Nick at Nite Touts 'Unreality' Sitcoms

Bucking the trend toward reality series, Nick at Nite is touting its "unreal" lineup of situation comedies, including new acquisitions Family Ties, The Cosby Show
and Cheers.
It's also developing a new sitcom of its own.

Nick at Nite executives hope the new additions will help the network maintain its No. 1 ranking among adults ages 25 to 34, while continuing to attract even younger viewers.

The network will bow Cheers
and Family Ties
— two of the most popular sitcoms of the 1980s — later this year, while The Cosby Show
will start in March 2002, said Nickelodeon executive vice president Cyma Zarghami. The three shows were part of NBC's first blockbuster Thursday-night lineup in 1984.

"We now have the original must-see TV," she said. "We now have a lineup that makes us the home of sitcoms."

The lineup could also feature the network's first originally produced sitcom since 1992. Nick at Nite will develop a pilot tentatively titled The Robertsons Greatest Hits, starring former Cheers
star George Wendt, network executives said.

As part of its effort to rebrand itself as the home of sitcoms, this summer Nick at Nite will launch a campaign featuring the tagline "reality vs. unreality." Nick at Nite will position its programming as an alternative to broadcast reality series like Survivor
and Temptation Island.

The campaign will culminate with an "Un-Reality Summer: Un-Real-a-Thon," featuring sitcoms with unrealistic storylines and happy endings. The programming block will run Sundays through Thursdays, beginning July 1.

"Our shows on Nick at Nite give our viewers escape from the realities of everyday life," Zarghami said. "It's all sitcoms, all night long."

The network's sitcom lineup — with the likes of Facts of Life, Gilligan's Island
and Three's Company
— has also made Nick at Nite the top ad-supported network among adults 25-34, network executives said. According to Nielsen Media Research data, Nick at Nite averaged a 0.63 rating among adults in that age bracket from April 2 through May 6. That's up 62 percent from its 0.39 average during the corresponding period in 2000, when it ranked ninth among basic-cable channels.

The network also scored a major jump among adults 18 through 34, registering a 38 percent increase in that demo, to a 0.5 average.

Also last week, Nick at Nite sister service TV Land said it would launch a dual East Coast/West Coast feed, beginning June 1.

The network — currently found in analog on Satcom C3, transponder 18 — will be carried in digital on Satcom C3, transponder 18, and seen on both the East and West coasts in their respective time zones, said network executives.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.