This entry is trivia, which is cool and all, but not a trope. On a work, it goes on the Trivia tab.
Screwed by the Network aka: Too Good To Last
"Starting now on Channel 4 is a brand new show that we paid a ridiculous amount of money for which we'll launch in a blaze of publicity, and after a few weeks, we'll get bored of it and move it around the schedule where no-one can find it, then we'll brand it a flop, take it off the air for six months, then reluctantly put it back on at three in the morning."
The prototypical network executive's time revolves not around nurturing talent for the benefit of all, but around making him or herself look competent. That means appearing responsible for every success and innocent of every failing that the network might have, irrespective of whether this was actually the case. Plus, the people that the executive is trying to convince are his or her fellow executives, who are likewise having the exact same neurotic crisis day in and day out.
Nevertheless, the need to keep their channels populated with new shows means that their commissioning bodies will keep putting forward all kinds of shows that may or may not appeal to the network executives' sensibilities.
For this reason, the execs will sometimes find themselves in the unfortunate position of being in charge of a show that they do not understand and therefore do not know what to do with. This presents them with a tricky situation: if the show is a failure they risk losing face, but if the show is a success then they'll look redundant.
Alternatively, the show may be a legacy commission under your predecessor, which is worse — because if it's a success, they'll have one up on you, but if you cancel it straight off, you'll lose all plausible deniability when people call you petty and small.
The answer to both of these problems, of course, is to screw the show over completely. Put it in a different time slot each episode, show it in the wrong order, bury it at midnight or in the Friday Night Death Slot, put it up against the other networks' strongest shows... do everything you can for it to build up a regular viewing audience that's not quite big enough to warrant the budget, but just big enough to cause some trouble when you cancel it for not "attracting the right audience."
Okay, okay — not all network executives are like this. There exist the individuals who intentionally seek out creative people to make shows that don't just Follow the Leader, and as they get promoted, they may become the very predecessors these shows are inherited from. However, screwing a show happens more often than you may wish to believe, and typically it's because they just didn't care.
Please try to avoid listing shows as being "screwed" just because of a disagreement over the reasons for their cancellation. Plenty of shows are canceled simply because they just weren't making any money even with the network backing it. This is about intentional sabotage (or at the least making decisions so stupid itlookslike it was intentional), not "the mean network executives canceled my favorite show".
Often the cause of Follow Up Failure. Compare Executive Meddling, Executive Veto, Invisible Advertising, and Screwed by the Lawyers. Also compare No Export for You, though that doesn't affect the actual production, but the export of a given product.
Rarely, the situation will invert itself with Network to the Rescue. Contrast with Adored by the Network.
The Pokemon Trading Figure game in America. Fans got excited for it in 2006 when Pokémon USA announced it — a collectible figure game with high quality figures produced by noted Japanese company Kaiyodo, and featuring actual trainers from the game as figures — but the release was a disaster. All the strategy of the Japanese counterpart had been stripped, turning it into a strange hybrid of the TCG and the failed collectible coins game (essentially, it was Rock-Paper-Scissors with Pokémon, which was already basically Rock-Paper-Scissors where Rock wasn't necessarily going to be instakilled by Paper every single time) and even then, the figures were impossible for collectors to find, were often broken in the packaging, and hardly advertised. In early 2009, after much delaying of the second expansion's release, it was officially announced as discontinued.
On top of that are the additional hurdles when trying to sell a trading figure game in the United States, especially to children: The packaging was not very theft-proof. Heroclix managed to survive because it's aimed at teens and young adults, who are less likely to just open and loot packages in-store, and reduced temptation to steal because every figurine is concealed.
Several X-Men books have suffered this over the year:
"Mutant X" was never supposed to replace X-Factor; it was supposed to run for 12 issues before going away and being replaced with a relaunched X-Factor comic. But early sales for Mutant X were far better than X-Factor's sales at the time, so the book lasted for 32 issues before being cancelled.
