody Loves Raymond,’” Mr. Sternberg says in his report.
Despite the tough time the networks are having creating new comedies, Mr. Sternberg nonetheless makes the counterintuitive claim that viewers are watching more comedies than they were back in the early ’90s, when such favorites as “Cheers,” “Roseanne,” “Cosby,” “The Golden Girls,” “Home Improvement,” “Murphy Brown,” “Designing Women,” “Seinfeld,” “Friends” and “Frasier” ruled the airwaves.
That’s because while most of TV’s hit comedies are no longer airing in first-run on the broadcast networks, they’re available in syndication, on cable and in boxed sets of DVDs.
“Every year at this time, the networks start revealing their program development plans for the new season. Press stories abound about how they might try to revive the network comedy,” Mr. Sternberg says in his report. “Seldom noted in these stories, however, is the fact that people still like watching comedies, and are in fact watching them more than ever.”
Mr. Sternberg says that of the top 15 comedies on TV, only two will be on a broadcast network this fall: “Family Guy” and “Two and a Half Men.”
The other top comedies are “George Lopez,” “Home Improvement,” “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “Seinfeld,” “Family Matters,” “That ’70s Show,” “The King of Queens,” “Friends,” “Frasier,” “The Andy Griffith Show,” “Roseanne” and “M*A*S*H.”
In fact, viewers are spending more time watching “Seinfeld,” “Friends” and “Everybody Loves Raymond” now than they did when those series were among the top-rated shows on broadcast television.
Mr. Sternberg calculates that in the 1993-94 season, there were about 180 hours per week of comedies on television, including broadcast, syndication and ad-supported cable. During the 2008-09 season, there were 790 hours of comedies available.
There are more comedies in syndication, with eight off-network series airing in 1993-94 and 25 airing now.
Off-net comedies were very rare in the mid-’90s. Now, just about every cable channel has one on its schedule.
And that’s not including the original comedies on cable, such as “South Park” on Comedy Central,” FX’s “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “Meet the Browns” and TBS’ “House of Payne,” “My Boys” and “The Bill Engvall Show.”
Mr. Sternberg hopes the networks can return to making comedies, particularly ones that can be watched by the whole family.
“Roughly 80% of homes during primetime only have one television set turned on,” he says. “Families do want to watch television together, and are looking for comedies that fit that mold.”
His message to producers and network executives is that comedy viewers haven’t disappeared. “They’re just biding their time, happily watching the comedies they’ve loved for years—just waiting for a new one to join the club,” he says.

12 Comments

  1. The Zune concentrates on being a Portable Media Player. Not a web browser. Not a game machine. Maybe in the future it’ll do even better in those areas, but for now it’s a fantastic way to organize and listen to your music and videos, and is without peer in that regard. The iPod’s strengths are its web browsing and apps. If those sound more compelling, perhaps it is your best choice.

  2. Hey how are you doing? I just wanted to stop by and say that it’s been a pleasure reading your blog. I have bookmarked your website so that I can come back & read more in the future as well. plz do keep up the quality writing

  3. Interesting thoughts here. I appreciate you taking the time to share them with us all. It’s people like you that make my day 🙂

  4. I love the expression. Everyone needs to express there own opinion and feel free to hear others. Keep it up 🙂

  5. I love the way you write and also the theme on your blog. Did you code this yourself or was it done by a professional? I’m very very impressed.

  6. Great wordpress blog here.. It’s hard to find quality writing like yours these days. I really appreciate people like you! take care and see you soon

  7. Hey how are you doing? I just wanted to stop by and say that it’s been a pleasure reading your blog. I have bookmarked your website so that I can come back & read more in the future as well. plz do keep up the quality writing

  8. I am not sure what’s going on but my browser said that your blog is a source of fishing attack.

  9. I agree with your thoughts here and I really love your blog! I’ve bookmarked it so that I can come back & read more in the future.

  10. I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you create this website yourself or did you hire someone to do it for you? Plz reply back as I’m looking to create my own blog and would like to know wheere u got this from. thanks

  11. Hey how are you doing? I just wanted to stop by and say that it’s been a pleasure reading your blog. I have bookmarked your website so that I can come back & read more in the future as well. plz do keep up the quality writing

  12. Interesting thoughts here. I appreciate you taking the time to share them with us all. It’s people like you that make my day 🙂

Your Comment

Email (will not be published)