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Network Decay: Temporary Shifts

The channel, after decaying for a while, has since returned to its roots and broadcasting programming related to their original mission again.

  • Reversed by a recent trend of "vault" cable networks that went and defined a niche for themselves, when they used to be little more than rerun farms. TNT has repurposed itself as being the drama network, complete with the slogan "We Know Drama" (and now, bizarrely, "BOOM"); TBS wants you to know that everything they show is "Very Funny"; and USA Network has made a point of acquiring programs that showcase quirky characters to fit its "Characters Welcome" campaign.

    These networks also frequently show movies that don't fit the theme comedies like Galaxy Quest and Men In Black on TNT, dramas like the Lord of the Rings on TBS but the ads present them as the network's genre; USA's broader "Characters Welcome" focus, and their knack for showing movies that fit the genre of their shows, lets them better avert this.
  • CBC faces a balancing act between popular American shows, which draw advertisers, and its mandate to foster Canadian content, which tends to be less popular (in comparison, the business model of other Canadian networks involves acquiring rights to U.S. programming and using CRTC rules to force TV providers to replace any simultaneous airing of it on a U.S. network with a Canadian feed). In recent years, the pendulum has swung towards producing new Canadian shows (such as the popular series Little Mosque on the Prairie, Being Erica, the Canadian version of Dragon's Den, and so on) and for reruns the network has intentionally limited itself to Canadian and British series. In September 2012, it culled the only remaining U.S. series on the schedule, Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy, after dropping reruns of The Simpsons and Arrested Development.

    Sports remained the one thing keeping CBC somewhat profitable, as Hockey Night in Canada (which especially dominated the network during the Stanley Cup Playoffs) was estimated to provide half of its total advertising revenue, and the network re-gained rights to the Olympic Games as well beginning in 2014. However, losing rights to the NHL to Rogers Media dealt a huge blow to the CBC. While Hockey Night in Canada and the playoffs will remain on CBC as part of a sub-licensing agreement, they will essentially be time-brokered by Rogers, and CBC will not receive any profits from advertising during the games (although, Rogers probably paid CBC quite a bit to borrow their talent and rent an entire studio in their Toronto headquarters to build a $4.5 million studio for all of its NHL coverage). As a result of the loss of Hockey Night and struggling ratings for its entertainment programming, CBC announced a number of budget cuts and layoffs in April 2014. Will they stay afloat, even with the promised promotion of CBC programming during Hockey Night (which, will also expand across Sportsnet and Citytv too)?

  • ZTV, who was originally established as a Swedish alternative of MTV, pretty much went down the same line as MTV. In a brave attempt to counter this, however, in 2006 they decided to split the channel up; ZTV would go back to its musical roots, and the new channel TV6 would focus on the programs that had made ZTV decay. Both channels still exist to this day, and neither has decayed.
    • Similar thing happened in Finland. Just replace ZTV with The Voice and [TV 6=] with Vii5i. Except it was zigzagged; TV Viisi originally occupied the slot, which was replaced by The Voice in 2004. In 2008 the original channel, renamed Vii5i, started sharing the channel slot. In 2011 the channels were split into separate slots.
  • MSNBC started as a joint venture between NBC and Microsoft to bring a unique synchronicity between online and cable news. Microsoft pulled out, and the channel floundered for years, with its news programming in last place and prime time filled with True Crime and prison "documentaries". Since the latter part of the Turn Of The Millenium, these have been replaced (at least on weekdays) by left-of-center opinion talkshows to counter-program the Fox News Channel. Thanks to shows hosted by Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann (before his departure for Current; he was originally the driving force in moving MSNBC toward liberal news commentary) and later Rachel Maddow (who following Olbermann's departure became the face of the network), they became a big player in cable news again. While their political viewpoints are one for debate, they're at least behaving like a news network again and not a cheesy ripoff of CourtTV.

    The weekends, though...it seems like they never plan for breaking news. While CNN and Fox News can break format in a moment's notice and always have somebody ready to go, MSNBC continues to air prison docs or Dateline NBC reruns while the on-call weekend guy rushes across Long Island to get into the studio to start the coverage hours too late. There's a reason the tag #msnbcfail is popular on Twitter in these situations. Especially egregious in the case of weather events or other stories that break locally before going national: in theory they have access to the local NBC affiliate's feed.
  • Fuse TV was created in response to MTV's decay, aimed at a slightly more "hardcore" crowd (i.e. fans of rock and metal music) than MTV's original target audience. It quickly went the same way that MTV did, replacing music programming with reality shows like Rad Girls (a female version of Jackass) and Pants-Off Dance-Off, and even showing anime (like what MTV Italy, though they gave up on that after showing only Ergo Proxy and Tenjho Tenge). At one point, there was only two or three hours of music-based programming in any given day, and some of that was an annoying infomercial called VictorYTV, paid for by the emo-focused Victory Records label. It got to the point where some distrusted the channel because it pandered to Victory and emo in general, at the peril of other genres. It may have been the fastest case of Network Decay ever, and it put the channel under Total Abandonment for a while.