Deadpool and X-Force (under Peter Milligan and Mike Allred) were cancelled and relaunched as "Agent X" and "X-Statix". The relaunches for both books failed and while Agent X was thankfully mercy-killed, X-Statix rebounded from a god-awful first year with an arc involving the resurrection of a vain, self-righteous pop musician. Unfortunately, the singer was SUPPOSED to be Princess Diana but was changed at the last minute. As a result, Milligan and Allred became disillusioned and asked to leave the book, which was promptly cancelled with issue #26.
The early-1990s Justice Society of America series by Len Strazewski and Mike Parobeck was practically canceled before it started, despite selling well. Strazewski said in an interview that the decision to cancel was made personally by Mike Carlin because he didn't like Parobeck's artwork or Strazewski's writing and believed that senior-citizen super-heroes was not what DC should be publishing.
The Red Circle DCU revamp of the MLJ/Archie heroes has plenty of these: The original plan of using the original versions in The Brave And The Bold was scrapped in favor of launching them in a series of one-shots that immediately spun off into a pair of ongoings that debuted in the midst of Blackest Night and were the only two books to not tie in to that event, which crippled sales for them right out of the gate. It also had the $3.99 cover price with second feature format which also turned off readers. The only mainline DC book to give a major guest spot was when the Shield showed up in the low-selling Magog. DC is currently publishing a Mighty Crusaders mini-series to finish off the deal.
And DC has ended the Red Circle deal, and the rights are reverting back to Archie Comics!
And to make matters even worse, DC solicited the Mighty Crusaders mini-series (and the accompanying introductory special for the series) as a trade paperback, but cancelled it because it did not garnered enough pre-orders!
According to the Word Of God, the Red Circle heroes (as well as most of the Milestone Comics heroes) were barred from appearing in other titles due to the fact that DC would have to pay royalties for each guest-spot. So that's why save for Static, the Milestone and Red Circle heroes rarely got to appear in other, more popular titles.
Technically, DC's deal for the Red Circle heroes will end on January 2012!
Archie themselves are reviving the heroes in 2012 as The New Crusaders... as part of a web-only subscription service where the new stories are six pages each!
To make it less annoying, the six-page installments of The New Crusaders are going to be WEEKLY, which means 24-30 pages a month for the series, at a subscription fee of $2.99-$3.99 a month, plus thousands of pages of classic stories, as well!
At least Archie is offering a free print preview of The New Crusaders as part of the upcoming Free Comic Book Day version of Mega Man #1!
And there is going to be a print version of The New Crusaders, which will debut in August, three months after the digital version will debut!
DC's highly controversial treatment of Stephanie Brown. Made the centerpiece of a highly controversial story complete with being written massively out of character and became a victim of Women In Refrigerators. She got an ongoing after she came back but was cursed with Replacement Scrappy status due to replacing the fan favorite Cassandra Cain in the role of Batgirl. When her series proved to be a massive critical success (becoming the only DC book to get into USA Today's top ten comic books), it got cancelled early to make room for the company wide reboot. She was promised a place in the Smallville Comic, only for her to be replaced by Barbara Gordon (and as recently discovered, not because Barbara was more well known, she was specifically singled out and removed, Gordon was picked after Stephanie was removed). Its been suspected that DC Editor Dan DiDio is the one resposible for this treatment, as it started after he got in charge, he was connected to most of her poor treatment, and has been the most hostile towards fan critique about it.
Hobbes: We can't stay here forever? What if Red Dwarf: The Movie comes out while we're trapped here? Calvin: Pfft! As if.
They Might Be Giants had the full support of the executives for their first three albums on Elektra Records (Flood, Apollo 18, and John Henry). But while they were recording Factory Showroom, Elektra's parent company fired all the executives and the replacements didn't care for TMBG. As a result, Factory Showroom received almost no promotion when it was released, and the band asked to be released from their contract shortly after that.
Happened twice to Red House Painters. The band was always at risk of being thrown off of Four AD Records because Mark Kozelek and Ivo Watts had clashing personalities (one of the most notorious in the industry). They were finally thrown off in 1996 over a quarrel over two guitar solos. Then they were picked up by Island Records who, caught in the merging of different labels, decided to drop the band and refuse to release their final album Old Ramon. That album didn't see release until 2001 when Sub Pop records finally picked up.
