Neal Sabin

Weigel Broadcasting
the carol burnett show

The Carol Burnett Show, starring Carol Burnett and the late Lyle Waggoner, airs on MeTV

Fill 1
Fill 1
February 06, 2024
In The Mix

MeTV's Neal Sabin Gives Audiences the Nostalgia They Want

The vice-chairman of Weigel Brodcasting on why vintage "comfort TV" is more timely now than ever.

An encyclopedia of classic television, Neal Sabin can quote anyone from Bugs Bunny to the Three Stooges — appropriate for someone who programs shows from the past.

Now vice-chairman at Weigel Broadcasting, Sabin has created seven networks that feature golden oldies like The Andy Griffith Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show and M*A*S*H. His strategy? Give audiences "comfort TV" that will play forever.

In 2010, Sabin launched his first national network, MeTV (Memorable Entertainment Television), which ranks first in entertainment daytime (behind news networks and the big four networks), with 57.6 million viewers, according to Nielsen. Boomers comprise almost two-thirds of the audience. "Our shows are familiar and comforting in a world where everything from technology to politics is changing," Sabin says. "During the lockdown, I would get emails from people saying that watching MeTV helped them get through the pandemic."

His own love of classic TV comes from the comfort it gave him as a kid who devoured cartoons, series and films after school in Chicago. He shared that love of entertainment with his father, who'd give him home videos of his favorites for birthdays. When Sabin turned twelve, his dad helped him start a business: He'd show cartoons at other kids' birthday parties, watching the audiences and programming to please. "I had to deliver on my promise to give moms 'one hour of peace and quiet' during the party," he recalls.

After graduating from Northwestern with a bachelor of speech science, Sabin went into radio programming, then became program director of a Chicago TV station in 1983. In 1994, Weigel hired him as general manager at its flagship Chicago station, making him responsible for non-news programming at Weigel's three stations. In 2003, Sabin launched MeTV as a programming block, expanded it to a full station brand in 2005 and took it national in 2010.

Soon, affiliate groups wanted more, so Sabin created new channels. Heroes & Icons launched in 2014, and others were formed as partnerships: Movies! (2013) with Fox Television Stations; Decades (2015, now called Catchy Comedy) and Start TV (2018) with CBS Television Stations; and Story Television (2022) with A&E Networks and Hearst Television. MeTV+, Weigel's complement to MeTV, launched in 2021. All the channels present series from most major studios and many independents.

MeTV broadcasts in all fifty states, and Weigel has 738 affiliates carrying its various networks (which also stream via Philo, Frndly TV and other services). Clients can advertise on one, any or all networks.

"I'm the network executive most network executives have never heard of ... and the one with better numbers," Sabin says. Or as Moe of the Three Stooges once said, "Quiet, numbskulls. I'm broadcastin'."

This article originally appeared in emmy magazine issue #12, 2023, under the title "MeTV's Main Man."

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