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Network Decay / Temporary Shifts

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

  • Around 2010-12, Animax Asia aired K-dramas, which was a controversial move that slightly alienated those who thought of Animax as an anime channel. That's all in the past now as they've gotten rid of the K-dramas and the other Korean content in 2013 and moved to sister channel Sony ONE, though an anime adaptation of Winter Sonata would still remain on the lineup for a few years before completely disappearing. Nowadays, Animax is an all-anime channel which broadcasts mostly anime with the Japanese audio intact and subtitles, alongside occasionally airing some anisong music videos.
    • Even though Animax mostly airs anime in Japanese audio with subtitles nowadays, English dubs of anime that were broadcasted by the network, however, haven't completely disappeared. That is true especially among the older anime series.
  • 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.
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  • 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 Little Mosque on the Prairie, Being Erica, the Canadian version of Dragons' Den, Schitt's Creek, Republic of Doyle, and so on), and filling the rest of the schedule with encores of originals and non-U.S. imports. 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. Outside of the NHL, CBC is now riding upon its long-term rights to the Olympic Games (and championships in Olympic sports), going as far as branding its weekend afternoon sports anthology as Road to the Olympic Games.
  • 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, until 2007 where ZTV started to slip mostly by showing American TV shows and movies, Internet shorts and anime before the owners pulled the plug.
    • Similar thing happened in Finland. Just replace ZTV with The Voice and TV6 with Vii5i. Except it was zig-zagged; 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.
  • Muz-TV, a Russian channel that was created as an alternative to MTV, inverted, played straight and averted this trope, in that order. To elaborate: back when the channel was launched in 1996, it was mostly running Boris Yeltsin's election ad campaign. Soon after it switched to music videos, and was a worthy opponent to MTV Russia - they even had (still have) their own music awards! Around 2010, they started suffering from the same problems as MTV - namely, the lack of music videos in programming (Muz-TV Music Awards was still there, though). Eventually, on September 16, 2012, Muz-TV moved to a different frequency, allowing it to return to its original purpose. On their old frequency, a completely different channel named U was launched, retaining the programs Muz-TV aired before.
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  • 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 Millennium, 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, 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 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. In 2015 this was unexpectedly rectified with Brian Williams' demotion and assumption as the network's prime breaking news anchor, so now Brian merely has to get to 30 Rock from New Jersey to get coverage underway.
  • Fuse TV was originally an American simulcast of Canada's MuchMusic, launched in 1994. In 2001, Rainbow Media (currently AMC Networks) began to diverge away from its' origins, with the rebranding to Fuse in 2003 being a 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 (and the original MuchMusic, for that matter) 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 Wayne's 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, only to completely go back on their word when Fuse's news division was completely axed in May 2014. On September 31, 2015, NuvoTV was shut down and its remaining programming began airing on Fuse; It was replaced by Fuse's new music-focused spinoff, FM. As of 2019, neither channel shows any music related programming outside of reality shows, with both networks struggling to gain, or in Fuse's case, keep carriage from cable and satellite providers.
  • 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 criticized 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 '80s, 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 came to stood for "Covers Baseball Sporadically" or "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. Ultimately, according to Nielsen, CBS has been the top-rated network since the 2008–2009 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 & 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 before they're taken outright by that network. In 2015, it 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. 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. On The Daily Show, CNN was 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.
      • Their current shift has even been lampshaded by Mike Rowe and his mother in a promo for his new show on the channel, in which his mother remarks that when people tune in to CNN, they expect to see news, so why would any show he's involved with be on such a channel?
  • 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 launched in 2005 with a mission to show LGBT-themed programming, initially relied on a library of LGBT-themed films and Viacom-owned TV programs. Eventually the channel began creating or airing original content related to the concept and some reality programming. However it 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 The Golden Girls, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (often playing up Willow's role even if her contribution to an episode was minimal), Daria (though the only time it featured a queer character/plotline was to establish that Jane is 100% straight), etc. The success of RuPaul's Drag Race gave the network a much-needed boost in ratings and even won Emmys, allowing them to produce and air more LGBT-relevant content as well as the aforementioned reruns.
    • As of 2017, Viacom's budget cuts and internal bickering have led to Logo being starved for content. Drag Race has been moved to VH1, leaving Finding Prince Charming as the only original program on a channel that's been reduced to reruns of little but blocks of sitcoms from the 1970s onward which vary from having a handful of episodes dealing with gay themes and characters to having no gay content whatsoever. With Viacom in the midst of overhauls for their other cable networks, things aren't looking good.
  • The Sci-Fi Channel's original programming was originally known for heavyweights like Stargate SG-1 and the Battlestar Galactica reboot. Overtime, and especially after they changed their name to Syfy, they've downplayed actual science fiction programming. The original programs that came the closest to the channel's roots was usually in the form of B-movies, supernatural procedurals, or fantasy dramas. In 2014, Syfy announced plans to return to more hard science-fiction programming, 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 network's broadcast of the 2010 Winter Olympics as:
    1. V is a French-language network 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.
  • Cartoon Network was originally used as a showcase for classic Hanna-Barbera and Warner Bros. cartoons, but these were eventually replaced by an increasing number of original productions and anime. That would have made Cartoon Network a "shift that fit"... if it wasn't for the late-2000s happening. Following a major executive change when Jim Samples resigned over the controversy of the Boston Bomb Scare and was replaced by Stuart Snyder, who doubled down on the slow influx of live-action that Samples began. In addition to acquisitions of live-action movies and TV shows, original animated production were being canceled en mass and CN Real, a block of live-action reality shows and scripted series, was created in 2009. Though the intent was to give the network ratings on-par with that of Nickelodeon and Disney Channel, who aren't exclusive to airing animation, the new live-action programming did the exact opposite due to audiences finding the shift odd and most of said programming... well, not being good. Realizing where they went wrong, the network made a strong effort to return to their roots with reruns of Tom and Jerry, Looney Tunes, and the like as part of their regular weekday morning lineup. New animated programming such as Adventure Time, Regular Show, and Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated sprung up in the early 2010s, while CN gradually phased out their live-action shows and gave them less advertising. Level Up, their final live-action production, aired its last episodes in early 2013, while the Hall of Game Awards was cancelled after the 2014 event. The network's 20th anniversary celebration was considered to be the network re-cementing its animation mission statement, though the channel still airs live-action movies for schedule filler.
