The Perils of Hiatus - Macleans.ca
 

The Perils of Hiatus


 

Tonight CTV is airing the next-to-last episodes from the debut seasons of Hiccups and Dan For Mayor; the season finales (the shows have already been renewed for next season) will air next Monday.

The shows have turned into kind of an interesting case history of what can help and hurt a new show in its quest to find viewers. CTV promoted these shows very heavily to begin with, and it paid off with high ratings for the first part of the season. Then the network had to decide whether to keep the shows on in May, putting them up against the very tough U.S. competition, or bring them back after the sweeps period. They chose the latter; they even delayed their return longer than originally intended so these shows wouldn’t be competing against widely-watched sports events. But as Bill Brioux noted, Hiccups and Dan finally came back a couple of weeks ago with a tremendous drop in viewership.

It’s always hard to confidently second-guess a network move (unless it’s a Leno-at-10 type of thing), particularly when, as in this case, they had logical reasons for the move. But obviously, this situation is worse for HiccDan (I’ll mash them together to save time, though Dan is the better of the two shows) than it would have been to come back in May with numbers like this. If they’d suffered a drop-off against new episodes of the biggest and best shows the U.S. networks have to offer, they’d look healthier than they do now, when they were protected by the network and still lost a lot of the audience.

But this is also a case where the “protection” might have hurt HiccDan, since the shows were gone for a while, and a lot of people may not have known they were coming back. Also, the biggest advantage a network like CTV has when it comes to Canadian programming is that it has the rights to show so much popular first-run U.S. programming: by putting Canadian shows in with its U.S. material, it removes the stigma that is sometimes attached to home-made shows. (When you have HiccDan on the same night as new episodes of Two and a Half Men and Big Bang Theory, the network doesn’t need to do special pleading for its own programs; they’re just comedies, the same as any other comedy, and people can watch them for laughs rather than patriotic duty.) By waiting out the U.S. shows, it’s possible that CTV might have created the feeling that these shows need special help — which, Dan For Mayor, at least, does not.

Anyway, these shows were picked up before the current ratings trouble, so hopefully they and the network will have another 13 chances to fix what went wrong this month. (And Hiccups, at least, may need some fixing in other ways.)


 
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The Perils of Hiatus

  1. If they'd suffered a drop-off against new episodes of the biggest and best shows the U.S. networks have to offer, they'd look healthier than they do now, when they were protected by the network and still lost a lot of the audience.

    Maybe. However, perhaps if they'd gone up against the biggest and best U.S. shows in May they'd have suffered a CATASTROPHIC drop-off in stead of a merely tremendous one. I mean, dropping to around 300,000 viewers seems pretty bad, but what if they'd come back against the U.S. stuff and had each averaged less the 50,000 viewers?

    You're obviously correct that they'd have been better off getting numbers like these back in May, but it's still an open question as to whether or not they'd have even gotten numbers like these back in May. I suspect your analysis is still correct, but it seems to me that it's at least possible that this was still the right move, if one assumes that the numbers in May could have been significantly worse (though, perhaps that's an unrealistic assumption, even for the sake of argument?).

    • The thing you need to remember is that programming is less about what show is on and more about what shows are on before and after it. Almost always the goal is to tie tentpole shows to other titles in an effort to see to it that viewers don't bother to go channel surfing around; instead just floating through the night blissfully unaware that they're missing something somewhere else on inertia.

      By delaying the shows like they did here they made two large mistakes:
      1) The tentpoles are now on hiatus so people aren't making as large an effort to see them while they rerun during the beer + BBQ months
      2) Everything else has finished it's run and, therefore, without relaunching the marketing like much of US Cable does when they split up "seasons" over the course of the year, everyone assumes your show is done too so isn't looking for it. "Wait, that's back?" is probably the last question you want the audience asking about any show after the fact.

      Basically, they made the kind of "grade school broadcasting" mistakes that one's come to expect from the incompetents on this side of the border who have no faith in their own wares and can't schedule outside ensuring their simulcasts are met. Next up: they'll shift the timeslot on those shows so no one knows where to find them again next season too.

  2. Perhaps people aren't watching because neither show is very good. It might be time for network executives and producers and writers to remember that comedies are supposed to be funny. Let's kill these two turkeys as well as 'Little Mosque' and the CBC's upcoming TV remake of 'Men With Brooms' and simply run 'The Big Bang Theory.'

    • How is it that someone can suggest simply run 'The Big Bang Theory' as a viable 'funny comedy'?
      The Big Bang Theory is possible one of the worst shows out there, it measures up to the same sort of laughs that According to Jim had, and that wasn't many.