Quality TV Shows Everywhere, But What About Off-Network Comedies?

With all the talk about an explosion of TV shows, there is also scarcity of one particular TV genre: the sitcom.

This category has long been a major contributor to syndication for TV stations, but now there’s a weak marketplace of these shows for the coming years.  While TV stations are somewhat set for this fall, seasons in 2016 and 2017 offer up slim pickings.

In a recent report, Katz Television Group wrote, “Going forward there is reasonable concern about available sitcom offerings with only ‘The Mindy Project’ and another cycle of ‘Everyone Loves Raymond’ on the docket for 2016 (and ‘Last Man Standing’ if it doesn’t move forward in 2015).” After this, there’s the possibility of somewhat questionable fare, including “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “Mom,” and “The Goldbergs” in 2017.



Still, Warner Bros’ may soon look to sell a second cycle of “Big Bang Theory” in syndication -- a comedy that not only is run all over the place on broadcast TV, but also on cable network TBS.

Beyond TBS, other cable networks are increasingly looking to hedge their bets with off-broadcast-network comedies. We are only one year removed from TV station executives’ complaints about USA Network’s wall-to-wall scheduling of “Modern Family.”

MoffettNathanson Research believes this lack of sitcoms leaves much room for smaller independent TV producers/distributors to find new ways to fill potential gaps. TV stations themselves may be increasing efforts to produce and own programming.

Katz notes more than 46% of syndication television’s 25-54 gross rating points comes from Monday-Friday off-network comedies. Leading syndication comedies this season so far -- September 2014 through December 2014 -- are “Big Bang Theory” (a 3.6 average 25-54 rating); “Modern Family” (2.5); “Two and a Half Men” (1.7); “Family Guy” (1.5); “How I Met Your Mother” (1.3); “Mike & Molly” (1.3); and “Seinfeld” (1.2).

Though TV networks have made a significant push to come up with higher-rated comedies, there has been little success, except for CBS’ “Two Broke Girls,” which will start up in syndication this fall.

Still, what will fill the gap going forward in the traditional TV rerun market?

1 comment about "Quality TV Shows Everywhere, But What About Off-Network Comedies?".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, January 26, 2015 at 3:08 p.m.

    These things co me and go in cycles, Wayne. When one genre becomes over saturated on the primetime broadcast network schedules, as was the case with westerns and private eyes in the late 1950s, sitcoms in the 1960s and, again, following the success of "All In The Family" in the 1970s, then dramas after "Dallas" and company in the early 1980s, once more with sitcoms following the hit "Cosby Show" , etc., etc. Due, primarily to the risks inherent in their high program development and production costs 9 ( star fees, mostly ), sitcoms have been in short supply recently as the various reality shows are less expensive and, hence, less iffy for the networks to gamble on. This seems to be changing in the past few seasons, however, as the reality deluge has probably been overdone, but it will take some time for a new crop of sitcoms to hit the syndication market. Another factor is the networks' profit sharing deals with producers whereby they garner up to half of the syndication aftermarket "take" after a show they carried, initially, goes into rerun sales to stations and/or cable channels. Traditionally, sitcoms and dramas have long staying power once they depart the network scene, which means high rerun profit potentials; on the other hand, relatively few primetime reality shows fare well in syndication. Obviously, this, too, can influence a network's program genre decisions, which, in turn, affects the kinds of "off-network" fare that is eventually made available for syndication. In short, it's a fairly complicated subject with many parameters that must be considered by the networks and the producers. In the latter's case, a sitcom producer may gamble on huge syndication profits if it's network "partner" licenses the show for a national run, and operate at a loss during the first-run cycle. In contrast, few reality show producers can afford that luxury. They've got to make most or all of their profits the first time out on a network.

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