Big Tragedies, Big Programming Decisions

Many TV networks had to make tough decisions about what to do as a result of the Paris attacks. Some took the prudent approach of not airing any violent, terrorist-related content that had been previously scheduled.

For example, CBS canceled terrorist-themed episodes for “Supergirl” and “NCIS: Los Angeles”on Monday night. TNT didn’t air a Monday episode of “Legends”centered around a potentially violent and deadly protest in Paris.  

Many other networks offered up “viewer discretion” warnings about episodes that were about to air on Sunday. ABC did this for “Quantico”; Showtime for “Homeland.”

Additionally, NBC killed a live taping of the comedy “Undateable” set to air on Friday night. The show’s writers tweeted: “To our fans, friends & family: We love you. And we love to make you laugh. Tonight we will not air out of respect for our friends in Paris”



Rightfully, no one wants to be insensitive, or to appear to profit, during such moments. So much advertising  was shifted, suspended, and/or canceled -- especially on Friday night on broadcast news programming and cable news networks.

Over the weekend, more wall-to-wall coverage by cable news networks and other networks meant less advertising for long periods.

Closer to home, tragedies get even more attention and sensitivity from advertisers. There was  five days of nonstop all-news coverage during the 9/11 attacks, which meant a shifting of nearly $400 million in commercial TV time.  A year later, on the anniversary of the attacks, another $50 million to $60 million in ads was suspended.

TV programmers have always been careful about when to begin airing this kind of content again, within a distance of days, weeks or more. TV advertisers also make those estimations.  

But what happens next? Violent, terrorist-related stories have long been a staple of U.S. TV dramas -- and theatrical movies. What should change on TV, and advertising commerce,  in light of real-life, events -- if anything?

3 comments about "Big Tragedies, Big Programming Decisions".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, November 17, 2015 at 4:05 p.m.

    Wayne, I liked your old picture better. This one appears to show a kinder, mellower Wayne.

  2. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC, November 17, 2015 at 7:22 p.m.

    Dear Wayne,

    Your piece focuses on "The Industry" with a certain patient detachment.

    Good!  There is nothing to be gained by adding to the angst and the anger.

    That said, your factual report is a straightforward indictment of all stakeholders that profit from the false, the ugly and the bad that we call TV Entertainment, Education and Edification.   We seek our profit in violence, not peace.

    Too many have blood on their hands and can't see it or feel it.  Hence "The Industry" is long, long overdue for honest self-assessment.

    “Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look.” 
    ― Pema ChödrönWhen Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

    Thank you, Wayne.

    Lest we become unable forever unable to recognize a "Vast Wasteland" when when see and hear one ... May we all give Peace, Truth, Beauty and Goodness a better chance than we have since commercial television began.

    Nicholas P. Schiavone

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, November 17, 2015 at 8:16 p.m.

    It is not just the scripted shows that take it step by step more violent, more raunchy than ever, it is the horrors of "reality" where it is all battles, fights, nasty of nastiness, Ryan Seacrest on The Voice asking the dumbest of dumb questions (answer from one is that Adam is her hero. Really, a hero?), the cheering of bullying, the selfishie emphasis, ......the evil of ISIS squares with our image of our on screen villans and we justify our outrage of the moment. Then the folk go back to twit shit. The phony concern by shifting program times and warnings are what they are....phony. Own the shows or don't make them.

Next story loading loading..