Return of ‘Roseanne’ Is a Boon for More Than Just ABC

WHY THIS MATTERS The success of Roseanne’s primetime revival has everyone thinking about reboots in a different way.

Much has been made of Roseanne’s triumphant return to ABC, but the show never really went away.

Roseanne has been a staple on Viacom-owned networks TV Land since 2009, Logo since 2013 and regularly on CMT since 2016 after an initial six-month run on that network from September 2012-March 2013. The series also airs in primetime on Katz-owned diginet Laff.

“We’ve been part of the Roseanne world for a while,” Frank Tanki, general manager of TV Land and CMT, said. “We like to think we played a role in exposing the show to younger generations. It’s that ability to capture new audiences that makes a show like Roseanne so appealing to us.” (For more from Tanki, see Five Spot)

Prior to that, Roseanne aired on TBS from 1996 to 2004 as well as in broadcast syndication starting in 1992. The show was originally distributed by Viacom Enterprises, which became Paramount Domestic Television and is now CBS Domestic Television. The show’s producer, Carsey-Werner, took over its distribution in 1997.

For The Long Run

Headed into the show’s revival on ABC, TV Land took advantage of the moment and started running marathons of the program. Every Saturday in March featured a marathon focusing on a different character, including “Best of Jackie” (Laurie Metcalf, playing Roseanne’s liberal sister); “Best of Becky” (Lecy Goranson and Sarah Chalke, splitting time as Roseanne’s older daughter); and “Best of Darlene” (Sara Gilbert, Roseanne’s younger daughter).

The month culminated in a two-day “Best of Roseanne” weekend, featuring the most memorable moments from the series as selected by TV Land.

All of that led into the return of Roseanne on ABC on March 27, which is still setting ratings records as the delayed numbers come in. In its return to ABC, Roseanne averaged 18.45 million viewers and a 5.2 among broadcast primetime’s key demographic of adults 18-49 in Nielsen’s live-plus-same-day ratings.

By the time the seven-day average came in, the show had climbed to 27.76 million viewers and an 8.1 for adults 18-49. Among both the live-plus-three and live-plus-seven ratings, Roseanne set television records for lift from the show’s initial live-plus-same-day performance.

Those ratings didn’t surprise Tanki as much as they seemed to surprise the rest of the industry.

“In all honesty, I had high hopes,” he said. “A lot of us here thought it was going to do well. It’s the perfect moment in time to reboot that series specifically.”

On night two of the revival — Tuesday, April 3 — Roseanne fell back to earth a bit, as expected, but its numbers were still huge by today’s standards. Episode three — Roseanne enjoyed a one-hour, two-episode premiere — averaged 15.4 million viewers and a 3.9 among adults 18-49, a 17% decline in viewers and a 25% decline in audience from the show’s first night.

ABC already has renewed the show — which features the original cast, including Roseanne Barr and John Goodman — for another season of 13 episodes, which will be the sitcom’s eleventh season overall.

TV Land and the other Viacom networks don’t get to add the new episodes to their current runs, according to their licensing arrangements with Carsey-Werner, but the success of the reboot certainly represents a new profit opportunity for the independent producer.

Carsey-Werner did not respond to questions in time for this article.

Happy Returns

TV Land already has seen benefits from its early promotion of the series. The nostalgia network turned in its best monthly weekend daypart average in more than five years, since January 2013. The series climbed 26% in March compared to last year.

Roseanne also helped drive TV Land to its best quarter in four years, following on five previous consecutive quarters of year-over-year growth.

To follow up on that success, TV Land plans to run a three-day marathon of the show over Memorial Day weekend, airing the comedy from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, May 26 and 27, and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Memorial Day, Monday, May 28.

Besides the weekend marathons, Roseanne airs at 4:30 a.m. on TV Land Wednesday through Friday and on Saturday from 4:30 am to 4 p.m. On CMT, it airs Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to noon.

While much is being made of Barr’s political leanings in light of the revival, the series itself is more about the Conner family, its blue-collar life and how Roseanne and Dan are dealing with their grown children and grandchildren, especially with Darlene back living at home with her daughter Harris (Emma Kenney) and her gender-bending son Mark (Ames McNamara).

“It’s about a family that loves one another,” Tanki said. “They are struggling, but there are differences in everyone’s family. At the end of the day, they are a tight-knit team. The politics of today have been an extension of the dialogue and of the relationships that have always been in the show.”

Tanki also said the show features strong female characters, which appeals to TV Land’s core demographic.

“Look at our originals — Teachers, Younger — these shows are all about strong female characters trying to figure it all out,” Tanki said. “Roseanne is a little bit of comfort food with a little bit of spice to it. That’s right in TV Land’s wheelhouse.”

Paige Albiniak

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for more than 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for The Global Entertainment Marketing Academy of Arts & Sciences (G.E.M.A.). She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997 - September 2002.