4 Reasons TV Networks Should Put All Their TV Episodes Online

Supernatural, Grimm, Saving Hope, Chuck

I get it, truly! As my son was told by his high school TV Production teacher, TV is Show “Business.” The networks are not in it for the fun and artistry, but rather for the money. Since I am not a business woman, I agree that I am perhaps not the most qualified person to comment on any business decisions made by networks.

But, I am a TV viewer, and I certainly feel qualified to comment on how those business decisions affect me. Once a show has aired, then I really see no reason for a network to not put it up on their website for fans to view for free. Please understand that I am not talking about premium channels, like for instance HBO, although how awesome would it be to be able to see Game of Thrones without waiting a *YEAR* for the DVDs to be put on sale? But, I digress…

Recording Errors

John Casey, Sarah Walker, Chuck Bartowski, Ellie Bartowski, Devon Woodcomb, Morgan Grimes - Chuck

I still use VHS tapes to record programs. Most other folks use DVRs, but no matter which technology you use, things occasionally go wrong. Older technology, like my VCR, depends on my not making an error, like my latest, not rewinding the tape I was using. But, my friends that have DVRs tell me that sometimes the internal schedule is not correct, and the wrong show is recorded, or in cases when the network decides to make the show a minute or two longer than normal, it cuts off the end.

But, no matter what the reason, the frustration felt by the viewer is palpable. When we make the effort to record a show, and then try to watch the recording, only to find out it is not there or missing a part, well, it makes you want to pound sand! I have yet to get over the fact I messed up the taping of the Chuck finale – and that NBC has not put it on their website.

Canceled Shows and Viewer Goodwill

Charlie Harris and Alex Reid - Saving Hope

Not all TV shows succeed. That is a given. However, exactly what spells the difference between shows that make it, and ones that don’t is not always clear – at least to the viewers. And, based on some recent examples, putting remaining episodes on the network website could help mitigate the strongly negative feelings after a network cancels a program mid-season.

Let me give two examples to illustrate my point. During the summer of 2012, NBC carried a program called Saving Hope. While that show is very popular in Canada, and will be airing a second season there, NBC has canceled it. In fact, they pulled it from their schedule without airing the final two episodes of season one. By doing that, they left the viewers hanging. One could argue that since they were not planning to air the second season, it did not matter, but to a faithful viewer, it does! NBC then made a good decision, from my point of view, and put those last two episodes of season one on their website, so that the fans who wanted to could watch them.

For a counter example, let’s look at the recently canceled program, 666 Park Avenue. In late December, it was announced that ABC had not only canceled the show, but they would not be airing the remaining episodes. If you have been watching this show, then you are likely feeling betrayed, after becoming invested in the show, only to have it yanked with no closure. To date, ABC has not said if they will put the remaining episodes on their website, but have intimated that they will possibly air them during the summer repeat season. I hope that they go with one of those two options, because based on viewer comments, they are creating a lot of anger thus far due to their decision. For those holding out for a summer viewing, there is always the possibility that ABC could change their mind on that too, and pull the episodes from the summer schedule as easily as they canceled the program altogether.

Since we are talking about a business, certainly the good will of the customers, aka viewers, is important! Many people get very upset, and threaten to stop watching all programs on certain networks, or shift to other networks. Certainly the powers that be at the various networks must be aware of this, and mindful of the animosity generated due to their decisions? Putting the episodes on their website would generate goodwill.

Long Hiatuses

Juliette, Nick and Monroe - Grimm

Back in the good old days, aka when I was a child, TV seasons started in the fall, and ran until spring, with a summer break of reruns. The major broadcast networks mostly stick to that schedule still, but cable networks start and stop their seasons at seemingly random times. And broadcast networks take breaks for award shows, political speeches and sports.

These long hiatuses lead to the viewer forgetting what has happened previously, or worse yet, a viewer missing the start of a new partial season! Yes, some networks run marathons just before a return from hiatus, but typically the major broadcast networks do not. TV networks putting episodes on their websites would help viewers refresh their memories, thus making it more likely they will continue watching a program!