    This went about as well as one would expect, as "MTV, but still showing music" was Fuse TV's chief selling point, and losing that caused ratings to sink like a rock. Realizing where they went wrong, they made a strong effort to fix their decay, canning most of their non-music-related reality shows and bringing in new music shows. They even re-hired popular former VJ Juliya Chernetsky, whom it was thought would never agree to return after the way she had been unceremoniously fired. Even the movies that they show, like Rocky Horror and Waynes World, are related to music, while most of the shows (scripted or reality) that aren't strictly about running music videos deal with music in one form or another.note 

    The only decay still lingering at the network is that it's no longer focused on rock music, instead focusing chiefly on mainstream pop with a music video rotation not unlike the Top 40 pop charts. Most of the music programming is composed of countdown shows (including a show about which artists are trending on Twitter) and a news program, rather than the more diverse mix of interview and discussion shows that existed before, with the exception being the "Takeovers" that serve mainly to promote a particular artist or band by giving them a day of airtime. There's also what was left over from their transition from MuchUSA into Fuse TV... but starting in 2010, Fuse began simulcasting the MuchMusic Video Awards, marking the first time the station has aired content from MuchMusic since 2002. The network also briefly aired Video On Trial in the fall of 2011.

    Furthermore, while Fuse had (mostly) recovered from its decay, the causes of it are still lurking. The channel has struggled in the ratings, largely due to YouTube and other sites eating away at its fundamental base of music programming, and as a result it has a hard time in negotiations with cable and satellite operators, who don't want to air a network whose main programming consists of half-day long 'takeovers' playing one artist's videos. Its owners have considered selling it; one of the options that has been rumored is that it could be merged with AXS TV, a pop culture/lifestyle channel owned by Ryan Seacrest and Mark Cuban. In March 2014 Sean Combs threw in an offer to purchase the channel, but solely to use its carriage to get his Revolt network into more homes. He ultimately got outbid by the parent company of Latino-oriented network NuvoTV, whose creative director is his ex-girlfriend, Jennifer Lopez. Her manager has stated that they plan to keep the two networks separate, a promise quickly broken at the start of May 2014 when Fuse's news division was completely axed suddenly in one afternoon, and it's all but confirmed that Billy Eichner's Billy on the Street is probably done on Fuse.
  • MTV UK's genre channels (MTV Base plays Urban, MTV Two plays indie rock & alternative, to give two examples) have their own programming, but it's related to the music that the channel plays interviews, that sort of thing. These have recently been cut back in favour of playing more music videos, thus creating the first known instance of MTV being criticised for playing too many music videos.
  • CBS, during the period when it was overseen by CEO Laurence Tisch (1986-1995), found themselves finishing in third place (behind both NBC and ABC) during the 1988-89 season. This includes the once dominant nightly newscast. For the next few years, CBS, for better or for worse, arguably gained a reputation (when compared to other broadcast networks) as being the "old folks' network" (meaning for much of The Eighties, while its shows like Dallas and Murder, She Wrote, had skewed much older than its competitors, they weren't hitting the lucrative 18-49 demographic that advertisers crave). It did not help that the highest-rated non-sports programming on CBS at that time was specials featuring characters from Newspaper Comics, specially those from Peanuts and Garfield. Even then, CBS canceled further specials in 1990 because of low ratings (though it kept rerunning said specials until its 2000 Younger and Hipper revamp).

    In 1989, the network signed a four year long contract with Major League Baseball (1990-1993); CBS wound up losing approximately $500 million off of a $1.2 billion. More to the point, the network usually preempted the classic Game of the Week (which had previously been broadcast on NBC for every week of the regular season from 1957-1989 and exclusively beginning in 1966) in favor of cheaper local programming to the point in the early '90s. Because of this, CBS became known as "Covers Baseball Sporadically" and "Couldn't Broadcast Sports". This, coupled with the urban feeling of the era helped baseball to lose ground in favor of basketball. That was ironic given that CBS had lost its rights to NBA coverage to NBC at that time.

