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What do you watch more of...network shows or cable shows?

by Richard Keller, posted Dec 8th 2008 1:02PM

Do you watch shows on these channels more than you do on the legacy networks?Time for an impromptu poll, boys and girls. Something that will shake you out of those holiday blahs that the egg nog, Christmas cookies, and constant replays of Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer have caused. Something that will get your brain working again and make you think about your television viewing habits.

I want to know where you are watching most of your shows. Are you still one of those people who focus their attention on the major 'over the air networks' of ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and, on occasions when the month ends in a capital 'A', CW? Or, are you one of those new-fangled hippies who do nothing but watch everything and anything on cable? Or, perhaps, it's a bit of both.

I'm curious because the recent cancellations of a number of fan favorite programs, plus a fairly blah season and some major budgetary issues, have put the networks in a precarious position. I'm sure that people have said that the networks have been in that position before. Yet, this time, I think there is definitely a threat to the future of the networks with the introduction of more original programming not just to cable but to the world of the Interweb as well. Hence, the reason where I'd like to know where your allegiances lie.

My tastes still remain in favor of the networks. During a regular week most of the programming I watch (and subsequently review) come from them. There more than a dozen shows that I watch on a regular basis: Chuck, Samantha Who?, House, Eli Stone, Bones, Life, ER, Life on Mars, Big Bang Theory, Two and Half Men, The Office, 30 Rock, Simpsons, Family Guy and King of the Hill. Come winter, that will slightly change as Eli Stone and ER leave, Scrubs comes in, and the juggernaut known as American Idol/Lost/24 rears its ugly head.

Currently, none of the new winter offerings from the networks are tempting me. Not even the new Joss Whedon experience known as Dollhouse (please don't hate me for this). And, unless there are some unique shows coming down the pike for the 2009-2010 season, which doesn't seem likely because it looks to be a season of sequels, my network viewing time will be reduced due to attrition of the shows I currently watch.

Over on cable my selections are more limited. Regular viewings include Psych, Monk, Stargate Atlantis, Doctor Who, Torchwood, Battlestar Galactica, Eureka, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. The dramas of FX, while critical and fan favorites, just don't appeal to me due to their darker elements. The new dramas on TNT, on the other hand, are intriguing and worth a watch. Particularly the new Leverage and the Eric McCormick/Tom Cavanagh dramedy Trust Me. As the 2008-09 season winds down and the summer cable season picks up I'll most likely be tuning in to cable on a daily basis.

That's the issue here, isn't it? While the networks are now touting a year-round schedule the shows that we tune into week after week are forgotten for several months in the summer and replaced with piles of reality crap that just aren't interesting. As a result, we turn to the cable networks, who truly have a year-round schedule and feature programs we wouldn't normally see on the Big Four. As original fare increases on cable and on the Internet there is potential that more and more viewers will turn away from conventional television viewing.

So, now that I've aired my dirty television laundry, let me hear about yours. Tell me via the poll and in the comments if you watch more shows on the legacy networks or on the newer cable outlets. I'd be interested in seeing if the turnover I mentioned above is really coming true.

Do you watch more network or cable shows?
Network Shows142 (31.3%)
Cable Shows88 (19.4%)
A bit of both221 (48.7%)
Neither3 (0.7%)

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I watch a mix of shows.

Network: Law & Order: SVU, Dancing With the Stars, Samantha Who, Ugly Betty, Grey's, Scrubs, Life on Mars, Desperate Housewives, Brothers & Sisters, Lipstick Jungle

Cable: Mad Men, Project Runway, Top Chef, The Cleaner, Nip/Tuck, The Tudors, Weeds, Californication, The Daily Show, Colbert Report, Rocco Gets Real, The Soup, I used to watch Best Week Ever but the new format is horrible, Real Time with Bill Maher, Live from Abbey Road

I'm sure I am forgetting something in each category, but those are the regulars that came to mind first. I used to watch shows on network TV more often - but it seemed like there were better shows AND I didn't have cable. Quality shows I enjoyed on network TV like Lipstick Jungle, Dirty Sexy Money, and Pushing Daisies aren't ratings gold, so there are things I watched that are going away. I feel like a lot of cable shows are much higher quality than many new network shows. For example, even though Weeds was a drag this past season, it was a really great show. I was hooked on Mad Men from the first episode. I am only two episodes into season 2 of The Tudors, but season one was fantastic drama...

So, at least for now, as long as I can afford cable, I'll probably be watching more of that than anything else. And the year round schedule of new shows is perfect. Can't wait for Trust Me, and the return of Nip/Tuck, Weeds, Californication, and Mad Men.

