End of the line for Bill Cosby

It what may likely be the end of Bill Cosby’s TV career, two networks have yanked his television series due to a new round of rape allegations.

Diginet Bounce TV announced Tuesday it was pulling the plug on Cosby reruns, effective immediately. Hours later, Centric – a Viacom-owned cable network targeting African-Americans in the 25-54 demo and a competitor to Bounce, announced it was removing reruns of The Cosby Show immediately.

Both Cosby and The Cosby Show are distributed by The Carsey-Werner Co., which produced both shows.

These moves comes as Cosby – already under fire for allegedly raping and drugging women, admitted in a 2005 deposition he supplied drugs to certain women in a lawsuit filed by a former Temple University employee, which has been since settled.

This marks the latest effort to scrub Cosby from the TV landscape since rape allegations surfaced last year. In November, TV Land yanked Cosby Show reruns off its schedule, and hasn’t returned since. Earlier this year, Diginet Cozi pulled the plug on late-night reruns of I Spy, the 1960’s spy drama Cosby appeared in with Robert Culp.

Locally, The Cosby Show was carried on WCIU-Ch. 26.4 (also known as MeToo) up until last December, when the station became an affiliate of the new Heroes & Icons network.

Cosby’s development deals with NBC and Netflix fell through after public outcry continued to grow.

The removal of Cosby’s material is simple: with the controversy remaining in the news, it would be hard to attract any advertising – direct or otherwise – for his programs. No marketer would want to be associated with Cosby at this point – despite his endorsements in the past for General Foods (Jell-O), Coca-Cola, Kodak, and Texas Instruments.

With I Spy and his own 1969-71 self-titled sitcom, Cosby returned to NBC in 1984 with The Cosby Show, which became a runaway success and helped propel the peacock network to first place.

The Cosby Show was sold into syndication in 1986 and set a then-record for most money paid on a per-episode basis, earning $4 million a half-hour. But station exces – notably from Big Three affiliates who bought the show – grumbled about paying too much, and wasn’t the ratings hit they hoped it would be. Cosby Show reruns were a longtime staple of WFLD-TV’s lineup from 1988 to 1999.

Cosby returned to weekly television in 1996 via CBS with Cosby, a markedly different series from his NBC sitcom. Cosby did manage to run four seasons, but was never the hit The Cosby Show was. The series entered off-network syndication in 2000.

It is not known if Cosby, The Cosby Show, I Spy, or his 1970’s cartoon series Fat Albert would air ever again on linear television. But its a safe bet it won’t be anytime soon.