Monday, February 23, 2009

Simpsons, Family Guy “Swept” Under Oscar’s Red Carpet?

Two posts down, please see the post over my confusion over how TV operates today… Sweeps, split seasons, hit shows beginning at any-old-time of the year, etc.

Continuing this topic, February Sweeps is over for Sunday evening, and there was only
ONE new episode each of THE SIMPSONS and FAMILY GUY on FOX.

Over the four Sundays of February 2009 (Feb. 01, 08, 15, and 22), new episodes aired only on the 15th.

Some of this is understandable. Feb. 01 was the Super Bowl. No sense burning up a new show vs. that! Feb. 22 was the Oscar telecast. Nowhere near as severe a competitor as the Super Bowl, but FOX elected to pit an evening with NASCAR against the Academy Awards. I suppose there’s not much overlap in those two constituencies.

But, if Sweeps is the almighty arbiter of TV ratings – and February is a Sweeps period – why were THE SIMPSONS and FAMILY GUY not new for February 08? Can’t think of a reason… other than fewer shows being produced.

Last season, every series was impacted by the Writers Guild of America strike. As the current series I collect on DVD reveal, LOST Season Four was 13 episodes, and HEROES Season Two was only 11!

I suspect similar numbers for THE SIMPSONS and FAMILY GUY.

But, why the small number of episodes produced THIS SEASON? …And why offer repeats during a (supposedly) sacred Sweeps period, when other series like LOST and HEROES were all new throughout?

I suppose we’ll never know… just adding to my general confusion over the “rules” (or lack thereof) of television today!

BTW, I spent Oscar Night watching a DVD episode of THE SIMPSONS from early 2000 that I’d never seen before -- rather than see "The Dark Knight" get snubbed!

Just seemed like the right way to spend Sunday evening.


Mark Lungo said...

Dear Joe:

This article should explain everything:

Joe Torcivia said...


The link seems to be cut off in the comments section so, if possible, please elaborate for our worldwide audience.


Mark Lungo said...

Dear Joe:

How about the entire text of the article?

TV's February sweeps: Not happening

by Mark Dawidziak

Posted by jlutterm February 14, 2009 06:00AM

You're staring at the gray skies and you've hit the pothole that's so big, you figure they might as well put a dome over it and let the Browns play there next season.

Yup, the calendar says February, all right. So why isn't television going as loon-ball crazy as it usually does during this traditional sweeps month?

It's because this isn't a sweeps month, when ratings determine what local stations can charge for advertising. The February sweeps got swept away by concerns about the Feb. 17 deadline for the switchover from analog to digital television -- which has been postponed until June.

Broadcasters were worried that confusion and technical glitches would lead to a sharp decline in viewership, which, in turn, would lead to a decline in advertising rates. So Nielsen Media Research, the people who track the ratings, announced that, for this year only, "to avoid potential disruptions," the sweeps would move to March.

What? No life-and-death story stunts on your favorite network drama? No "news" stories about Elvis, UFOs, Bigfoot and sexual addictions? No big-name guest stars on prime-time shows? No very special episodes?

"Nothing like this has ever happened before because there never has been a digital transition before," said Gary Stark, director of programming and research at Cleveland ABC affiliate WEWS Channel 5. "This is a one-time move, and it's strictly because the date for the digital conversion was set to be Feb. 17."

Even without the digital conversion, this February sweeps would have lost some of its lunatic luster and punch-drunk punch. For one thing, television has increasingly moved toward becoming a 52-week business, putting more emphasis on the importance of January midseason launches.

That was particularly true this January, with last season's three-month writer strike delaying many network plans. January was more crucial than ever, so it has been anything but business as usual for those ratings-obsessed programmers.

And with increased attention on overnight numbers and the introduction of Nielsen Peoplemeters allowing for instant ratings in many markets, the stature of four annual sweeps periods -- November, February, May and July -- has diminished.

Attached directly to television sets, Peoplemeters measure household and demographic information electronically, eliminating the need to collect this data from handwritten diaries kept by selected Nielsen families. The Peoplemeter technology is available in many of the nation's major markets.

Even the Peoplemeters can't catch everything in a rapidly changing, time-shifting, multi-tasking, web-surfing, downloading, wired-up, on-line, DVR-programming universe.

"We're talking about a different world now," said Stephen McPherson, ABC's entertainment president. "It's not a world where you are just people in their single-television homes, watching on that. They are watching on their iPods. They're watching on their cell phones. They're watching on the run, on the move, streaming, whatever. And to me, we have to get as much of that viewership measured as possible."

Still, even with a technological gun pointed at its head, the sweeps strategy does have a deeply entrenched advantage.

"The fact is that the vast majority of markets in the country still are on diaries," Stark said. "So sweeps aren't going away completely any time soon. It's still the way advertisers use to buy time. As long as that's true, we'll have sweeps."

February still will have its share of high-profile programming. NBC had the Super Bowl last Sunday. CBS has the Grammy awards tonight, as well as new editions of "Survivor" and "The Amazing Race" starting in February. ABC has the Academy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 22. Fox premieres writer-producer Joss Whedon's new drama, "Dollhouse," on Friday, Feb. 13.

The bad news for the these networks is that the ratings for these powerhouse programs won't be credited to this year's winter sweeps.

The mini-sweeps will begin March 5, ending, perhaps appropriately enough, on April Fool's Day. Will the networks add new levels of March madness to March Madness? Don't count on it. The consensus is that TV will be marching to the beat of a muffled drummer.

"I think it's going to be a very restrained sweeps period," Stark said. "I don't think it will get a lot of attention."

And the networks may not want it to get a lot of attention. The March sweeps period ends April 1, and the far more crucial May sweeps period begins just three weeks later on April 23.

The big programming guns are being rolled out during the May sweeps, from the crowning of champions for "American Idol" and "Dancing With the Stars" to the cliffhanger season finales for "24" and "Lost."

NBC is giving so little consideration to the March sweeps, it has moved the much-hyped series finale of "ER" from March 12 to Thursday, April 2, the day after the sweeps period ends. ABC and the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences quickly rejected the idea of moving the Oscars to March. CBS kept the William Petersen departure from "C.S.I." in January. And it's all shaping up to be a sweeps in name only.

So the question becomes: if a sweeps falls in March, will make it a noise?

Categories: Entertainment Impact, Television