• Networks Should Program For Families Beyond December

    by  • December 13, 2016 • Other • 1 Comment


    Family audiences seldom lack for programming options during this time of year when there is a wealth of family-friendly content available on both broadcast and cable television. There are original holiday-themed movies on Hallmark; G-rated box office hits like “Toy Story” and “Finding Nemo” on Freeform (formerly ABC Family); perennial favorites like “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” which have won over generations of young fans; colorized episodes of “I Love Lucy” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show”; the Kennedy Center Honors; Tree-lighting ceremonies at Rockefeller Center and The White House; live musicals on NBC; and so on.

    By the middle of January this wealth of family-friendly entertainment will disappear. But why should that be, when the family audiences that enjoyed them haven’t disappeared?

    We keep hearing that family programming isn’t profitable for the networks, but that argument defies credibility, when holiday specials consistently pull in high ratings. Over the years, there have been countless examples of a family program drawing substantially higher audience numbers than the hot, trendy, buzzed-about shows the networks want us to watch.  A rerun of “I Love Lucy” on CBS drew a bigger audience than the much-hyped series finale of “Mad Men.” “The Sound of Music Live” broke all kinds of ratings records for NBC. “The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show” usually pulls-in fewer viewers than “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

    Many families have abandoned network and cable TV altogether, in favor of over-the-top and streaming services where they feel they are less likely to have their values challenged, they have better control over content, and are less likely to encounter offensive or indecent programming by mistake. But many of those same families will revisit the channels they’ve abandoned during this time of year to share the holiday specials they grew-up watching with their own children.

    If the networks want to stop hemorrhaging viewers, and bring some of those audiences back into their fold, not just for a month or two, but for the whole year, they might consider looking at their holiday programming strategy, and applying it year-round.  



    Ms. Henson is a noted expert on entertainment industry trends and the how the impact of entertainment affects children and the American popular culture at large. She also directs the organization’s Advertiser Accountability Campaign, which encourages companies to sponsor family-friendly entertainment. She previously supervised the research and program content analysis operations of the PT and produced a number of groundbreaking PTC studies that document the levels of graphic sex, violence and profanity on television. Some of those reports include: The Ratings Sham I & II, Dying to Entertain, Faith in a Box, The Sour Family Hour, The Blue Tube, and TV Bloodbath. She began her career with the PTC in 1997 as an entertainment analyst, documenting instances of inappropriate content on television. Ms. Henson has appeared on a variety of television shows including Fox News Channel’s The O’Reilly Factor, Your World with Neil Cavuto, The Big Story, CNN Headline News’ ShowBiz Tonight, CNBC’s On the Money, MSNBC’s Scarborough Country, and CBN’s Newswatch. She is a frequent guest on radio talk shows across the country and has been quoted extensively in news sources such asEntertainment Weekly, Time, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, USA Today, New York Daily News, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Variety, Associated Press, Reuters, and Bloomberg. Ms. Henson is a graduate of the University of Virginia where she received a BA in Government. She resides in Falls Church, Va., with her husband and their son.

    One Response to Networks Should Program For Families Beyond December

    1. moax429
      December 13, 2016 at 1:02 pm


      Is it any wonder more families are flocking to Netflix or Hulu (as well as DVDs) for year-round family programming?

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