    • All that said, the original scheduling of the channel, which promoted itself as airing cartoons all day, every day, has been long abandoned even outside the network airing live-action films on the weekends, thanks to programming block/sister sister Adult Swim's continued production of live-action programming.
  • BBC Four was originally conceived in 2002 as a channel focusing on the arts, documentaries, drama and the odd archive programming. After the youth-orientated BBC Three closed as linear TV channel and became an online platform in 2016, some of its live programming Channel Hopped to BBC Four. While BBC Four could get away without slipping airing the semi-finals of the Eurovision Song Contest (it covers its performing art remit), the channel is also now susceptible to temporary shifts where all programming is replaced with live sports coverage (such as international football tournaments and the Olympics) before going back to normal a couple of weeks later.
  • From roughly 2014 to 2018, Destination America would focus mainly on paranormal shows. After most of those shows move to the Travel Channel (now known as Trvl), Destination America returned to its original purpose (lifestyle, food, and home shows), while Trvl started to suffer its own decay as a result.
  • British Game Show channel Challenge has suffered through this a lot.
    • The channel was originally launched as The Family Channel in September 1993, as a joint-venture between Flextech and International Family Entertainment. The purpose of the UK version existing was to air programs from the TVS Television and MTM Enterprises catalogs, which IFE acquired months earlier following TVS losing their ITV broadcast license.
    • In 1996, Flextech bought out the remainder of the network and planned to re-launch it as "The Challenge Channel" that fall, with a daytime lineup focusing on female-skewing dramas, and evening and weekends focused on game shows. However, the re-launch was delayed so it wouldn't compete with the concurrent launch of Granada's new digital channels, so they just ran constant "Family Challenge Weekend" marathons on weekends before finally becoming Challenge TV full-time, with aired mainly classic game shows with phone-in games airing in-between, and eventually original programmes.
    • Due to an existing contract that didn't expire at the time, the ex-Family Channel programming continued to air as part of a late-night block titled "Family Late", which soon ended once the contracted itself ended.
    • In 2002, following its rebrand from "Challenge TV" to "Challenge?" and then simply "Challenge", the channel began its first signs of network decay under its current format, with the success of Takeshi's Castle, the channel began to broadcast many action/reality shows and live poker programs. They fully went all on this by launching a full-on block called Player in May 2005, where they even aired movies (such as Casino) and scripted television shows acquired from other channels.
      • Player was soon spun-off as its own channel 10 months later (before being replaced with Bravo 2 seven months afterward), however, Challenge kept airing poker shows and reality programming, pushing the game shows aside. Shows like Catchphrase were aired constantly, which little additions over the next few years as Flextech rebranded as Virgin Media Television.
    • The sale of both Challenge and Bravo to Sky in 2010 and Bravo's subsequent closure in 2011 meant that Challenge became the home of TNA Wrestling. Not to mention that as the years go on, Challenge's library of programs seems to get smaller. As of current, it looks like they are not showing any program older than 1990. Makes it rather annoying if you are a fan of a show such as Bullseye and wish to see any episodes from the early 80s through to 1989. Challenge eventually started getting back on track with some of the programs they air, though it does depend on what series of said show are licensed - older series of shows such as Bullseye, Family Fortunes, and the pre-Rich series of Strike it Lucky air on the network, and they are trying to add more from the back catalog as time goes by (The first series of Blockbusters aired a few months ago, albeit with a handful of missing episodes, and the first two seasons of the original Channel 5 version of Fort Boyard aired over the summer, with the rest of the episodes to come in 2015). It still doesn't explain why TNA Wrestling or shows like Brainiac: Science Abuse air on a channel otherwise known for old game shows.
      • TNA airs on Challenge because Sky has the rights to WWE, and didn't want to get into trouble with them by putting a rival wrestling promotion on a Sky branded channel.
    • By 2017, the channel seemed to have completely averted this entirely once they lost the rights to TNA and Ginx's library, but the variety went far worse, due to the poor viewing figures of any show that's not named The Chase, Sky has kept the budget of the channel to a minimum, relying on The Chase reruns to even gain viewing figures. In the words of a former Sky employee who ran the channel's social media pages on the current state of the network:
      I used to work on Challenge and used to run this page! The trouble is... we bought old 321, we bought old Terry Blankety Blank, we bought Bullseye series 1, we bought Max Bygraves and Bob Monkhouse Family Fortunes... and we were so excited! Then... nobody watched them... they never rated well and of course the channel is still a business so has to hit targets and make money. The Chase and millionaire... anything newer looking rates well and so of course they have to be put in more. I've seen the same over on Drama who had early episodes of The Bill which abruptly stopped and started showing the newer ones because they obviously rated better. If you owned a shop... bought a product and nobody bought it.. you would buy more of the products that everyone bought. I get it, more choice of older shows would be great but I also get why Challenge show a lot of the newer shows.