    Then in December 1993, CBS lost the National Football League package (which they had since 1956) to a fledgling Fox network. The NFL switcheroo helped cost CBS many affiliates (who switched over to Fox shortly thereafter) and viewers. Eventually, things started to turn around for CBS by the second half of the '90s after it was acquired by Westinghouse in 1995, who finally ousted Tisch. They regained NFL coverage (outbidding NBC for the American Football Conference package in 1998) and progressively took a Younger and Hipper direction with shows such as Survivor and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Ultimately, according to Nielsen, CBS has been the top-rated network since the 20082009 season.
  • Discovery Health, one of the few Discovery-related channels to remain completely true to its concept (medical and health-related shows), eventually focused their programming on childbirths to the point that they were nicknamed as "The Childbirth Channel", with about 3-4 hours of shows that actually made it into the day's programming that didn't show only childbirth. Jon And Kate Plus Eight started out on Discovery Health before moving to TLC. It was eventually replaced in 2011 with a network devoted entirely to Oprah Winfrey. Yes, you read that correctly an entire channel dedicated to Oprah. Fortunately, Discovery Health made a comeback one month later, by merging with FitTv (becoming Discovery Fit & Health), and taking most of the programming hours, ironically restoring the original format that FitTV took over when it was brought by Discovery in the late '90s. Some executive meddling continues however; many of the original programs developed specifically by Fit & Health to air only on that network seem to always have a 'special preview' on TLC (under the excuse that Fit & Health has fewer cable homes) before they're taken outright by that network, leaving Fit & Health out in the cold as their shows are forever stolen by their corporate sister. In 2015, it will get a new name, Discovery Life.
  • CNN suffered a slip for a while around 2007 when it decided to axe its more liberal commentators in an attempt to appeal more to Fox News viewers with a nightly lineup featuring right-wing commentators Lou Dobbs and Glenn Beck, as well as Nancy Grace (the last two on HLN back-to-back with Larry King in his final seasons after that). With its new intentions, ratings plummeted; conservatives stuck with Fox News, and CNN lost a lot of faith among those who had once trusted it as a fairly non-partisan news network. While Beck was eventually fired from the network and Dobbs retired, CNN wouldn't fully recover from this programming change until Piers Morgan came in 2010. Arguably, they still haven't recovered, as the only time their viewers come in is for the most breaking of news, and they seem more enchanted with playing with their on-set toys like the "Magic Board" to show the news. Ratings-wise, they're now mired in third place behind MSNBC and Fox News, and spent much of 2012 hitting 20-year lows in terms of raw numbers.
    • CNN has also been suffering from rank on-air incompetence, not just limited to their gadgets/gimmicks like the Magic Board. On The Daily Show, CNN is close behind Fox News as Jon Stewart's favorite media whipping boy thanks to the poor quality of the newscasting on display. Even those Americans looking for straight, non-partisan news reporting now turn to foreign outlets like The BBC, viewing CNN as a pale shadow of its former self.
  • SBS in Australia was originally created to show foreign language programmes to Australians who spoke languages other than English. Unlike in other countries such as the US however, there is no huge minority language which can draw large audiences, and so after SBS commercialised it was hit with the problem of how to raise revenue with such a fragmented audience. Consequently, it gradually became more a mix of documentaries, sex, soccer, and South Park. "SBS" is sometimes colloquially called "Sex and Bloody Soccer".

    However, new management has decidedly taken SBS back to its roots. It began by producing a slew of programs exploring the cooking and cultures of other countries through the eyes of minority-ethnicity Australian chefs, including Luke Nguyen's Vietnam. Then came the documentaries about Australian immigration, such as Go Back To Where You Came From (a critical and ratings smash hit) and the English/Vietnamese language Once Upon A Time In Cabramatta. SBS has started a weekly Australian Mandarin-language news bulletin, and even a Asian pop radio channel and TV segment (SBS Pop Asia) to get younger viewers. Despite its history of changes, it still broadcasts in more languages than any other broadcaster in the world, with more than 68 languages on radio, more than 60 on television and more than 50 online.
  • Logo, an LGBT-centered channel, had a problem with finding memorable, relevant shows after inexplicably cancelling its two highest rated shows (Noah's Arc, a soap opera about gay men of color, and Rick & Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple in All the World, an animated satire), so for awhile they simply aired reruns of shows popular with the gay crowd such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Golden Girls, Daria, etc. However, the success of RuPaul's Drag Race has given the network a much-needed boost in ratings, and they have since returned to producing GLBT-relevant content as well as the aforementioned reruns.
  • The Sci Fi Channel (or Syfy, as it is now known) originally was the king of serious science-fiction dramas and action series, with heavyweights like Stargate SG-1 and the Battlestar Galactica reboot under its belt. However, SciFi eventually changed its name to Syfy and for five years started showing more programming not related to science fiction, like wrestling or reality TV shows. What few science-fiction programming they did retain was usually in the form of low quality B-movie fare or lighthearted procedurals like Warehouse 13 and Haven. However, Syfy announced in March 2014 new plans to return to their roots, starting production on more serious space operas and slowly phasing out or toning down their current programming. This is mostly motivated by their desire to match the success of other hit cable series such as The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones.
  • CPAC, the Canadian equivalent of C-SPAN, received special permission from the TV regulators to simulcast the V channel's broadcast of the 2010 Winter Olympics as:
  1. V is a French-language channel without much carriage outside Quebec;
  2. The Olympics were considered important for all Canadians; and
  3. The Canadian Parliament was in recess then, so the channel had nothing to broadcast.


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