This happens a great deal with many recording artists who find that, either because of cost-cutting measures or a perception of the general public's lost interest in them by the higher ups, their new releases aren't being promoted, then the albums aren't being distributed properly, then they're cut from their recording contract. EMI Records sent a huge percentage of their talent roster packing in the late 1990s - early 2000s because it was hemorrhaging money at the time, so a lot of artists who before found a lot of support from EMI ended up signing with considerably less supportive record companies, who screwed them over.
One of the most notorious and tragic musical examples was Big Star. They might have actually been big stars if their albums hadn't been distributed by the crumbling Stax label.
After Splashdown's EP Redshift rapidly sold out, the band made a new album called Blueshift. For reasons that remain mysterious, Capitol Records refused to release the album, but also retained copyright so that Splashdown could not release the album with another record company. Years later, the only way to hear those songs is through illegal downloading thanks to an internal leak. Splashdown split up due to fears that Capitol Records would retain copyright of any of their future songs.
Country Music artist Darryl Worley has been screwed over by having not one, not two, but three different labels close unexpectedly on him. First Dream Works Records in 2005 (the abrupt closure of which also killed off several other artists, some of whom were brand-new); then independent 903 Music in 2007; then another independent, Stroudavarious, in 2010.
Roadrunner Records abruptly dumped practically every Death Metal band on the label starting pretty much the instant Type-0 Negative produced the label's first Gold-seller. Most of the bands coming off the label ended up slamming Roadrunner for giving their final albums there little or no promotion, and Suffocation actually got hit with massive cuts to the budget for their second album, Breeding the Spawn, which resulted in the weakest production of any release by the band to date, before being formally dumped right after their next album, Pierced from Within, hit stores. Obituary managed to hold on with the label for a few years longer than most of their contemporaries, but most believe that the So Okay, It's Average nature of Back from the Dead, as well as the band's breakup the next year, was caused by interference from the label, and when Obituary reformed in 2005, they immediately went to a different label.
David Bowie's 1993 album Black Tie White Noise (his first solo effort in four years) did well in Europe, hitting Number One on the U.K. charts. But it flopped in North America — in part because U.S. distributor Savage Records went belly-up shortly after it hit shelves.
Brazilian singer Tim Maia had just recorded a new album for EMI, when he saw the estimated marketing costs matched the money spent recording. He raged, and caused the marketing executive to ask for a dismissal... which the label owner rejected, firing Maia instead. And dumping the record (ironically named Reencontro, "reunion") on stores with Invisible Advertising to guarantee it didn't go anywhere.
Zig-zagged with Michael Jackson's Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix (1997) — Epic Records gave it a heavy international push, resulting in #1 chart showings in Europe, but very little North American promotion, so it never reached higher than #24 on the U.S. charts. Perhaps justified on Epic's part, given that HIStory had a huge push two years prior but quickly faded in the U.S. (so an album that consisted mostly of remixes wasn't a guaranteed hit) and Jackson never brought the HIStory tour to the continental U.S. or Canada. Also, Jackson may have sabotaged himself with the GhostsShort Film, the most elaborate of the album's tie-in efforts, by making it a huge allegory for the child molestation allegations of 1993 — the primary reason for his drop in stature in the U.S. to begin with. Rather than trying to get it MTV airplay, Sony ran it for a week in some Los Angeles theaters (attached to the film Thinner) before shuttling it off to the international market; reporter Diane Dimond wonders if it wasn't out of embarassment with the content. (Indeed, it's still a case of Keep Circulating the Tapes after all these years in Region 1.)
UPN attempted to screw WWE by moving WWE SmackDown! into the famed Friday Night Death Slot (where it would face not only constant pre-emptions for local sports, but the loss of a good portion of its audience to people getting out and doing stuff on Friday nights), in order to try and pressure WWE into keeping Monday Night Raw on Spike TV. However, thanks to an aggressive marketing campaign by WWE (even rebranding the show Friday Night SmackDown!), the show managed not only to not lose any viewers, but gained enough ground that it was one of the few UPN shows picked up by the post-merger CW.