No Decrease in DVD Sales

Castiel, Sam and Dean - Supernatural

Having episodes on the website will certainly not make me less likely to buy the DVD set. In fact, being able to view the show first, and this includes *all* the episodes, will help me decide if I want to buy the DVDs. Watching an episode of a program on a network website is not ideal for me, since my computer monitor is not very large, and I have to sit in one place to watch it. So while it is helpful for me to be able to watch on a website occasionally, I do not prefer it.

Contrast that with watching a DVD, and there is really no contest. I can watch a DVD while I do other things such as eat a meal. The viewing options are far greater with a DVD. And, if I really like a program, watching it once is never enough. So, putting the episodes on the websites will not decrease DVD sales, but have the potential to increase them.


So, those are my reasons, and I certainly hope that TV networks will pay attention to what their viewers think! Do you have any additional reasons or a comment on my reasons? I would love to hear from you in the comment section below!

  • Jordan

    I also think by putting shows online allows people to get into a new show a few seasons after it has started. I don’t like to watch a show unless I can start from the beginning and understand the characters and stories. I’m not going to buy a DVD of a show I’ve never seen, so the only way I will watch is if I can find it online or watch previous seasons being aired on TV prior to a new season beginning.

    • ptjackson

      Hi Jordan! That is an excellent point – so the networks would actually profit in the way of increased viewership and/or increased DVD sales by granting greater access to their shows by putting the episodes online!

      Thanks so much for adding to the discussion!

  • Jessica Breaux

    Hi PT! I completely agree with you. Generally, I don’t like to start watching a show if I haven’t seen it from the pilot on forward because I don’t understand character relationships, motivations, etc. Sometimes I can find the older seasons online, but more often the case is I have to hope the library has the previous seasons on DVD or I just don’t watch the show. Because like Jordan, I’m not going to purchase the DVD for a show I haven’t seen.

    Also, putting episodes on the website would allow people to watch the show that normally may not get to see it. I used to have a job where I worked rotating shifts, and sometimes I would go 2 months without being able to watch my shows because I couldn’t be in front of the tv when it aired.

    • ptjackson

      Hi Jessica!

      Thanks for adding your voice to this discussion. I very much agree with what you are saying! To me, this all just seems to be just good business.

  • Lee Ann

    Sorry, late leaving a comment because I’ve had the flu (and could they please talk about something else on the news?) and actually felt too awful to watch much television much less think about it over the last few days but . . . I am entirely with you on these long, irregular hiatuses. I forget the story lines and then I usually miss the return because it’s not at a logical time. Are we getting Body of Proof back? It seems so, but when I could not tell you. Will I remember what happened in that last episode? Um, that would be no. I recently saw a little clip about it on one of the entertainment programs and realized I’d forgotten entirely that last dramatic scene!

    • ptjackson

      Hope you are feeling better soon, Lee Ann! You know, the flu coverage is similar to what we get when there is snow storm – 24/7 of nonstop coverage even if there is nothing new to say for hours at a time. Bleah.

      Anyway, I looked it up, and Body of Proof should be back in early Feb, on Tuesday nights, after Private Practice finishes. That final episode of season 2 is on the website for free – Woo hoo!! So, I too will need to watch it!

      Thanks for your comments!

  • Carol Salsbury

    I strongly agree with having free access to episodes online. For example, I just became a fan of two shows that I had never watched before: Parenthood and Eureka. This is because I saw the episodes on Netflix and watched them with the Roku box (streamed to our televsion) over the holidays. I could hardly wait to see the next episodes when they came back for their next season. Sadly, Eureka is ending but I’ll at least be able to watch the previous seasons. I think they are going to try and wrap up the story lines so it won’t leave viewers hanging like alot of other one. Parenthood is still going strong as far as I know and I can hardly wait to see the next one. Anyway, it’s inhuman how some networks seem to not give a darn about how they end things. You’d think they would have learned how powerful view opinions can be after what happened with Star Trek, but oh well. Anyway, Happy New Year to all!

    • ptjackson

      Hi Carol!

      You will love the rest of Eureka – I was a faithful viewer from the beginning to the end, and in my opinion, the ending of the series was one of the best I have seen!

      And, you are so right, you would think the networks would have learned. I think in some ways they have – they gave Fringe some extra episodes in order to be able to wrap up properly – so there are moments of clarity it seems. We just need more than moments, you know?

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, and Happy New Year to you too!