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.