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Old Media

March 24, 2008

CBS Bombs Jericho

It’s a shame that networks haven’t learned to adapt to new media, and realize that there are audiences out there that are not “Nielson families.”  While I mostly consider shows that the “big networks” like CBS, ABC, NBC and FOX to be garbage, every once in awhile a gem comes along.  And the networks axe it because it gets “poor ratings.”  Despite evidence that the arcane rating system is flawed.  The latest victim… Jericho.  Again.

Jericho seems to be the classic case of a good show that the network killed through stupidity.  First, they decide during the first season to air half the episodes, take it off for a few months, and then come back and air the second half.  Well guess what?  When they came back, they lost Nielson viewers.  ABC used the same tactic with Lost, and it didn’t work well their either.  Of course, bringing it back after 3 months and putting it opposite American Idol didn’t help!

They cancelled the show after season 1.  There was a nutty campaign to save it, and CBS brought it back.  They promised a bunch of things that sounded good but didn’t happen like you would assume.  Such as promising to rerun Jericho in the fall, before the season 2 opener.  They did that, but in a screwed up order, when they didn’t prempt it for football.  They promised to release season 1 on DVD, which they did as well, although it was delayed and not really promoted.  And they promised to stream episodes online, which they did, although they didn’t promote the varied ways you can find it.

And so Jericho returned, and to “laskluster ratings” and they gave it the axe a second time.  Where were all these Jericho supporters??  They were following the show via new media.  Nielson drew some fire around May of last year, about the same time Jericho was cancelled the first time, for not including DVRs in their ratings.  That’s one of the things CBS cited as a reason why they changed their minds and brought the show back.  So why is that not counted now?

Nielson says they are in the process of trying to add DVR sampling to their ratings, but their efforts to date are not a clear sample.  What is a clear sample is TiVo, which counts every subscriber.  And guess what?  Jericho was consistently one of CBS’s top TiVo’d shows.  When I checked one week, it was the 10th most TiVo’d show that week.  Where is that number when you hear the show was cancelled again?

What about digital downloads?  The season 2 opener of Jericho was downloaded over 700,000 times on iTunes.  How about Xbox Live?  Anyone have the numbers on that?  Or Amazon Unboxed?

By all appearances, CBS doesn’t know what it’s doing when it comes to new media.  According to Silicon Alley Insider:

Unlike Disney (DIS) and NBC U (GE) — both of which have boasted $1 billion in annual revenue derived from digital — CBS has made no such claims. But CEO Les Moonves said CBS sold $200 million in digital ads in 2007, and that figure would grow 30% to 40% over the next few years.

I guess they haven’t figured out how to make money outside of live advertising!

And how about this, according to TheLedger.com:

The Web site for “Jericho,” a show that was canceled by CBS but revived last year because of Internet-savvy fans, had roughly 1.3 million video views in the first week after the show’s second-season debut on Feb. 12. Less than half of those views were of the premiere episode; the rest were from viewers catching up on the first season or sharing clips

“We’re still midstream,” said Nina Tassler, the president of CBS Entertainment. “We’re still learning about people’s behaviors and we’re still learning about what shows really resonate with an online audience.”

They better learn it quick or they’ll be made obsolete.  In the meantime, good shows and viewers will suffer.

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