Pop Culture References Dictionary – Syndication Bounce
Today, I explain the syndication bounce.
This is a new feature called Pop Culture References Dictionary, where I define various terms that I often use in discussions about pop culture that I think are interesting enough to give them their own post.
Syndication is a fascinating thing in the world of television. The concept, of course, is that if people love a show when it first airs, then that suggests that there is a market out there for A. fans of the show who want to see it again and B. people who didn’t watch it the first time and are enjoying it for the first time now.
For syndication to work, though, you need to have a big enough of a catalog of episodes for the shows to not repeat too often. In cartoons, the number is 64, which allows you to air a show fully four times a year (generally speaking, there are roughly 260 weekdays in a year). For live action, the number used to be at least 100 episodes, but now it’s closer to 88 (looping through three times in a year). Of course, the more the merrier and on the flip side, there are certain exceptions where less can still work (The Munsters had only 70, the original Star Trek series only had 79).
Here’s the thing that fascinates me, though. Most often, shows are as popular as they were when they originally aired. So if you weren’t a hit originally, you’ll likely not be a hit in syndication. There are occasional exceptions, though, especially when it comes to shows where the target audience wasn’t watching TV when the shows initially aired (The Brady Bunch was a show that kids loved, so it blew up when it started airing after school). The problem there, of course, is that for a number of these shows, like Star Trek, The Munsters, The Brady Bunch and more, the show becoming a syndication hit came too late to actually help the original show, as it was already off the air.
But what about shows that were JUST popular enough to keep going on network TV that ALSO became hits in syndication? Well, that’s where the “syndication bounce” comes in. If you’re a show that hit syndication and became popular on syndication, then suddenly you’ll see your new episodes get more popular, too, as the new viewers you gained in syndication will want to watch brand-new episodes, as well.
The Big Bang Theory added five million new viewers in its first post-syndication season, jumping to the #3 show on TV.
Everybody Loves Raymond went from the #12 show to the #5 show in the country in its first post-syndication season.
Again, not every show GETS a syndication bounce, but it’s fairly normal if you’re a decently popular show and you hit syndication.
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6 thoughts on “Pop Culture References Dictionary – Syndication Bounce”
I imagine CHEERS and its spinoff FRAISER likely gained some degree of “syndication bounce” during their long runs.
But for an animated example, I think DIC’s INSPECTOR GADGET gained something like that. The first season in 1983 hit that 65 episode syndication threshold right off. No new episodes were produced in 1984, but the show became popular enough that 21 new episodes were produced in the 1985-1986 season (despite the entire voice cast being replaced, aside for Don Adams and Frank Welker). The show remained so popular in syndication that CBS decided to add it to their Saturday morning line-up for 1991-1992 (during the peak of Ninja Turtles, their top show in that market and the centerpiece of their Saturday morning schedule). DIC responded by selling more merchandise, including trading cards and action figures, and even producing an animated Christmas TV movie later that year which was nominated for an Emmy (where it lost to BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES). Even 30 years after it ended, Gadget remained in syndication somewhere (such as Light TV or Qubo TV before both free digital stations ended; the latter in early 2021). That is insane longevity for a cartoon which wasn’t from Hanna-Barbera.
I mentioned Family Guy in a previous post, but I’m not sure if it counts since it was officially canceled, took off in syndication, and then was brought back by the station that originally canceled it over a year after its cancelation.
Inspector Gadget was a great example, Alex.
And yeah, great point, Xander, vis a vis Family Guy.
Syndication Bounce is also not uniquely an American occurrence; it can happen in other countries, too. Off the top of my head one of the best examples is the Japanese anime, LUPIN THE 3RD. Based off of the manga from 1967, it debuted on YTV in 1971 and was one of the first TV anime in Japan which was specifically aimed at adults. The ratings were poor for the first half of the season and it underwent a drastic change midway through, featuring the first directorial work of Hayao Miyazaki. But that didn’t help and it was canceled in 1972 after a mere 23 episodes.
However, the series continued to air in syndication for 4-5 years and developed a cult following. This (along with a live action film adaptation) led to the creation of a second series, LUPIN THE 3RD: PART II (with the prior series retroactively considered “Part I”) on NTV in 1977. The “syndication bounce” resulted in a 3 season run of 155 episodes, as well as two theatrically animated films. The franchise would then endure with 27 TV specials, 8 more animated feature films, two OAV’s (direct-to-videos), and three more TV series (as well as a spinoff in 2012). It went from being canceled after one season to essentially being the Japanese equivalent to SCOOBY DOO (as in, an animated property that began in the 70’s and has endured in all the decades since in some form or another) all thanks to syndication bounce.
That’s a good point, Alex, thanks!