TV Q&A: Why have networks given up on Saturday night?

  • Article by: ROB OWEN , Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
  • Updated: August 25, 2013 - 2:00 PM
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Colm Meaney stars in “Hell on Wheels,” which AMC is moving to Saturday nights in the fall.

Photo: CHRIS LARGE • AMC,

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Q: Why don’t ABC, CBS and NBC have any good programs on Saturday nights? There are people who watch TV that night.

A: There are people who watch television that night. AMC’s decision to shift “Hell on Wheels” to Saturdays in its upcoming season shows that some networks want to take advantage of the broadcast networks’ abdication of programming Saturday prime time. But so far, ABC, CBS and NBC don’t seem interested in offering new shows on Saturday, instead relying on reruns and sports.

It wasn’t always this way. I can recall watching “The Golden Girls” on Saturday night on NBC in the 1980s. In the 1970s, CBS aired “The Carol Burnett Show” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” on Saturday.

That started to change in the late 1990s.

ABC made Saturday a movie night in 1999, and NBC followed suit in 2000. CBS held on with original scripted series until the fall of 2004, when it switched to drama reruns on Saturday.

The reason for the change is simple: Networks cater to advertisers, and advertisers won’t pay premium rates for shows that draw few younger viewers. Saturday programming doesn’t seem to draw younger viewers anymore.

From there, it’s a little bit of chicken and the egg: Did the networks give up on Saturday because younger viewers weren’t watching, or did younger viewers stop watching when the networks gave up on Saturday? It probably was a bit of both: Younger viewers were not watching in large numbers, and then when the networks gave up on the night, even fewer younger viewers tuned in on Saturday night.

‘Bible’ follow-up has no date

Q: I read that the success of the miniseries “The Bible” has prompted another miniseries titled “Beyond the Bible.” What a wonderful story to look forward to. But nothing was mentioned as to the date and time of the series.

A: That information was not included because it’s simply unknowable; they have to make the show first.

When a program is announced, it’s a long way from airing. It could be next year or maybe not until the year after. Or it might never happen. Many programs have been announced with fanfare and then fall apart.

‘666,’ ‘Red Widow’ done for good

Q: I was surprised to learn that “666 Park Avenue” has returned to ABC, after it had been canceled. I’m a fan of the show. I hope ABC will decide to return “Red Widow,” too.

A: ABC has been burning off unaired “666” episodes. No new episodes will be produced.

All the “Red Widow” episodes aired, so it won’t be back.

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