They ultimately wound up screwing them anyway, but it took a few years; when it came time to renew contracts, CBS wasn't interested despite the high ratings. SmackDown moved to the much-less-notable My Network TV, and started beating The CW in ratings by a good margin.
Then it got screwed by Memphis and Des Moines when those cities decided to dump My Network TV after they went to a syndicated model in September 2009, however in both cases the CW affiliate picked SmackDown up for Saturday nights and pretty much got station upgrades otherwise. The rest of the My Network TV schedule was blissfully ignored by both of them.
Sadly, high ratings for wrestling mean NOTHING. Advertisers won't touch it (they believe that it's aimed at the lowest common denominator, and that the viewers won't buy products being advertised; the much-publicized switch to TV-PG doesn't change this), and the only real value is to pump up the network average for prime time. Since UPN and its successors-in-interest are already dead last, and WWE numbers are and were low enough by broadcast standards not to make any difference, they have no compunction about moving/canceling wrestling programming.
How about an entire company screwed by the network? In 2001, AOL Time Warner was openly looking to sell WCW, producer of the highest-rated shows for TNT (WCW Nitro) and TBS (WCW Thunder). A group of investors, lead by WCW head booker Eric Bischoff, had a deal in principle to take over the company and absorb the production costs that the network had been covering. However, with WCW eating up two hours of prime-time and the company millions of dollars in the red with no evidence things were going to get any better, Jamie Kellner, then the Turner Networks CEO, decided to cancel all WCW programming from Turner networks, torpedoing the deal. Vince Mc Mahon (head of WCW's longtime rival World Wrestling Federation) then swooped in and bought out WCW's remaining assets (mostly wrestler contracts and its deep tape library) for pennies on the dollar. That said, Kellner had wanted to cancel the unprofitable company for a quite a while, and the only reason WCW stayed on TV for as long as it did was the intervention of Ted Turner, who had a soft spot for wrestling. Once Turner was out of power at the network, Kellner was supported by just about everyone at the company.note Wrestling fans note - with a good bit of schadenfreude - that TNT's replacements for Nitro, the Wall Street drama Bull and a live-action adaptation of Witchblade bot tanked (though for different reasons: Bull simply bombed, while Witchblade was sunk by star Yancey Butler's substance abuse issues) and it would be years before TNT found a Monday Night winner with The Closer.
WCW's not the only wrestling company to get screwed... take the case of ECW's turbulent relationship with TNN, as explained in the following clip which TNN refused to air on their program (it ended up airing on ECW's syndicated program, ECW Hardcore TV). "You have to be an ECW fan to watch this show, because, God knows, the network has never put out one freaking commercial or one press release to let you know that we're here!". Paul Heyman would go on to explain in the WWE-produced documentary The Rise and Fall of ECW that he blamed TNN's double-dealing for the demise of ECW; TNN rather publicly negotiated with, and subsequently signed, WWE to their network while marginalizing ECW further and further by the week, but refused to pull the trigger and actually cancel ECW, which prevented him from shopping the show around to other networks. In the last few months of the TNN run, Heyman was in open Writer Revolt, ramping up the show's offensive content and brazenly insulting TNN and its execs in an attempt to incite TNN to finally cancel the show in hopes of finding greener pastures elsewhere.
TNA Impact and TNA Reaction air on Bravo in the UK. That channel just got bought out by Sky, who are closing it down. As Sky already air WWE, no room for TNA on their channels, so these two shows have been screwed into a No Export for You situation by the Sky network until TNA was picked up by Challenge in a new deal at the end of the month.
Slight correction: Sky picked up Challenge alongside Bravo (and their actual targets, the Living TV series of networks), so this was probably a matter of reshuffling programs. Indeed, if anything this was a good thing for TNA, since Challenge was later added to Freeview, which was in the process of replacing traditional terrestrial television. In other words, TNA has gone from being only available to people who pay a subscription to being available on nearly every television in the UK.
