Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Woah, Ogre, That's Heavy...

On Saturday night, prior to playing poker (see Rev’s blog), a few of the “early-birds” and I were sitting at my bar enjoying a beer, when we got into the topic of television shows. We talked at length about Lost, The Office, and Heroes, when something interesting struck me. It had to do with the “more successful” shows on television within the past 5-7 years.

As many of you know, traditionally successful television shows have made their money on syndication (check out Cheers and Seinfeld for this). These shows, although loosely tied from one episode to another, could be shown in syndication in no particular order. These shows didn’t rely on past shows, as they basically put together individual plots or story lines for each episode. These storylines would start and finish in the span of ½ hour (or one hour sometimes). This worked perfectly well for syndication.

However, with the advent of DVDs, this has seemed to change (or at least in my opinion, it has). I think we got the idea with Family Guy. It was canceled by FOX after a few seasons, because it couldn’t get a strong enough core of viewership. However, when the show was offered on DVD, sales went through the roof … so much so that FOX actually brought it back from the graveyard.

OK, sure Family Guy is one of those shows that can be shown in no particular sequence, which makes it perfect for syndication. However, DVD sales were a MAJOR part of the profit margin of this show. In fact, I believe some people at FOX said something along the lines of, “we don’t care how few people actually tune in to watch it, as long as the DVD sales remain strong – we’ll keep it on the air.”

Now, we see all kinds of tv shows being offered on DVD – everything from All in the Family to Lost … which conveniently brings me to my point. The creators of Lost (and the network itself) don’t seem to care so much about syndication, or at least not as much. Instead, DVD sales has become a major “motivation” for producing shows. A show like Lost can’t really work in syndication (or can it – I’m not sure), because the beauty of Lost (and 24, and Heroes) is that each episode builds on top of the last one, and there is no discernable start or finish to a plot line (at least not per episode). I can’t see this translating to syndication on a nightly level … maybe more like a marathon here and there. You certainly can’t put a show like 24 on every night at 7:00 p.m. on the CW network and expect a larger viewership (again, in my opinion), because of the newer view on storylines and plot lines.

So, what happens with syndication? Will we continue to see the same shows like Seinfeld and Friends on syndicated networks even 20 years down the line? Should I not even concern myself with this? Looking back on this post, I probably could’ve written some sort of journal entry for this (or not). I just thought it was interesting, and wanted to share it with you and get your thoughts on this. I’ll return to being funny/stupid in my next post.


Dirty Birdie said...

Woo hoo I'm first! Of course this comment won't truely make sense unless you read my blog and buy my DVD for $ 99.99 at Amazon.com

You have a point, shows today are sequential, if you missed one show you missed part of the story line. In cases like Lost if you missed the first season (as I did) you are forced to have a Lost-a-thon with your friend who has Lost on DVD in order to know what the hell is going on.

It's like being part of a club, only you don't get a cook keychain.

Jeff said...

The first season of Lost had so many re-runs with so many flashbacks that sequence wasn't so important. It's much more important now.

24 has been in syndication for a number of years. The two-hour Sunday night window on Chicago's WGN makes it easy to follow. The one-hour slots on A&E and CW are more difficult.

For comparison: how did those 1980s evening soaps (Dallas, etc.) do in syndication?

The Rev said...

We will always see Seinfeld and Cheers on syndication. They are our generation's Gilligan's Island.

The advent of DVD sales and this whole Lost season sthing... blame HBO and series like The Sopranos. They set that kind of benchmark that these new shows are following. And I think that's a good thing.

El Padrino said...

dont forget they are also available on ipods, computers and cell phones as well

Fairmaiden327 said...

Los, I love Family Guy and I agree with your post. I am inclined to believe that yes, 20 years down the road we will continue to repeatedly see all of this crap we've been forced to see due to syndication. Oh and, I'm back!

Eric said...

There will still be syndication, only instead the most quality/popular shows (like Seinfeld and Friends) going to syndication its just going to be all the crap, like According to Jim and Two and a Half Men.

Los said...

DB - You have a dvd for $99.99???

Jeff - Evening soaps did terrible on syndication, didn't they?

Rev - As long as they don't show AMerican Idol on syndication...

ELP - that might be a whole other blog topic.

FM - Welcome back!!!! I missed you!

Eric - According to Jim is already on syndicated networks ... a travesty.

Steph said...

It's amazing TV shows can make any money at all now that you can download the whole season in one hit.

I think most people do the "marathons" rather than be tied down to watching the shows in sequence.

Snowelf said...

This is curious to me too...cause they are making less and less 1/2 hour comedy shows and more and more 1 hour interesting plot driven dramas and reality shows. They have so few sitcoms left that the stations are constantly replaying the same shows over again on different nights in the week as a repeat performance. Is there really this little of amount of creativity? It seems so weird for the networks to do that in this age of DVR and VCRs.


Jeff said...

TV shows have a high failure rate -- about 3/4 don't reach Season 2.

Reality shows are BY FAR the cheapest and quickest to make -- fewer actors (contestants work for free), simple/no plots --> fewer writers, one take on each scene, etc.

And reality shows get ratings. So, if you're a TV exec, why not mitigate your risk with the fastest and cheapest product available?

Also gives me an excuse to watch less TV.