Why Do Networks Tend To Split Their Seasons?

Republibot 3.0
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Many of you have probably wondered why all the networks do the split seasons

In large part, it's because Seasons are short now, and vastly more expensive. Back in the 1960s, it wasn't uncommon to have a thirty-five episode season for a drama (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea's first year, for instance), but 22 has been the standard since the 80s, and most cable channels can't really even afford that. Syfy's standard season is 20 eps, often with one clip show in there. USA tends toward 16-episode seasons, so they can keep the production values up, while still having enough stories to hold an audience. It's a formula that works for them, given the quirky nature of their shows.

Now, of course there's 52 weeks in a year, and 13 weeks of summer, so the TV season tends to run 39 weeks. Of course some of those weeks are gobbled up by holidays - Christmas, Thanksgiving, Labor Day, New Years, Gay Indian Liberation Day, Gay Indians-From-India Liberation Day, you know, all the biggies - so thirty or so was really optimal. Thirty-five was a little bit of overkill, but dammit you had to keep those people who inexplicably liked Gunsmoke happy. They were liquored up and heavily armed most of the time anyway, and if you pissed 'em off, well...

However, with a 22-episode season, that leaves SEVENTEEN weeks unaccounted for, in addition to the 13 weeks of summer. Even with the holidays - and throwing in ones no one really cares about, like Arbor Day and Fleet Week - that's a hell of a lot of repeats on the schedule. In fact, I'm convinced that Earth Day and all this global warming nonsense was basically started as a creative programming strategy to deal with a big writer's strike in 1970, but that's a paranoid delusion for another day. (Still, please do go out and spread my off-the-cuff jokes irresponsibly misrepresenting them as fact. That's always a gasser!)

Anyway, given these short episode orders and long production schedules, they tend to stretch out the programming into two blocks, so as to maximize ratings. Shows tend to air during sweeps periods, and they tend to pull them over the holidays, rather than burn off new episodes when no one's watching. This winter is worse than most becuase of the hated olympics postponing the new shows, but generally it's not TOO bad on the broadcast networks, and they *ARE* aware of the problem, which is why the final season of "Lost" aired all in one 16-week block.

With the cable networks, it's more a problem of simply not having enough money to do otherwise. Syfy is the worst offender in this category: They basically can only afford to have two or three actual SF shows on in any given season, which, at present, are Caprica and SGU. Warehouse 13 is a much, much cheaper show, and everything else on their channel is dirt-cheap reality programming, or dirt-cheap wrasslin', or dirt-cheap shows they purchase from elsewhere (Dr. Who, though they appear to have lost that one in the coming season).

Thus Syfy tends to stagger their blocks of programming throughout the year in the most annoying fashion available.

And now you know.