In 2005, ESPN opted not to continue its relationship with the National Hockey League (fresh out of the lockout that canceled the entire 2004-05 season), and the cable rights were taken over by OLN (which then became Versus), a channel dedicated to outdoor sports with distribution not as wide as ESPN's. When NBC finally offered to air the 2007 NHL playoffs, they cut away from a series-clinching playoff game IN OVERTIME to show 90 minutes of pre-race coverage of The Preakness, knocking the remainder of the game over to Versus. Though thankfully, they've learned their lesson (and Versus, now known as the NBC Sports Network following Comcast's acquisition of NBC, has become a lot more established since.)
ESPN and ABC aren't exactly blameless for losing their NHL TV rights, though. Once they pulled some duplicitous tactics to yank broadcast rights away from FOX, both ESPN and ABC proceeded to ignore the league, giving it absolutely no advertising time on ABC and the bare minimum on ESPN. This behavior accelerated when ESPN and ABC got the rights to broadcast NBA games (coincidentally, the NHL's direct competitor for the winter months), with both networks making it clear they were prioritizing basketball over hockey. Then right as the 2004-05 NHL lockout started, ESPN canceled their NHL recap show NHL2night and refused to revive the show when the League approached them for a new cable deal after the labor dispute ended. With this kind of network screwing over a 6-7 year period, you cannot possibly blame the NHL for jumping to a more caring TV partner in Versus (although going with NBC is still inexcusable, as shown above). This blog entry goes into more detail about how Disney's networks screwed over the NHL, as well as the aforementioned dirty tactics used to screw FOX out of any TV rights.
In 1991, NBC broke away from the NHL All-Star Game (from 1990-1994, NBC broadcast the All-Star Game, which was pretty much the only time that the NHL was nationally broadcast on over-the-air television in the United States outside of ESPN's paid programming on ABC during the 1992-93 and 1993-94 seasons) in favor of a press conference from the Pentagon regarding the Gulf War. The previously unaired third period was rebroadcast on SportsChannel America. Unfortunately, SportsChannel America (who replaced ESPN as the NHL's primary cable broadcasting outlet in the United States in the 1988-89 season and continued through the 1991-92 season) was for all intents and purposes was a premium outlet that was available to about 1/4 less of the homes that ESPN was in at the time.
It's safe to say that the NHL has been screwed again by NBC. On May 12, 2013, the St. Louis region had Corporate Greed airing on CNBC over Game 6 of the Washington Capitals at the New York Rangers. This was despite cable listings listing Game 6. Let's just say there were some irate St. Louis hockey fans.
Indy Car has had a similar path when Versus picked up the load for most (but not all) of its events starting in 2009: ratings have been substantially lower due to Versus simply not being a well-known network (plus the Executive Meddling by the channel's owner, Comcast) even though viewers agree that Versus gives much better treatment to the series as opposed to ABC/ESPN(2); however, the ABC-aired races in 2009 (the Indy 500 and several other summer events) hadn't had as drastic a dropoff as the cable races and started to put a bit more effort into the broadcasts. Of course, a lot of this stems from Tony George's own Executive Meddling that caused the American open-wheel racing split from 1996-2008. Though with the NBC Sports division taking over Versus in 2011, coverage will at least be held to a higher standard.
The Arena Football League may be another one screwed by NBC. After the network lost its NFL games to CBS in 1997 and the 2001 XFL debacle, NBC signed what looked like a good deal with the Arena League at the time (both sides would split ad revenues 50/50 instead of one side getting rights fees). NBC even convinced the league to move up its normal Summer schedule, saying the league could be promoted better if it started the week after the Super Bowl. But when the NFL came calling back to NBC in 2006, the network promptly forgot about the Arena League, leaving it to play at a time of year where it had to compete with the NBA, NHL, and college basketball for viewership. After returning to ESPN, the league suspended operations for the 2009, reviving in 2010 with half the previous teams choosing not to come back with it (the league slots were filled by teams coming from AF2, a secondary arena football league).
