Weigel Broadcasting Co. is flipping its digital broadcast network Decades into the sitcom-centric Catchy Comedy on March 27, Variety has learned exclusively. The over-the-air network will focus on a library of classic comedies, with an emphasis on key female stars including the signature shows from Lucille Ball, Mary Tyler Moore and Carol Burnett.
But also central to the Catchy Comedy lineup are key series from Norman Lear, as well as some of the most lauded sitcoms of all time – including the original “Night Court,” which is back in the spotlight thanks to the success of the revival series on NBC.
Unlike Decades, which wasn’t measured by ratings, Catchy Comedy will be Nielsen-rated. “That takes it into a different sphere, in terms of advertiser availability and access,” said Neal Sabin, vice chairman of Weigel Broadcasting Co. “There are many advertisers that won’t look at these networks unless they’re rated, and we’re pretty confident that we have something here that will rate well.”
Catchy Comedy is cleared in 69.5% of U.S. TV markets, including Fox, CBS and Weigel Broadcasting stations. The network will also continue to be available on the Philo and Frndly TV streaming platforms, just as Decades had been.
Weigel is also behind the national broadcast networks MeTV, Start TV, Heroes & Icons, MOVIES! and Story Television. Sabin said the decision to switch Decades to Catchy Comedy was a way to differentiate the network from Start TV, which has found success by focusing on female-focused procedural dramas. With some of that overlapping with Decades, Sabin said he opted to hone in on the female-focused comedy theme, some of which had already aired on the channel.
Decades launched in 2014 with a different kind of format, focusing more on a historical day-by-day look at pop culture, news and TV shows on the air during various time frames. The network later shifted to a more contemporary look.
“But what that did was, it made Decades less of a prominent network in our portfolio,” Sabin said. “And it is doing just fine as an unrated diginet, but we felt it was time to up the game.”
Sabin said he noticed that in the markets where he could see ratings for Decades, it appeared that sitcoms were performing the best for the channel.
“Classic sitcoms and sitcoms with a really good pedigree,” he noted. Hence the decision to “embrace the comedy elements of the network that were there before, by just adding a few more sitcoms to the schedule — and to give it a new name so that advertisers, station affiliates and others know that we are fully focused on comedy.”
Daytime will be focused on female superstars via shows like “I Love Lucy,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Rhoda,” “Laverne & Shirley” and the hour-long full version of “The Carol Burnett Show,” which has rarely been seen in syndication. Early primetime includes the Norman Lear classics “Good Times,” “Sanford and Son” and “All in the Family.” And then later in the evening comes “Night Court,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “Cheers,” “Taxi,” “The Bob Newhart Show” and “Newhart.”
(Excerpt) Read more in: Variety