“Mad About You” to ride once again – but not for Chicago-area viewers

The revival of the 1992-99 series with Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt is airing on Spectrum Originals – but Chicago, other markets may be out of luck

If you’re a fan of Mad About You, you’re probably excited about the return of Paul and Jamie’s return to the small screen.

But if you are a Chicago-area viewer – you are likely out of luck.

That’s because the revival of the series is headed to something called Spectrum Originals – named after the cable operator who distributes television, phone, internet and other services to millions of American homes.

But not everywhere.

Charter Communications-owned Spectrum made the announcement through a press release. Katherine Pope, head of original content:  “We are beyond thrilled to team up with Sony Pictures Television to give Mad About You an exclusive home at Spectrum Originals. Two decades ago, fans fell in love with this show, and this time will be no different as Paul, Helen and Peter explore modern marriage through the eyes of two people who have just become empty-nesters. We can’t wait for everyone to fall in love with the Buchmans all over again.​”​

Note the word “exclusive”.

If Spectrum plans to make Mad About You available only for Spectrum customers, then about half the country would be shut out – including Chicago, Peoria, Rockford, Springfield (Ill.), and Champaign, where Comcast – not Spectrum is the dominant cable operator and isn’t available. Spectrum is the dominant cable provider in the major New York (excluding the Connecticut portion) and Los Angeles markets, and also in Dallas-Fort Worth, Raleigh-Durham, Charlotte, Milwaukee, and nearly every Ohio DMA (designated market area.)

Other areas where Comcast is dominant – and where Spectrum is unavailable include Philadelphia, the San Francisco Bay Area, Boston, Detroit, Denver, Sacramento, and Indianapolis, among others. This would leave Mad About You cleared in only around 40 percent or so in the country.

Other companies are also dominant in a few areas where Spectrum isn’t present. These include Frontier, Mediacom, Cox, and Cable One. For example, Mediacom is the sole cable provider in all of Iowa while Cox is the dominant cable provider in Phoenix and Tuscon.

In addition to Mad About You, Spectrum Originals also is planning to air a new drama titled L.A.’s Finest starring Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba. It also helps to note this show and Mad About You were passed by numerous network and streaming services.

Charter bought TimeWarner Cable in 2016, after the latter failed in their mission to merge with Comcast. The Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal was opposed by numerous entities, including numerous Capitol Hill politicians and consumer groups.

In order to hold on to cable subscribers who are cord-cutting, cable and satellite operators are now taking matters in their own hands by launching original programming channels. While Comcast has NBCUniversal and several cable networks at their disposal, AT&T has the Audience Network, only for DirecTV subscribers.

But the difference is, while DirecTV is available nationwide, Spectrum is not – including the Chicago area. While it is common for a few broadcast syndication shows not to be cleared everywhere, the premise of using your distribution system to produce big-budget programming while making it exclusive to their customers – even if you don’t do business in their city is the complete height of absurdity regarding “Peak TV” – not to mention an inane business plan.

Moreover, it’ll only lead to piracy (in the form of illegal downloading) – something studios have been fighting for years.

As this blog noted in December, television executives are now using a country club mentality in launching new shows, limiting them to certain distribution platforms. So if you’re a big Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt fan, it’s not enough to buy the show – no, you have to buy  Spectrum Cable service just to see it or move to a city where it is available.

So if you live in the Chicago area and want to see Union and Alba fight bad guys on the streets of L.A. and don’t play the illegal downloading game, you’re shit out of luck.

Then again, given Mad About You was a bland, unfunny sitcom and L.A.’s Finest looks to be another one of those useless paint-by-numbers procedurals not even good enough for CBS, then maybe Chicago viewers should be fortunate.

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