Major League Baseball screwed themselves with their short-sighted television deals back in the early 1990s. First and foremost, MLB signed a $1.2 billion (approximately) deal with CBS for the next four years. They replaced ABC (who had covered Monday and later Thursday night baseball games consecutively since 1976) and NBC (who had covered Major League Baseball in some shape or form since 1947) as the national, broadcast TV outlet for Major League Baseball. Once CBS came into the picture, Major League Baseball, under the leadership of then outgoing Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, proceeded to systematically destroy the Saturday afternoon Game of the Week (a longtime institution on NBC). CBS became notorious for their sporadic regular season scheduling (often airing golf events on weeks in place of baseball). MLB's logic was that since a myriad of games were going to air on ESPN, the concept of a nationally televised Game of the Week was growing obsolete. When the dust was settled, CBS (who by the end of 1993, had also lost the National Football League to Fox, the National Basketball Association to NBC, and college football) lost at least, half a billion dollars off of that baseball deal. Despite all of this, CBS was willing to renew their contact with MLB for two more years. Unfortunately, mid-way through the 1993 season, MLB was already working on a revenue sharing joint-venture with ABC and NBC called "The Baseball Network". The Baseball Network was even worse than what CBS had to offer (with ABC and NBC each covering six weeks of regionalized coverage following the All-Star Break). Without going into full blown detail (check the Wikpedia article on The Baseball Network to get a proper perspective) here, all that you need to know first and foremost, is that the first two rounds of the playoffs were regionally televised simultaneously. Perhaps the one positive thing to come out of the 1994-95 baseball strike, was that it hastened the premature demise of The Baseball Network (which was supposed to run through the 1999 season). Shortly afterwards, both ABC and NBC (who had to split coverage of the 1995 World Series) publicly vowed to have nothing more to do with Major League Baseball for at least the remainder of the 20th century. NBC however reluctantly (they could only be bothered to show postseason games and the All-Star Game in even numbered years) reconsidered and wound up sharing the broadcast rights with Fox through the end of the 2000 season.
Reluctantly is putting it mildly. When the 1997 World Series ended up being played by two small-market teams (Florida and Cleveland), NBC's West Coast head Don Ohlmeyer publicly declared that he hoped it would end in a four-game sweep, since even a fifth game would mean pre-empting his precious "Must See TV" Thursday lineup. (He didn't get his wish; the Series went the full seven games.)
In Australia, the Seven Network's screwing of the National Soccer League lead to the entire competition eventually collapsing in 2004. The channel bought the rights for a pay tv sports channel, but after they lost the rights to Aussie Rules Football, they shut down the pay tv channel, and never bothered airing the soccer in any regular fashion, and never live. A highlight package after midnight on Wednesdays was the best the coverage got at times.
It is actually worse than simply 'shutting down the channel', the NSL was deliberately screwed over by the network. In a subsequent lawsuit over the failure of the pay tv channel, it emerged that network executives were angry that the managers of Aussie Rules Football were not giving them enough credit for buying the National Soccer League rights then burying the sport.
ONE HD's coverage of The National Basketball League games has fallen into this when it was announcing in October 2011 that all NBL games aired on One HD would be delayed which angered fans. One HD the following month announced that all NBL games would be delayed EVEN FURTHER to 1:00 AM-2:00 AM, Which pissed off more fans. NBL fans are now trying to boycott the channel.
Formula One has always had prime spots on the BBC since it's most loved in the UK, showing all the races and qualifying since the start (excusing the brief time it went to ITV (which meant there were adverts during the races)). From 2011 and 2018 only half of the races will be shown on the BBC whilst Sky Sports (a channel one would have to pay a lot for, including their television license) will show all the races and the qualifying. Within the first month a Sports site did a poll to find out people's reaction. Fifty per cent said they refused to watch the races on Sky.
Pro Bull Riding got screwed by the networks. Originally, full events were shown on Versus, but new licensing deals mean events are now shown on NBC, NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus), CBS, and the PBR's own streaming online broadcast site. Often a single event will be divided up between two of these outlets, making it extremely difficult for fans to keep track of.
