Laugh Meter: Comedy Proliferates On TV
Think there is too little comedy on television? The reality is that there are more comedy hours on TV than ever before -- thanks to syndication and cable.
Through the 2008-2009 season, TV homes spent 4.85 hours a week watching comedies, versus 4.09 hours in the 1999-2000 season -- this according to independent TV researcher Steve Sternberg, a former Interpublic Group of Cos. media executive.
The bulk of those hours came from cable, which more than doubled its comedy viewership to 3.08 hours. Syndication was next at 1.49 hours -- a slight gain over 1.45 for the 1999-2000 season.
Broadcast had a big drop. Long a complaint among TV industry executives, it tallied just 0.27 hours of comedy versus 1.17 a decade ago. Comedies dropped by half since 2005 on broadcast network TV, when there were 40 shows, amounting to 20 hours of time. In the upcoming fall season, there will be 20 comedies -- 10 hours worth of time.
The two most-viewed comedies of last year probably were not obvious choices, according to Sternberg -- episodes of "George Lopez" and "Family Guy," thanks to combination airings: "Lopez" on syndication and cable, "Family Guy" on network, syndication and cable.
Sternberg says the big problem for networks in coming up with new comedies is that viewers are still attracted to older -- but still strong -- reruns, such as "Seinfeld," "Friends," "Frasier" and "Everybody Loves Raymond."
While cable has eked out a small gain in comedy viewership over 10 years (especially among younger 18-34 viewers), overall comedy ratings have dropped on TV. The average household TV rating was a 0.6 rating in 2008-2009 versus a 1.0 rating in 1999-2000.
While comedy programming is half of what it was four years ago on broadcast, virtually all other program genres have been consistent. There will be 19 hours of drama this season; there were 20 in the fall of 2005. In this category, there was a slight drop for police/law enforcement dramas to 17 shows (17 hours) from 20 shows (20 hours).
Reality TV shows will be up slightly -- 12 shows (12 hours) from 11 shows and 11 hours in 2005. Action hours -- sci-fi, adventure and the like -- will remain at 10 shows and 10 hours, the same as in the fall of 2005.