December 23 2008 at 11:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I probably watch more network (don't have cable, don't have DVR) but still manage to catch The Closer, True Blood, Dexter (though I am so, so behind), mostly. (Used to watch Monk, but once Sharona exited, soon did I). I am not old either, just technologically-challenged.

December 09 2008 at 10:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Looks like I'm definitely a network viewer. Although the number of shows I watch regularly has eroded this season and I only picked up one new one (Fringe), there are only a few cable shows that I watch regularly.

I might watch more, but it's a little difficult for me to track the seasons of some of the cable shows, particularly if they aren't summer-starters. I am catching up with the Shield on DVD (and plan to do the same with BSG). I only counted 3 shows that I watch with any regularity on cable and only one of those (Damages) was one that I made an effort to watch first-run or record (the other two are frequently re-cast). I'd probably be interested in some of the premiums (Dexter, The Brotherhood), but I can't get those. I stopped premium subscriptions with the cancellation of Carnivale.

December 09 2008 at 9:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It's all about cable.

I barely watch anything on Network - Chuck, the occasional episode of some of the talent-based reality shows (-not- AI), My Name is Earl, and some specials here and there. I am thinking about picking up Big Bang Theory, Fringe and Dollhouse, though.

Cable, however - Doctor Who, Torchwood, Burn Notice, The IT Crowd, Gavin and Stacey, Sanctuary, Good Eats, Mythbusters, Little Britain (UK and US), Iron Chef America, Graham Norton, Top Gear, South Park, The Soup, The Colbert Report, The Daily Show, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, Bizarre Foods w/Andrew Zimmern, Flight of the Conchords, etc.

Virtually none of it is watched live - I'm usually busy in the evenings, so I watch things as I have time for them.

December 09 2008 at 1:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Morjana Coffman

I definitely watch more cable shows.

Pushing Daisies on ABC (sob!)

NCIS and The Mentalist on CBS. (Used to watch CSI...but that's been a bust since Sara left the show.)

Law & Order, Life, Medium, Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien on NBC.

Supernatural on CW.

House, Bones, Fringe, COPS on FOX.

But on cable I watch The Closer, Stargate Atlantis, Sanctuary, Battlestar Galactica, Eureka, Psych, Monk, Burn Notice, reruns of Stargate SG-1, Doctor Who, Torchwood, Animal Cops, Diners Dives and Drive Ins, Dirty Jobs, Mythbusters, Damages, Kyle XY, The Universe, Time Warp, Mystery ER, Medical Incredible, Inside the Actor's Studio, Forensic Files, Trauma: Life in the ER, Modern Marvels, Iconoclasts...

And the beauty of cable shows is that they are usually repeated if not the same day, then at least once during the week.

December 09 2008 at 12:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

All network. I rarely watch anything cable, I wouldn't miss it if I didn't have it. Right now I watch no cable shows...the only one I watched for a long period of time was The Dead Zone. I don't have or want a DVR either. And no, I'm not old...I just turned 24. :P

December 08 2008 at 11:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I watch mostly network shows--Simpsons, Desperate Housewives, HIMYM, T:SCC, Boston Legal, CSI: Miami, House, American Idol, Scrubs, Reaper, America's Next Top Model, New Adventures of Old Christine, Bones, My Name is Earl, The Office, 30 Rock, Grey's Anatomy, Life on Mars, Saturday Night Live

I watch only a few cable shows--Daily Show, Colbert Report, Battlestar Galactica, True Blood, Monk, Psych, Best Week Ever

December 08 2008 at 4:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Scott Schrantz

I think making a distinction between "network" and "cable" is increasingly silly these days. All my channels come in through a wire in the wall, so in a way even NBC and CBS are "cable" channels to me. I'm too far away from the towers to even get anything over the air. And when you add in the TiVo, you don't even need to know what channel or what time the shows are on; they just show up in the list. If you watch shows on the internet or DVD, things get even muddier still.

I think we're moving towards a time where the distinction will be going away. Viewership on cable shows will rise, viewership on network shows will drop, and people watching shows "live" are going to be the minority. There's a new world being built, and the biggest question everyone in the industry should be focusing on is where the money will be coming from. Newspapers are going through this upheaval now, and for television it's coming fast.

December 08 2008 at 4:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

For me it's still the networks. There are a lot of series on cable that I watch, but they usually get DVR'd because they're on at the same time as a network show -- and if you can't DVR you can count on a cable net to repeat several times during the week. If you miss the network show you're stuck; especially someone like me who doesn't have easy access to broadband for online viewing or iTunes download.

December 08 2008 at 4:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Paul K

Both! I love watching Heroes, House, and The Office, but also have to swing over to cable for Psych, Monk, Mythbusters, etc.

Also, how would one survive the football season without ESPN and NFL Network?

December 08 2008 at 3:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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