Marathon (television)

Marathon (television)
Not to be confused with a telethon.

In television, a marathon is typically the sequential broadcast of a single or a number of related television programs, most notably reflecting a theme.

Marathons are usually aired by cable channels and consist of numerous episodes of a TV series once broadcast on network television and more recently, also with original first-run programming aired on cable channels. The most common reasons for a network to run a marathon are:

  1. to celebrate the acquisition of a series,
  2. to lead into a highly anticipated episode of a series (such as a return from a hiatus or a series finale),
  3. when well known star of a show retires or passes away (this is particularly popular on networks such as TV Land and Game Show Network, which specialize in reruns),
  4. to celebrate a holiday, or
  5. to inexpensively counterprogram against more popular programs such as the Super Bowl

As the name suggests, marathons usually consist of a long period of time; up to days if it is a movie marathon or a series with many episodes. Some of the longest running marathons are the two Twilight Zone marathons that air on the SyFy in the United States on New Years Day and Independence Day; not counting early morning infomercials, each run for roughly three days straight. Holidays are a common time for marathons; for instance, on Thanksgiving 2010, over forty cable networks aired marathons of various lengths.

Television marathons originated at Nick at Nite, where Alan Goodman and Fred Seibert created the idea in 1985. Goodman and Seibert based the concept on a similar concept radio stations used, in which songs by one particular artist would be played for a prolonged period of time. While early marathons were rare and special, in modern time it is common for some networks to air a TV series in three to four hour blocks, sometimes on a daily basis, that are sometimes to referred to mini marathons. Documentary channels such as History and National Geographic, in particular, have begun routinely to broadcast marathons of 12 hours or more of some programs. Separated by movies and other series, Law & Order and its related spin-offs air on TNT, USA, and Bravo a total of approximately ten times a day.

Marathons have proven to be a viable way of rerunning reality television contests, which have otherwise been relatively difficult to rerun in traditional forms (e.g. daily "strip" syndication) because of the loss of the element of surprise.

Infomercial blocks are generally not considered marathons.

See also