Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The death (and path to resurrection) of Saturday TV

Posted By on Wed, Sep 8, 2010 at 1:07 PM

Hey, did you catch that great episode of television last Saturday?

No. You didn’t. There aren’t great episodes of televisions on Saturdays.

In the United States, Saturdays (and increasingly Fridays) are relative dead zones. Flagship shows can land on a Monday, Sunday, or a Thursday, but not Saturdays.

Saturday used to be the time of M*A*S*H* and Mary Tyler Moore and All in the Family. Instead, these days, when Kings is moved to Saturdays, or Human Target is slotted for Fridays, you know their days are numbered. When the low-rated Dollhouse and the low-rated Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles were placed on Fridays, everyone knew they would not be long for this world.

Expect the same to happen to The Good Guys. It remains to be seen if a show like police drama Blue Bloods, on CBS, has a chance. Placing a show on Friday is the equivalent of putting the show in hospice care, waiting for it to die. Placing a show on Saturday is the equivalent of the morgue.

The days when we “Thank God It’s Friday” are over. In many ways, that makes sense. TIVO, Hulu, Netflix, Bittorrent, and Megavideo make this problem worse. Who’d be willing to center their Friday or Saturday around a television show that can be watched anytime? But yet, in Britain, it’s different.

Doctor Who, on the BBC in Britain, gets Glee-level ratings (ranging from 5 million viewers to 9.4 million viewers, in a much smaller country) And it airs on a Saturday. So somehow, is Britain's culture so different than ours that their TV works on a Saturday, and ours fails?

Maybe their television, chock full of long-running prime-time soaps, supported by the government and TV licenses rather than commercials, isn’t as concerned about competing with other networks.

Theoretically, Fox could move Glee to Saturday nights. A large chunk of the audience would follow. Fox could use the behemoth Glee lead-in as a foundation to build other shows. They could gradually begin programming those, resulting in more television programming, and, theoretically, more television viewers. But it won’t. Since a show like Glee would get slightly less viewers on a Saturday than a Tuesday, Fox would never risk diluting a hit like that, when it has to compete with other networks.

Only a juggernaut could revive Friday or Saturday. But no network wants to waste their juggernaut in the short term, just to help save television in the long term.

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