The Fan Nicknamed Heidi Bowl where, in November 1968, NBC broke away from the final minutes of a much-anticipated American Football League match up between the Oakland Raiders and New York Jets to air Heidi, causing most fans to miss The Miracle Rally. Ever since, it's been network policy not to break away from a live sporting event. At least until 2007 (see the NHL entry above).
At the heyday of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition in the 1990s, TSR had Lorraine Williams as their CEO, who made no secret her disdain both for gamers and the people that worked under her. Among many things that caused Dungeons & Dragons and TSR to be run into the ground before being mercifully bought out by Wizards of the Coast were:
Suing people left and right, including people who ran message boards for talking about Dungeons & Dragons on the internet on the basis that it was their intellectual property. This prevented new people from discovering the game through Internet word-of-mouth, gave their competitors who were using the new medium to promote their products an edge, and disenchanted fans.
Lorraine Williams devoted a great deal of company resources to publishing and promoting the Buck Rogers RPG, as the heiress whose estate owned the rights to the Buck Rogers IP got royalties for every Buck Rogers supplement published and sold. That heiress? Lorraine Williams.
TSR's solution to declining sales was to publish new settings. The problem was that the settings, modules, and rules that governed them were so incompatible with each other that the player base became fragmented. For instance, a Planescape fan would have no use for modules meant for the Birthright setting.
Licensing terrible games, with Baldur's Gate being a notable exception and becoming the string holding the franchise together. It probably could have gotten more people into the hobby if message boards about the game didn't have to censor comments about the tabletop version for fear of lawsuits.
Nepotism ran rampant in the company, which resulted in unqualified managers.
Game designers were often forbidden by Williams to use company time to play test products, on the reasoning that playtesting was just an excuse for the peasants to get paid to play games.
Jeff Grubb as one of their top designers had something to say about this. Especially nice here are #19A "going into competition with our own licensees was a bit of a tradition at TSR" and #20 "went to my Vice President and asked why an employee was doing outside work for another company that they didn't like anymore". So bad that everyone who didn't already know they're jerks was in for it and that well-aimed bureaucratic obfuscation was the only way to get things done at all?
Alternity was a generic RPG produced by TSR in last few years of their operations. And was already used as a source of "how to improve xD&D mess" ideas. When WOTC took over in 2000, they killed the system and cannibalized the settings into their d20 modern line so that it didn't compete against it.
The most common complaints against Games Workshop for their Warhammer 40000 release schedule is that Space Marine armies always take precedence over non-Marine armies. The main Space Marine book has always been one of the first books updated in every edition change, while other armies have been languishing in Development Hell for almost as long as a decade.
An interesting subversion to the Codex: Space Marines are First trend is in 6th Edition. Dark Angels and Chaos Space Marines are the first to arrive, instead of Codex: Space Marines. Still, it's a Space Marine army.
CCP's financial troubles in 2011, largely clustered around expensive microtransactions and an incomplete Incarna expansion to EVE Online, resulted in nearly 20% of the company's staff being laid off, including a number of people working on its recently-purchased tabletop gaming subsidiary. At the same time, the general market for tabletop games and traditionally published works hit a major pothole, and publishers that once put out supplements on a monthly basis were down to two or three books per line a year. White Wolf's New World of Darkness and Exalted were increasingly pushed to online-only release, and eventually split to Onyx Path with a Kickstarter model.
Exalted also had an issue with the network screwing its writing staff. The game's already touchy mechanics are unforgiving to poorly-written Charms or Artifacts, and at least one freelancer was hired early in development without having access to the basic combat system rules. The Second Edition Sidereal's author didn't have enough time with the new mechanics to understand the importance of Keywords. Another author — reliably and consistently unnamed by Holden Shearer, the poor man who had to take the resulting hatemail — was responsible for several poorly written charms, including the terribad Solar Charms in Dreams of The First Age, and remained on the mechanics team until Scrolls of Fallen Races.