Things I Don’t Like About Television, Episode 1: Network Decay

To borrow a term from TVTropes, Network Decay is what happens when a network moves from its primary objective. A cable network can be created and be dedicated to one type of programming but then move from that premise — and the intended core demographic — over time.

This can happen for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Ratings
  • The era or necessity.
  • Competition, particularly with streaming services.
  • The absolute hubris of executives.

Ratings Can Dictate What Networks Show

Of course, networks always consider ratings, particularly for irregular programs that might have been featured from time to time. Perhaps a cable network dedicated to finances shows a sporting event one year. What if the network then shows five more the following year and it is determined that those sporting events garnered far more viewers than the regular programming? While there might be a complete shift in the network’s approach in the future, less time may be given to the regular programming. Given more time and more success with the sporting events, the channel might be completely unrecognizable.

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