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Full House brings Nick at Nite unexpected success

Added: January 18, 2014

Last year cable tv lost a lot of its audience. Although the USA Network had the largest audience on cable for the eight year in a row, it still had a decline of 8 percent in viewership compared with 2012. And they were not the only channel that had to face less viewers than the year before. Half of the 20 most popular cable networks lost viewers in 2013 and the other half mostly stayed flat.

There was one big exception though. Nick at Night, which specializes in reruns of canceled sitcoms from the past, had 25 percent more viewers than the year before. And this success is brought to the network by one show in particular: Full House.

"Nick at Nite has the most old-school method of doing things you can imagine-and it's still working," says Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University. According to media analysis company Horizon Media, the most popular show on Nick at Nite is Full House. Reruns of the 1990s sitcom bring in as many as 1.4 million people in prime time, more than Conan and slightly less than The Colbert Report."

When Nick at Nite launched in 1985, it touted itself as the first "oldies" TV network and aired classic sitcoms. In 2008 it started investing in original programming, but those shows never gained much traction with audiences. After a 36 percent drop in ratings in 2012, Nick at Nite scaled back on original programming and doubled down on its classic TV lineup. This also meant an increase in the number of Full House reruns from 25 to 32 per week.

"We haven't done a lot of qualitative on it yet," Dan Martinsen, executive vice president of communications for Nick at Nite says, "But our reruns have always been liked."

"I think it's a reminder that we don't always want to sit in the dark for an hour and focus on Game of Thrones; sometimes we just want to watch a sitcom while we make dinner," Thompson says.

According to Businessweek, Nick at Nite's boom could be caused by the failure of cable networks. Outside of the megahits, networks mostly fill their time slots with niche programming that gets mediocre ratings. Meanwhile, Nick at Nite is going after the old-fashioned channel surfers, safe in the knowledge that when there's nothing else on TV, people are still willing to settle on the many charms of Uncle Jesse and Kimmy Gibbler.

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