Thursday, May 18, 2006

The End of Network Movies

Like the other networks, CBS has recently announced its lineup for the fall. They have made only a few changes to their schedule, but perhaps the biggest is the cancellation of the CBS Sunday Night Movie. It was the last regularly scheduled night for movies on any of the networks. For the first time since 1961, none of the networks will have a regularly scheduled night for films.

It was in 1961 that NBC debuted the first regularly scheduled movies on network television, Saturday Night at the Movies. Prior to that time, the Hollywood studios would not let the networks have any films made prior to the late Forties. As a result, none of the networks showed movies with any sort of regularity. Saturday Night at the Movies was revolutionary in that NBC showed recently made films each week ("recently made" being defined as films made in the last seven to ten years...). It proved extremely successful, to the point that both CBS and ABC followed suit with nights of their own dedicated to movies. At one point in the Sixties and Seventies, the networks might have as many as three nights of week when they showed films.

Sadly, with the advent of such premium cable channels as HBO and Showtime, the development of video cassettes, and the invention of the DVD, the network movie programmes started to slip in the ratings. Why watch movies on network television (which are often cut for content and to allow them to run in a specified time) when one can watch them on HBO, VHS, or DVD? As a result, the network's movie programmes dropped in the ratings. NBC and ABC both cancelled their movie franchises. Eventually, CBS was the only network left with a night dedicated to showing the movies.

Personally, I am saddened by CBS's cancellation of their movie franchise. Even after the advent of premium movie channels, VHS, DVD, and so on, I would still watch movies on the networks. In recent years CBS's movies were often aimed at older women, so I didn't watch it nearly as often as I once did. But I would tune in whenever they showed a Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation or one of the movies based on the Jesse Stone novels. I honestly think that the cancellation of the CBS Sunday Night Movie leaves a big hole in network schedules. Even with such developments in the past thirty years as premium movie channels and DVDs, I think there is a place for network movie programmes.

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