View Full Version : Why do American shows break in the middle?

02-16-2012, 10:27 AM
Random question and I've never really noticed it before.

I watched 24 but only started watching late so caught up most of it on box set and watched the final two series when they were on TV. I noticed in the lasty series that there was a break of a couple (maybe as many as four) weeks break in the middle but nothing more.

I'd not noticed it on any other shows but this year i've noticed that Ringer, Modern family, Pan Am and at least one other show have stopped for at least two months.

I think it might be as simple as historically US programmes have been shown a long time after they first air in the US so we get the whole season from start to finish without a break.

So my question - have they always had a break of a couple of months in the middle? If so why?

02-16-2012, 10:45 AM
I think because most of the shows, if a full season, are around 22 episodes (some are less), which might include 1 or 2 shows in a two-hour block one night, further reducing number of weeks shown, so they need to spread it out to last from September premieres until May sweeps/finale time. Everything goes into repeats around Thanksgiving and Christmas probably because no one is watching TV then. Although I am and I hate it when my shows go into repeats. :lol: Plus it causes a build up to February and May ratings sweeps and generates excitement for the show again (my opinion). Some popular shows go into a long break because they are trying out new shows in their place so think they can pick up the viewers who normally watch that channel at that time, or need to make room for special run shows like The Voice.

I ain't in the biz or nothing, but that is why I think they take the breaks. Mainly due to the number of shows (22) spread out over 8-9 months.

02-16-2012, 12:21 PM
Exactly. Which is why shows like LOST were such a bad fit for this traditional formula of airing shows, and they eventually held off airing it until January. More and more shows are doing that. Not just to replace shows that aren't working, but to keep a continuous flow and retain their audience. It used to be unnheard of to have mid-season premieres. It's a lot more common now.

Episodic, case of the week type shows do fine under the traditional format.

02-16-2012, 12:38 PM
Some shows are only ordered for half seasons, as well. I believe PanAm's run was only 9 or 13 episodes?

BaileyCatts has it right, too - sweeps numbers (Nielsen ratings) are used to calculate ad rates, so networks want to air all new episodes to get their numbers up. Sweeps months are typically November, February, May and July. Shows that have shorter runs, like Mad Men (12 episodes) angle it so they end during sweeps. That's why MM is starting at the end of March.

I find this part of media very, very interesting, because Nielsens are still playing catch-up with ratings for internet viewing, streaming and web-subscriptions like Netflix. Internet has completely upended the way people consume media, and every sector is scrambling to respond to it. How do you calculate ad rates if your show gets half its viewing audience from Hulu? The market has not only diversified, with the rise of extremely strong basic cable programs (the highest Nielsen share in 1950 was 61%, in 2011 it was 8.8% :eek:), but gone in insanely new directions. It must feel like catching up to an Olympic sprinter for people in the industry.

02-16-2012, 03:52 PM
So my question - have they always had a break of a couple of months in the middle?

Not really, but it's the way they do it now.

If so why?

Sweeps (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweeps#Sweeps).

Networks now try to put their best programming on during the sweeps months, usually November, February, May, and July, so that they get the most viewers then. That usually means starting a series in September or October to build up interest, having exciting episodes in November, re-runs or special programming in December and much of January, a "mid-season finale" in February, more re-runs in March and early April, and a buildup to a season finale in May.

Part of this is tied to holiday vacation scheduling and the fact that college football bowl games and the NCAA men's basketball tournament absorb a considerable amount of television viewership in December, early January, and March.

02-16-2012, 04:08 PM
Also, depending on the network, some networks won't start their shows until October or November after the baseball playoffs/World series have aired. In addition to the holday hiatus in late November thru early January, other network shows have breaks during the Olympics and other sports playoffs/championship series.

02-16-2012, 04:27 PM
Thanks for all the answers - its' really interesting.

02-16-2012, 04:32 PM
Also: Episodes for shows like 24 and LOST take a long time to film, edit, etc. They have to slow things down during the season to complete production and post-production.