Question: Don't the relatively large ratings numbers for NBC's Saturday Olympics coverage prove that there is still an audience for network fare on Saturday night? I'm not convinced many stayed home specifically to watch the Olympics. I think most just flipped around the dial and stopped on something that looked like it was worth watching. Don't the networks create a self-fulfilling prophecy by not programming anything worth watching on Saturday nights and then claiming there's no audience for programming on that night? Worse, it looks like the networks may be headed in the same direction on Friday nights. I'm convinced that a solid comedy block on either night would eventually deliver large numbers for them. Maybe not at first, because viewers are conditioned to avoid the networks on those nights. But if they actually made the effort, I think viewers would follow. Your thoughts?
Answer: It's a good and always pertinent question, but this particular self-fulfilling prophecy appears to have fulfilled its destiny to the point of no return. NBC and CBS dump umpteenth repeats of its crime dramas on Saturdays and get OK returns for no investment. ABC has similar results with burn-offs of theatrical movies (a format that has understandably lost its luster in this DVD era). Only Fox kinda thrives on Saturdays, with its relatively low-budget crime-busting reality shows. The last time any of the networks expended large sums of money on original programming (CBS was the last to give up the ghost, with shows like The District and The Agency), the demographics and ad support just didn't add up. Putting hit or alternative comedies on Saturday would be a smart way to try to drive audiences to a night they stopped watching a long time ago, but I don't see that happening in the foreseeable future. It's hard enough for the networks to fill the rest of the week with fresh material. And using the Olympics as a benchmark to how more ordinary programming might fare on Saturdays stretches logic. The Olympics is a draw because it's so rare and different. You can't replicate that every week or weekend.